Accessing the Downloads Folder on Mac & Finding Downloaded Files

Jul 24, 2016 - 22 Comments

Mac Downloads folder and where it is located

Ever wondered where all the downloaded files go on your Mac? By default, most apps will transfer downloaded files into the user Downloads folder. This applies to all downloads to a Mac made from the web with Safari, Chrome, through AirDrop, or from the many file transfer apps out there.

There are many different ways to quickly find and access the Downloads folder on a Mac, we’ll review some of the fastest methods to get to that folder and find your downloaded files. Additionally, we’ll show you two ways to track down downloaded files that for whatever reason didn’t show up in the Downloads folder.

Where the Downloads Folder Location is in Mac OS

In all versions of Mac OS X and macOS, the user downloads folder is located in the users Home directory in a folder appropriately called “Downloads”.

The relative path for the Downloads folder in MacOS is ~/Downloads/ while the exact path would be /Users/username/Downloads/

For users who like to use the excellent Go To Folder keystroke function in Mac OS, hitting Command + Shift + G and entering either of the aforementioned directory paths will get you to the specified users Downloads directory.

How to Access Downloads Folder on Mac from the Dock

The Downloads folder exists in the Dock of Mac OS by default, so unless it has been removed it will be there for all users to have quick access to by accessing the Dock at the bottom of the Mac screen. It will be located on the right side of the Dock near the Trash can.

Downloads folder in Dock

How to Access Downloads from Mac Finder Menu Bar

The Finder menu bar also provides quick access to the Mac Downloads folder. From anywhere in the Finder, simply pull down the “Go” menu and choose “Downloads”

Downloads folder in Go menu

If you prefer to use keystrokes, you can hit Command + Option + L within the Finder to jump to the Downloads folder as well.

Go to Downloads Folder from Finder Sidebar

Another method of accessing the Downloads folder is from the Finder window sidebar. The “Downloads” option will be there by default unless it was removed.

Downloads folder location in Sidebar Mac

Access Downloads Folder on Mac from the Home Directory

Of course you can also get to the Downloads folder on a Mac by navigating from the users Home directory, where the clearly labeled “Downloads” folder will exist alongside other default folders like Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Movies, etc.

Mac downloads folder

Can’t Find a Downloaded File on the Mac? Search For It

Sometimes files download to unexpected places, whether it’s the Desktop or Documents folder or elsewhere. If you looked there and in the Downloads folder and can’t locate a downloaded file on the Mac, your best bet is to use the search features on the Mac. You can either use Finder search or Spotlight to look for files.

Searching for Downloaded Files with Finder Find

Finder Search must be accessed from a file system window in the Finder. Then from the “File” menu choose “Find” and enter the name of the file to search for. If you prefer keystrokes, hit Command + F from the Finder to bring up the search feature.

Finder search for downloaded files

If you click on a file result in the Finder Find feature, the path to the file will be visible in the Finder windows status bar.

Searching for Downloaded Files with Spotlight

Spotlight can be accessed from anywhere on the Mac, all you have to do is hit Command + Spacebar to bring up Spotlight, then type the file name of the downloaded item you are searching for.

Spotlight search for downloaded file

When you find the downloaded file in the Spotlight search result, you can hit the “Return” key to open it immediately, or you can hit Command+Return to open the folder containing the file instead.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that apps downloaded from the Mac App Store will not appear in the Downloads folder, as instead any downloaded app goes directly from the App Store into the /Applications folder on the Mac.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

22 Comments

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  1. Shirley Allan says:

    Or, you can change the General Preference in Safari “File download location” from”download folder” to “desktop” and never have to search for a download again!

    • Di Keller says:

      Yep, first thing I do on new machine :)

      • UglyStuff says:

        Remember to clear them up when you’re done installing them, or read them, for that matter: Desktop is a folder, same as any other in OS X, and makes indexing on startup longer, hence making your Mac longer to boot…

        The only app that downloads files directly to the Desktop in my case is Thunderbird. All the others put downloaded files in the Download folder.

        I’ve even written an AppleScript that will clear the Download folder with a keystroke combo, just to save space without having to navigate through the Finder.

    • Bev in TX says:

      I often temporarily change my download folder when downloading many files that go in a specific folder. I just have to remember to switch it back to ~/Downloads again when I’m done.

  2. cgl says:

    Most entry users, find the downloads dock file handy but will in time accidentally delete it. Be nice to let them know how to put it back into the dock, like dragging the “Downloads” file back to the left of the trash can.

  3. Chuck Reti says:

    Mail app in some systems was set up by default to send attachments to a “Mail Downloads” folder, where they took up disk space and were usually forgotten about. In Mail’s Preferences>General the path for mail attachment downloads can be set, if desired, to the regular “Downloads” folder.

  4. Hamza Sheikh says:

    This is the most asked question. Whenever some new person shifts from Windows to Mac in my circle, I get a call to guide them where they can find downloaded stuff. And how they can install an app by just placing it in Applications folder.

  5. Steve Ghost says:

    …really? Rather than write about something useful like using the PF firewall you’re writing about ‘where’s my downloaded file dude…’

    • Paul says:

      Hi Steve, this is a post about the user Downloads folder, and accessing files you have downloaded. It has nothing to do with ipfw or firewalls.

      If you are interested in learning about the software firewalls in Mac OS, you can read our posts about firewalls here: http://osxdaily.com/tag/firewall/

  6. RM says:

    opt-cmd-L

    duh. ;)

  7. Alan says:

    Have you provided an outline of what happens when you download an app onto the iMac. As an example, lets say you download a word processing package. To install it, you click on the file…and then what ? In Windows, you can go to the download folder after the install and delete the downloaded file (ie: an exe. file). What about with Apple ?
    Thank you.

    • Jeet says:

      For Mac, Applications from the App Store appear in the /Applications folder. There is no installer to remove, it is included in the App Store cleanup.

      Applications installed from installers tend to download into ~/Downloads/ (or elsewhere if you specified) and also usually install into the /Applications folder (or elsewhere if specified). You can delete the installer after it has finished if you want to.

      Apple has four OS systems with similar behavior as the macOS App Store process; iOS, tvOS, watchOS.

  8. Why the fighting?

    Can not anyone give us a straight answer that works?

    My download folder disappeared during an update. I don’t have a clue where it is. None of the ‘helps’ (!) above relate to my problem.

    iMac OS 10.10.6
    Safari 9.1.2

    • paul says:

      Irwin, try this:

      – Open Terminal (found in /Applications/ Utilities/ folder)

      – At terminal prompt, type:

      open ~/Downloads

      Hit return.

      See if the Downloads folder appears on screen, it should. If it doesn’t, it somehow went missing which would be strange unless it was deleted. I am guessing it is probably just hidden.

  9. Tom Deuley says:

    I seldom download, but when I do I want it to show up on the Desktop as a reminder that I have something new to contend with. I would prefer to never use the download folder, I have no intuition to go to it. How do I avoid it and have everything go to desktop.

    • Paul says:

      It varies per application. So how to do it depends on the app you are downloading the files from, what do you usually use to download? Safari?

      You can adjust where Safari downloads files by going to Safari > Settings > General > Download location > select the Desktop folder

  10. Nigel says:

    Is there any way of accessing the Mac HD in Finder quickly? Never knew you could do this, and I find it very handy, so thanks for the tip ;-)

    • Paul says:

      Aside from placing Macintosh HD on the desktop and accessing it directly, you could use Command+Shift+G and enter the path “/” to jump directly to root of Macintosh HD too.

      It’s also in the Finder sidebar under the ‘Devices’ section

  11. Ton Dooley says:

    Just. say. how . I can. sort.the.files.by date. PLEASE! I go insane here…

  12. Merv says:

    This does not work with the current OS. Please remove

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