Create a Hidden Folder in Mac OS X

May 10, 2010 - 11 Comments

You can create a folder that is hidden from the default Finder GUI view by taking advantage of Mac OS X’s unix underpinnings, here’s how:

Create the secret folder

* Launch the Terminal (located in /Applications/Utilities)
* At the command line, type:
mkdir .hiddenfolder
Feel free to replace the name hiddenfolder with anything else, leaving spaces and special characters out of the name will make it easier to deal with in the future.

Access the secret folder

* Now click back to the Finder, and hit Command+Shift+G to bring up the ‘Go to Folder’ dialog box
* Type in the full path to the folder you just created, replacing ‘username’ and ‘hiddenfolder’ with your username and folder name, respectively:
/users/username/.hiddenfolder/
secret folder mac os x
* Your hidden folder will now be opened in the Finder, you can drag and drop whatever you want into the directory

Making existing folders hidden and making hidden folders visible again

You can actually make any folder invisible from the Finder (and most apps) just by adding a period to the front of the name, you can do this with existing folders via the command line:
mv Folder .Folder
And you can make any invisible or hidden folder visible again by reversing this and removing the period from the front:
mv .Folder Folder

Note that you can’t enter a period in front of a folder or file name in the Mac OS X Finder, if you try you will be presented with this dialogue box telling you the dot “.” is reserved for the Mac OS X system software:
mac name reserved for the system

Setting Mac OS X to display hidden folders

You can actually set Mac OS X to show hidden files by issuing a command in the Terminal. This will expose your hidden folder completely within the Finder, but you’ll also see tons of other important system files and folders. This is generally not recommended to keep activated as it is both confusing to many users and it makes it easy to accidentally delete important files.

Notes on hidden folders

Remember that these folders are not hidden completely, they are just not visible from the Mac OS X Finder. Many applications won’t see the folder either, but various FTP programs like Transmit have the option to show invisible files and the folder would be visible to those applications. Likewise, the folder would always be visible via the command line to anyone who typed the ls command and added the -a flag, signifying to display all files, like so: ls -a

If you have Apple’s Developer Tools installed you can use a utility called ‘setfile’ which allows you to set any directory or file as invisible, you can read more about hiding files and folders with setfile in Mac OS X, but the limitations on visibility are practically identical to the above technique: file is invisible from the Finder but visible with ls -a or certain applications.

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Posted by: William Pearson in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

11 Comments

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  1. Chris says:

    Great tip!

    Further to using the Cmd+Shift+G function in the GUI for opening the hidden folder. You can also use the ‘open’ command from Terminal.

    E.g. open .hiddenfolder will cause finder to open a new window on that directory.

    In addition to this, you can use the ‘open’ command to launch Applications!
    E.g. open -a “iTunes”
    Type the exact name of the Application within the quotes as it appears in the Applications folder.

    You can even pass arguments (to applications that take them) using this method.
    E.g. open -a “TextEdit” /Users/user/Documents/document.rtf
    This will open the file “document.rtf” in TextEdit.

    Have fun :)

    • Chris says:

      Also forgot to mention.

      You can use “tab autocompletion” with the Cmd+shift+G functionality – nifty!

  2. Peter says:

    Right,

    do you guys know how to make invisible folder out of invisible folder?

  3. […] Want to hide some files in plain sight? You can make a folder invisible to the eye, but not to the click with this neat trick. I learned this in 6th grade to hide files and apps from prying eyes, and despite it’s simplicity it worked to store games, movies, and pictures on school computers without anyone knowing where they were kept. Believe it or not it works, and if you have limited access to the Terminal it beats using the period method to hide folders. […]

  4. Rodrigo says:

    i put my documents in my new .hiddenfolder, but as soon as i tried to re open , the folder finder said ” unable to find folder”

    PLEASE help!

  5. Rodrigo says:

    i put my documents in my new .hiddenfolder, but as soon as i tried to re open , the folder finder said ” unable to find folder”

    PLEASE help!!

  6. pascal says:

    Thanks a lot, this is just perfect for my needs!

  7. […] folder or two on a Mac? A while back we showed you how to make invisible folders and to even how to make hidden folders in Mac OS X, but now we’re going to demonstrate how to turn an existing folder into a hidden […]

  8. bob says:

    tnx m8. works just fione :)

  9. hendi says:

    help, i make this .hiddenfolder long time ago in my ext harddrive and put 2 folders and files in it. but when i open.. it’s empty! and when i see the info folder it said “10GB items”.. yeah that’s my total files. how can show it again?

    hope you guys understand my english :| sorry.

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