Restore hidden files with Apple Mac OS X Time Machine

Apple's Time Machine works great, but restoring hidden files (files that start with a dot, like .ssh, .bashrc or .Trash) is difficult, but possible!

Time machine uses the settings as used by the Finder. So first step is to change Finders behaviour, to show hidden files. Execute this command (as a regular user) from within the Terminal.

$ defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
$ killall Finder

Now you should be able to see extra files in the finder, like this:

Now start Time Machine and scroll back to the date you were sure a file existed.

Restore it and to hide all these (annoying) hidden files, revert to original Finder settings:

$ defaults write AppleShowAllFiles FALSE
$ killall Finder


It worked. Simple and

It worked. Simple and clear. The trick for me was after making hidden files visible was to enter through the time machine application rather than just searching the files directly on the external hdd that holds the time machine. I was happy to hang up on the corporate "help" desk after waiting an hour.

I would like to thank you for

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well freelance

Thank you very much. It was

Thank you very much. It was very helpful and understanding of the problem has been clarified.

Thank you very much, solved a

Thank you very much, solved a big problem for me. Great job.

Many thanks! Clear, concise

Many thanks! Clear, concise and it worked the first time.
I had corrupted my Bookmarks by not realising that the iPhone and the Mac were syncing. I had deleted many bookmarks from the iPhone blithely not realising they were being erased from my Mac.

Thanks! It works!

Thanks! It works!

Huge thanks! I misunderstood

Huge thanks!

I misunderstood how an application works and created a directory ~ in the current working directory. OK, get rid of it by rm -rf ~ ... that’s taking a bit of a long time ... OOOPS!

Robert - thanks I had a

Robert - thanks I had a TimeMachine issue related to restoring manually from a Drobo. Your terminal commands enabled me to access the User Library files and salvage my reinstall. Thanks again. Paul

I have been trying to find

I have been trying to find out how to recover items in the Trash for some time and there are lots of fruitless links - your answer resolved my issue so many thanks to you! Just a note for those (like me) who do not use Terminal a lot. You type in the phrase after the $ prompt but you do not type the '$' in Terminal

Thanks! I was shocked when I

I was shocked when I couldn't find the Thunderbird mail folders anywhere.
I thought I had lost the accidentally erased messages forever.
This trick allowed me to restore them from Time Machine.

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References Red Hat Certified Architect By Robert de Bock Robert de Bock
Curriculum Vitae By Fred Clausen +31 6 14 39 58 72
By Nelson Manning [email protected]