Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am a Windows/Linux user, who is learning Mac OS X out of interest in doing dev-work for the iPad which I recently purchased. However, OS X is driving me nuts by trying to protect all it's system files, hiding all of the important OS components I want to tweak, and generally making it impossible to do any modification to the OS in general to make it more usable.

Therefore, is there a way to turn off all the idiot-checking in Finder?

On XP, I can disable "Hide Protected Operating system files" and set "Show Hidden Files".
On linux, there really aren't many hidden files, and changing the configuration for .files is easy enough in Gnome and XFCE.

How can I set up OS X in a similar way.

I am not new to computers, and I am fully aware that deleting system files can damage or even irreparably disable a OS install. Therefore, If I intentionally try to delete a file, or move something, it's probably intentional, and I am willing to accept the consequences in any case.

At this point, I have fallen back to doing everything through the command line (which takes forever), because Finder is practically unusable.

(As for what I am attempting to do, I also asked about GUI changes here.)

share|improve this question

If you want to stick with Finder (rather than using some third-party file manager such as Path Finder), then I don't know if there's an easy way to get what you want in one click. But, to run Finder as root:

sudo /System/Library/CoreServices/

In Snow Leopard this does not (always?) open an initial Finder window. If that happens, then do not click the Finder icon in the Dock (which might take you to the non-root Finder), but use Command-Tab to go to Finder and hit Command-N. Note the "root" name in the sidebar next to the home folder.

Alternatively, Apple explains Enabling and using the "root" user in Mac OS X.

To show hidden files:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles 1
share|improve this answer

Well gee, I suppose you could always log in as root: the following link will bring you to the Apple Knowledge Base page on how to enable the root account on Mac OS X, which is disabled by default.

Other things: any directory you find while browsing through the terminal can be viewed in Finder by using the open command. $ open . is a simple terminal trick to open the current working directory in the Finder.

From within the Finder, you can also go directly to any directory on the system from the "Go to Folder..." item in the "Go" menu (command+shift+g); this will display a dialog that will do tab autocompletion just like the command line.

All of Mac OS X's system files are not hidden. They're stored in /System, specifically /System/Library/CoreServices.

For "Tweaking important OS components," maybe you should install the developer tools? I'd be surprised if you haven't done this already, but that will get you things like Property List Editor and the SetFile command.

Speaking of SetFile, the Darwin system files are hidden from the user. If you do $ ls -a / from the command line, you'll see all of the /bin, /var, /etc. that form the BSD subsystem. You can easily show these in the Finder by unsetting the invisible flag with $ SetFile -a v /theDirectoryInQuestion, or make use of the AppleShowAllFiles property that Arjan mentioned just now. (Note: SetFile used to be available only as part of the Developer Tools package, but appears to be part of the regular system now.)

I'm really not sure what you're looking for specifically. The concept is if you want to access the BSD subsystem files, you may as well be using the BSD subsystem through Terminal. Nearly all of OS Xs files are available to the user in the Finder. The tools I use most commonly for tweaking OS X are plutil, vi, SetFile, launchctl, all from the command line.

share|improve this answer

There's a good finder hack called TotalFinder. Apart from giving you dual pane Finder windows (a godsend for the Directory Opus junkies who also use macs), it also lets you show or hide hidden files.

share|improve this answer

Displaying of hidden files can be toggled within file dialogs by pressing Cmd-Shift-.

Secrets.prefPane is an easy to use extension for System Preferences that lets you change "hidden" settings and preferences for a lot of applications, such as toggling hidden files display in the Finder.

Edited to add: The change using Secrets.prefPane probably only changes the plist entry mentioned in another answer. If you don't like additional software, don't use it. But you might find a few interesting options.

share|improve this answer
The file dialogs you're referring to are only the Save and Open dialogs, right? Or am I missing a feature in Finder windows? – Arjan Sep 19 '10 at 15:29
You're right. Dialogs are different from (or a subset of) windows in a more general sense. Regular finder "file browser" windows are only modified by the change I noted in the second paragraph. – Daniel Beck Sep 19 '10 at 15:36

On XP, I can disable "Hide Protected Operating system files" and set "Show Hidden Files". [...]

How can I set up OS X in a similar way. [sic]

Well, there's the hiddenfiles widget for Dashboard. Alternatively, in Terminal:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles YES

and then

killall Finder

Replace YES with NO and repeat above procedure to revert.


share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .