How to hide files and folders from Finder on the Apple Mac

Hide files and folders on your Apple Mac that you do not want others to see. Make then private so only you can see them and access them.

Security is a constant worry and we often hear about this or that that was hacked, files stolen and private files made public. Stop worrying and hide files and folders to make them more private.

The Mac is already quite secure and a password is required to log in. The disk can also be encrypted so that if someone steals your Mac, they cannot access your personal files, photos, music and videos.

However, most security is aimed at stopping people turning on the Mac or logging in. What if you are using your Mac and someone is looking over your shoulder? Could they see files and folders on the desktop or in Finder?

What if you step away from your Mac for a couple of minutes to go and grab a coffee or a bite to eat? Someone could sit down at your Mac and access your files.

Log out to secure your Mac

One way to prevent people from accessing your files if you have to get up and do something is to log out. Click the Apple menu and select Log Out Bob Smith, for example.

This is secure, but it is also inconvenient because it closes apps and files, and you might be in the middle of working on something. You would have to reopen the apps and files when you return.

Go to the login window

An alternative is to go to the login screen. Click your name or the icon at the right side of the menu bar and select Login Window. This keeps all your apps, files and windows open, but locks your account. Logging back in enables you to continue where you left off.

Go to the Login Windows in macOS on the Apple Mac using the menu bar

Use a screen saver

There is a way to lock the Mac instantly using the screen saver and this is handy for extra privacy and security.

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Click Security & Privacy
  3. On the General tab, tick Require password...
  4. In the menu, select Immediately or 5 seconds
  5. Go to Desktop & Screen Saver in System Preferences
  6. Select the Screen Saver tab
  7. Click Hot Corners
  8. Hold down Ctrl, Option or Command and select Start Screen Saver from the menu

Require a password after a screen saver in System Preferences on the Apple Mac
Make sure a password is required

Set up Hot Corners in System Preferences on the Apple
Set one of the screen corners to start the screen saver

From now on, you can push the mouse into the corner of the screen, with your selected key pressed, and the screen saver will instantly activate. It is useful when you want to walk away from your computer.

Hide files and folders

Files and folders can be hidden from Finder, so even if someone got onto your Mac somehow, they would not be able to see or access anything private. In fact, they would not even know there were hidden items.

To hide files and folders, Get OnyX, a free Mac app, and run it.

  1. Select Utilities in the toolbar
  2. Select the Visibility tab
  3. Click Hide Folder or Hide File
  4. Choose the file or folder to hide

OnyX app for Apple Mac showing the utilities
Show and hide folders using OnyX

Select a file in macOS on the Apple Mac
Select the item to show or hide

The selected item disappears from the desktop and Finder. No-one will know it exists. To make it visible again, click Show Folder or Show file. Choose the item you hid.

If someone got on your Mac, they could use OnyX to show your hidden file or folder. However, they do not know you have hidden anything and they do not know where to find the hidden item to select it and show it. It is unlikely they would figure it out.



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