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When you look at your desktop, or inside any folder for that matter, on your Mac you’ll see a number (one that will vary depending on how well-organized you are) of file and folder icons. What all of us have in common, however, is a huge range of system files that are hidden just out of view.
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Those of us who have lived online for long enough will remember the Delete System32 hoax, with which trolls encouraged naive PC users to delete their Windows 2000 system directory. It’s not a shock that, since those days, developers have taken more care to hide away files that are essential to their operating systems.
There are, however, times when you need to access those files. Most of them are hidden away in the ~/Library folder, but the truth is that the average Mac holds a treasure trove of files and folders that you either no longer need or may want to access for troubleshooting purposes.
Is it normal that 'System' takes up 90GB+ of storage? What does it contain? How to get your System folder under control?
Three Ways to See Hidden Files on Mac
There’s good news for anyone out there who’s looking to access hidden files on their Mac: you can do exactly that, in a number of different ways, by arming yourself with a little bit of knowledge. There are a couple of Finder augmentation and replacement apps, for example, that make the process as easy as clicking a single button.
Before kicking off, however, it’s important to highlight that you should play it safe when digging through hidden files on your laptop or desktop. Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for you can do some serious damage to your operating system, so you’ll want to proceed with caution. After all, these files are hidden for a reason!
See hidden files on Mac via Finder
As mentioned above, it doesn’t take much to make the hidden files on your Mac visible. In fact, you can check out all of the hidden files on your Mac by following just three easy steps:
- In Finder, open up your Macintosh HD folder
- Press Command+Shift+Dot
- Your hidden files will become visible. Repeat step 2 to hide them again!
This process will also work elsewhere, including your Documents or Applications folders. However, if you know what you’re looking for is in your ~/Library folder and would rather jump straight into that then you can take the following steps instead:
- In Finder, hold down Alt and click Go at the top of your screen
- Click on Library to open up the, normally hidden, folder
Be prepared for one very cluttered looking Desktop if you decide to uncover all the hidden files there. If you’re anything like the average Mac user, most of what you’ll find will be made up of system files and autosaved Microsoft Word documents!
Some users have reported success finding documents that they thought were lost forever after their Mac crashed without saving, which is always a useful tip to have in the back pocket.
Unhide files on Mac with Terminal commands
Terminal, a Mac command-line interface, is included in macOS by default and allows you to use command prompts to control your Mac instead of following a potentially complex series of instructions to do the same thing in Finder.
If you’re already familiar with using Terminal, then you might prefer to run the following script to reveal your hidden files:
- Open Terminal
- Enter the following: defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles true [Press Return] killall Finder
- To hide files again, change the “true” in the step above to “false”
It doesn’t matter too much whether you use Terminal or Finder to make the hidden files on your Mac visible, though you might prefer the latter if you’ve never run scripts on Terminal before, as both routes accomplish the same thing.
One reason you might opt to use Terminal is that it allows you to hide any file or folder on your Mac, which is a great way to avoid that sense of residual curiosity felt by others should they come across a password protected .rar on your desktop! To hide files, just:
- Open Terminal
- Enter the following: chflags hidden [Press Space]
- Drag files or folders to be hidden from Finder into the Terminal window, which will display their paths in Terminal
- Press Return to hide
To make your files visible again, just repeat the above steps using “chflags nohidden” in place of “chflags hidden.” Of course, the fact that anyone else who knows this trick can also use it to unhide your files means that this isn’t an adequate substitute for other security measures.
Use file managers to access hidden files
How to find the path of a file in Mac? Apps like DCommander and Forklift, both of which perform like native macOS apps and function as extensions of Finder, represent great choices if you’re at all uncomfortable using Terminal or digging around in your ~/Library folder.
Because these apps allow you to make hidden files and folders visible (or invisible) using shortcuts or clicking buttons within the apps, they make the whole process incredibly simple. In Forklift, for example, you can show hidden files by:
- Clicking View
- Selecting View Options towards the bottom of the dropdown menu
- Checking the box next to Show Hidden Files
There’s also a button in the toolbar to show and hide hidden files. DCommander has a similar function available, with a Show System Files command, but you need to add it manually to the app’s toolbar:
As you might guess from those subtle differences in terminology, we would suggest that Forklift is more suitable for someone looking for something that really looks and acts like Finder. DCommander, with a larger range of features and toolbar buttons enabled by default, is still intuitive but feels a little more dense.
Whichever you settle on remember that just because these apps make accessing hidden files easy it doesn’t mean that you can’t do some real damage if you start messing around with the wrong thing!
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Leave hidden files to automatic cleanup
For some Mac users, the question of how to see hidden files is nothing more than succumbing to curiosity. For others, it’s a necessity for troubleshooting a piece of software or device that’s not performing as it should.
Somewhere in between are those in the pursuit of a few spare gigabytes as their hard drive rapidly fills up. If you’re one of those people looking to clean up useless hidden data then an app like CleanMyMac X might be exactly what you need:
- Open up the app and select Smart Scan
- Hit Scan
- Select Review Details underneath Cleanup to see how much System Junk you can safely delete
- Hit Run to remove those unneeded files
An app like CleanMyMac X will free up space just as effectively, probably more so, than you’ll be able to by randomly deleting hidden files and hoping for the best. If you do end up going this route then don’t consider learning more about hidden content a waste of time — at least you know what to watch out for if someone tries to troll you into deleting vital system files!
Best of all, DCommander, Forklift, and CleanMyMac X apps mentioned above are all available for a free trial through Setapp, a collection of more than 150 macOS apps from top developers all over the world.
Most of the wireless routers today comes with some security feature such as security encryption (WEP/WPA), MAC address filtering, lowering transmission power, disabling DHCP & use static IP, and hiding of SSID to help keep your wireless network safe from intruders. Each wireless security mechanism helps to increase the difficulty of unauthorized users from hacking in to your wireless networks but surely does not prevent the determined ones. In this article we will be focusing on one of the option “Broadcast SSID” found in most wireless routers.
Basically when the broadcast SSID option is enabled, all wireless capable devices can see your router listed together with a bunch of other wireless networks. This option provides a convenience for you to easily connect to it by clicking on your SSID and entering the security key. However, this also allows the nearby hackers to find your network and also see the signal strength with the security type being used directly from Windows without even the need to run a network scanning tool. Non broadcasting wireless networks are not totally invisible as well because they can be detected by any of the 8 tools mentioned below.1. inSSIDer
inSSIDer is the most popular free and open source Wi-Fi scanning tool available today. It is easy to use and understand without all the confusing configuration. After installation, running inSSIDer will automatically select your wireless adapter to start scanning for available access points. Then the results will be shown in a sortable table in the program displaying information such as SSID, channel, security, RSSI, MAC Address, maximum rate, vendor and network type.
The hidden wireless network is shown in the first line with an empty SSID but the rest of the information about the network is displayed. inSSIDer works on Windows XP/Vista/7 (32-bit & 64-bit) and also on Android and Mac.
Another excellent small and portable utility by Nir Sofer called WirelessNetView allows you to view the available wireless networks around you. By placing the OUI database at the same folder as WirelessNetView, it can even show the brand of the wireless router based on the MAC address. It is possible to generate a HTML report file from the right click context menu and it also has command line support to save the list of wireless networks into an external TXT, CSV, HTML or XML file.
The hidden wireless network is shown without a SSID. A unique feature found in WirelessNetView is the ability to restart Windows Wireless Service from the Options toolbar or alternatively from the hotkey Ctrl+R. WirelessNetView works from Windows XP to Windows 7.
Winhotspot is actually a stand alone application that allows you to easily create a hotspot to share your Internet connection using your wireless adapter. However it also comes with a scanner which can be accessed from the WiFi Stats tab and clicking the Refresh button shows all the available wireless networks including the hidden ones.
The wardriving feature is very basic that only shows the important information such as SSID, Auth, BSSID, Signal, Radio and Channel. This utility is only 154KB in size and works only in Windows 7 and 8. The file is hosted in CNET’s server and you should click on the Direct Download link instead of the big Download Now button to avoid downloading the unnecessary 600KB CNET installer.
Homedal (read our full review) is another portable and free wireless monitoring tool that is capable of showing hidden wireless networks. The program is divided into four different tabs showing an overview of your wireless adapter, access points, signal graph and options. At the Access Points tab you can see all the detected networks with the signal strength levels being automatically updated every few seconds.
An interesting feature found in Homedale is the ability to connect to the access point by right clicking on the AP and select Connect. Unfortunately the connect command does nothing to the hidden ones without the SSID.
NetSurveyor by Nuts About Nets seems to be a more professional tool as it comes with logging to record and playback the data. Other than that, a PDF report can also be automatically generated from the File menu that shows the discovered networks, beacon qualities, usage of channels and timecourse/heatmap/spectrogram of channels.
Hidden wireless networks are shown as UNKNOWN_SSID_BSSID in the program. The channel usage bar graph instantly tells you the overlapping channels with the colored bars. Even if your computer does not have a wireless adapter, NetSurveyor can be ran as DEMO mode to get a feel on how it works. NetSurveyor works from XP SP3 with Microsoft .NET Framework version 3.5 or later.
6. Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector
Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector is biggest in file size at 21MB if compared to the rest of the scanners mentioned in this article. The program has a modern ribbon type of user interface which seems a bit unnecessary because it only has 1 Home tab. The program categorizes into four different parts which is the radar, connection information, found networks and signal history. The radar simply displays the access points closest to you.
A gadget version of the Inspector can also be downloaded from the official website. It is free and works on Windows XP SP2 or later, Vista, or 7.
Download Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector
How To Find Hidden Network Ssid
Vistumbler is a free wireless network scanner coded in Autoit made for Vista to replace the outdated Netstumbler. Vistumbler has been around since 2007 and an updated version has been recently released after without updates for 2 years. The method used by Vistumbler to scan the access point is the same as method #8 below except the results are shown in an easy to read table.
Running Vistumbler will report that an update is available even though we’ve just downloaded the latest version. Clicking on the Yes button will prompt an error about a variable used without being declared and clicking OK will close the program. What you need to do is simply click No when it ask you if you like to update vistumbler.
If you are unable to install and run any of the 7 tools above, netsh would be your best alternative. netsh is a command shell tool by Microsoft found in Windows operating system. Simply launch command prompt and type the following command line to get a list of wireless networks. It is advisable to disconnect from any access points before running this command to get a more accurate result.
netsh wlan show networks mode=bssid
The netsh command is useful because it doesn’t require installation of third party programs but it does not come with a fancy graphical user interface or nice looking graphs. Surprisingly the netsh tool is able to show quite a wealth of information if compared to the third party tools mentioned above. Do take note that if both wired and wireless are connected, you will need to disable the wired connection first or else you’ll get the message “There are 0 networks currently visible”.
Hidden Ssid Scan App Mac Download
Editor’s Note: If you haven’t noticed, all of the network scanning tools above can only discover invisible wireless networks but they cannot reveal the hidden SSID. Most of them shows a blank SSID while only NetSurveyor shows UNKNOWN_SSID and Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector shows Non-Broadcasted. There are some wireless utility that is installed together with the wireless adapter driver capable of showing hidden networks. Although the Windows wardriving tools is unable to reveal the hidden SSID in invisible wireless networks, it doesn’t mean that hiding SSID broadcast is safe. The hidden SSID can be revealed by de-authenticating connected users using aireplay-ng that is found in BackTrack Linux.
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You might also like: 9 Comments - Write a Comment
Thank You so much for all the info Raymond ,is very helpful .
Windows Scan AppReply
I will appreciate your research and cannot express my gratitude
GOD Bless u.
What can I do to find out, who the people are to the right of my Computer in NetWorks?
I have a feeling they are in there to gather information on my computer?
Also you may use Lizardsystems Wi-Fi Scanner lizardsystems.com/wi-fi-scanner/Reply
Acrylic WiFi v2.1 can discover and reveal hidden WiFi names as it supports monitor mode capture under windows
Thanks a lot for this , it helps me a lot with my research :)Reply
Raymond, this is awesome. thanks man!Reply