Is there a way to continually trace/log which software is creating and accessing files on my system?

I assume these log files would grow very large unless trimmed.

I see a bunch of dot files and no way to know what application or installation created these files.

For instance in Application Support ~/Library/Application Support/

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I have tried using some Terminal commands to get information: od -tx1 file strings man info

The impetus for this question is the prevalence of malware, tracking software, caches, etc - so a regular user can know the providence of the files on their system. I believe the system admin term for this process called Auditing.

I am aware that many software vendors store license info inside dot files on the system.

  • 1
    In Terminal: man fs_usage Sep 9, 2021 at 21:13
  • @user3439894 I read through the man page. Don't see a way to trace what process created a file in the past.
    – John
    Sep 9, 2021 at 23:47
  • 1
    You did fire off, at my count, 5 questions. @user3439894 provided an answer for your first question and, by implication, your second (yes). That was what you asked. Perhaps you could change your post to a simpler set of questions which make it clear that you are only interested in getting information about past file access.
    – Gilby
    Sep 10, 2021 at 11:22
  • @Gilby I asked a main question and a closely related follow up. Is there a limit? “Is there a way to continually trace/log which software is creating and accessing files on my system?”
    – John
    Sep 11, 2021 at 3:59
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    Re Auditing I can find apple.stackexchange.com/questions/304893/… and apple.stackexchange.com/questions/12735/… which relate to using the OpenBSM Audit system included in macOS. This is a complex topic - I know about it, but have never used it.
    – Gilby
    Sep 11, 2021 at 4:16

1 Answer 1


@Gilby provided an answer that fits the question perfectly... OpenBSM developed by Apple.

Resources available:

Quick and Dirty OpenBSM Auditing In macOS
A high-level evaluation of the OpenBSM audit system in OS X
Reading Mac BSM Audit Logs
Getting Cozy With OpenBSM Auditing On MacOS - Patrick Wardle

Question and answer on StackExchange:

OS X Private Folder - Runaway file "crash recovery" 126.61GB!
Find out if any files were exported from my MacBook

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