Why can’t I see all files on Mac?

There are a few different reasons why you may not be able to see all files on your Mac. The most common causes include hidden files, permissions issues, and incompatible file systems.

Hidden Files

Mac OS has a feature that allows files and folders to be hidden from view in Finder. This prevents the system files and configuration files from cluttering up the display. There are a couple ways files can become hidden on a Mac:

  • Files and folders that start with a period (.) are automatically hidden by the operating system. These include files like .DS_Store.
  • Users can manually mark any file or folder as hidden using Terminal or by adding a period to the start of the name.
  • Some applications will create hidden support files and folders when installed.

Since hidden files do not show up in Finder by default, it can appear like you are missing files if you don’t realize there are hidden ones on your system. To view hidden files on Mac:

  1. Open Finder and click on the menu option “Go” while holding down the Option key. This will display the “Library” option.
  2. Select “Library” and then navigate to the user account library folder.
  3. Open the “Preferences” folder and find the file “.GlobalPreferences.plist”.
  4. Right click on “.GlobalPreferences.plist” and select “Open With” > “Other” > “TextEdit”.
  5. Find the following lines:

  6. Change “” to “” and save the file.
  7. Restart Finder by holding down the Option and right click on the Finder icon in the dock and select “Relaunch”.

Now hidden files and folders should be visible in Finder. To hide them again, just reverse the steps.

Permissions Issues

The permissions settings on files and folders can prevent you from viewing them in Finder. Every file and folder on your Mac has an owner and group owner assigned to it. Then there are permissions granted to the owner, group, and everyone for reading, writing, and executing.

If you do not have read permissions on a file or folder, you will not be able to open or view it in Finder. Some common permission issues that could cause missing files include:

  • You are not the owner of the files.
  • Your user account is not in the required group to access the files.
  • The permissions are set to not allow reading by “everyone”.

To check and modify permissions on Mac:

  1. Select the file or folder and press Command+I to Get Info.
  2. In the info window, expand the Sharing & Permissions section.
  3. Check the permissions for your user compared to the owner and group.
  4. If needed, use the lock icon to make changes and grant yourself read permissions.

Fixing permission issues will allow you to view files that were previously not visible in Finder.

Incompatible File Systems

If an external drive or device is formatted with a file system that is not supported by macOS, the files on it will not show up in Finder. Some common scenarios where this can occur:

  • Connecting a drive formatted with NTFS from Windows. Mac can read NTFS but does not support writing to it by default.
  • Inserting media like SD cards or thumb drives formatted with unsupported file systems like exFAT or ext4.
  • Network attached storage (NAS) devices that do not have Mac compatible file sharing enabled.

To access files from these incompatible sources, you will need to take steps to allow Mac read/write support:

  • For NTFS drives, install a free third party driver like NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software.
  • For SD cards, use exFAT format which works across Mac and Windows.
  • For NAS devices, enable SMB file sharing support.

If you cannot modify the file system being used, apps like HFSExplorer can read the drive and copy files over to a compatible format.

Corrupt Drives

If an external or internal drive has become corrupted, the files on it may not show up properly in Finder. Some signs of a corrupt drive include:

  • Frequent error messages when accessing the drive
  • Issues with mounting or unmounting the drive
  • Very slow performance and lag
  • Strange behaviors like disappearing files

To troubleshoot a corrupt drive on Mac:

  1. Run First Aid using Disk Utility to check for errors and attempt repairs.
  2. Boot to Recovery Mode and use Disk Utility from there for a deeper scan.
  3. Backup any accessible data and reformat the drive if errors cannot be fixed.
  4. Contact a data recovery service for professional help if needed.

Finder Indexing Issues

The Finder indexing service on your Mac maintains a database of all file metadata to allow for fast searching and sorting. If this index becomes corrupted, it can cause weird behaviors like files going missing.

To troubleshoot Finder indexing problems:

  • Go to System Preferences > Spotlight and privacy settings. Remove any locations it is having trouble indexing.
  • Run mdutil in Terminal to delete and rebuild the index:
    mdutil -E /
  • Disable indexing with mdutil -i off and then re-enable it mdutil -i on

Rebuilding the index requires some time as it scans all connected drives, but can resolve index corruption issues.


There are a variety of reasons why files may not show up properly in the Finder on Mac. Most commonly it is due to hidden files, permission problems, incompatible file systems, corrupt drives, or Finder indexing issues. By understanding the potential causes, you can systematically troubleshoot and resolve situations where you are unable to view all files as expected on a Mac.

Leave a Comment