The hidden Library folder in Lion


Since the advent of desktop computing, the debate between Windows PCs and Macs has often centered around the argument that the latter platform was far easier to use. The user interface was more intuitive and features “just worked” right out of the box. With the advent of Apple’s latest operating system, that argument is beginning to disintegrate. I offer one such example from personal experience.

Problem Description
A client of mine recently asked me to restore a single Mail folder from his Time Machine backup. He also wanted me to retrieve a Firefox bookmarks file from his backup hard drive that was attached to his computer via Firewire cable. Both sets of files are hidden by default in the user’s Library folder. Moreover, even though Apple provides a toggle key (Option) to temporarily view the Library folder from the Finder’s Go menu, that facility is unavailable in Time Machine and only works with files stored on the startup hard drive.

Resolution
Doing an Internet search revealed the need to use the Terminal app (located in Utilities) to temporarily reveal hidden files on the Mac.

$ defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
$ killall Finder

After performing the file restore in Time Machine, go back to Terminal to return the Mac to its original state.

$ defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE
$ killall Finder

While Apple’s justification for hiding the Library folder in Lion was to prevent unsophisticated users from messing up their Macs, the procedure also causes headaches when there is a need to troubleshoot systems.

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Filed under Apple Software, Troubleshooting

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