How to Hide Desktop Icons on Mac

Some people are good at managing their desktop space and keeping it really neat and tidy. Well, I am not one of them and my Mac’s desktop is cluttered with folders and files. I love my chaos, and I am not going to change my habits in the foreseeable future. However, I do need to hide my desktop files on certain occasions. For example, if I have to attach screenshots in any of my articles, or when I have to give a presentation at work, I would rather show people a cleaner desktop, as it is easier for them to focus on the right things. Whether you are struggling to keep your desktop clean or you thrive in the chaos like me, you will encounter moments when you have to hide all that clutter quickly. For those quick moments, here’s how to hide desktop icons in macOS quickly:

Note: I have tried the following methods on my 2017 MacBook Pro running on macOS Mojave, and other Macs running on macOS Sierra, and macOS High Sierra, so these should work on your Mac as well.

Hide Desktop Icons in macOS Using Terminal

The Terminal is like a trove of treasure. You can do wonders on your Mac with the right commands, so it’s no surprise that you can use the Terminal to hide desktop icons on a Mac. You can just launch the Terminal by searching for it in Spotlight and run the following command:

defaults write CreateDesktop false

screenshot of terminal command to hide desktop icons in macOS

Once you’ve done that, use the following command in the Terminal to restart Finder:

killall Finder

screenshot of terminal command to restart finder in mac

Keep in mind that the ‘F’ in ‘Finder’ should be capital, otherwise the terminal will simply tell you that it found no matching processes.

Once you do this, all the icons on your Desktop will be hidden. To unhide the icons later, you can simply use the following command:

defaults write CreateDesktop true

and then restart Finder with the following command:

killall Finder

Use Third-party Apps to Hide Desktop Icons on Mac

While using the Terminal to hide desktop icons on a Mac isn’t a difficult task, if you need to hide/unhide desktop icons in macOS on a very regular basis, using the Terminal might not be the most efficient method for you. In such a case, you can use a third party app that will let you hide desktop icons or unhide them with just a click. I’m recommending HiddenMe (free) for this.

screenshot of HiddenMe's App Store listing

Once you’ve downloaded the app from the App Store, and launched it, all you have to do is click on the menu bar icon for HiddenMe, and then click on ‘Hide Desktop Icons.’ That’s it, your desktop icons will now be hidden.

screenshot showing HiddenMe's hide desktop icons option

To unhide desktop icons later, you can simply click on the HiddenMe icon in the menu bar, and click on ‘Unhide Desktop Icons.’

You can also create a keyboard shortcut to enable/disable HiddenMe and make sure your desktop looks clean with just the push of a simple keystroke no matter which app you’re in. Just make sure not to use a shortcut that’s already being used by macOS, or another app or the shortcut might not work properly. You can create a shortcut by clicking on the HiddenMe icon in the menu bar, going to ‘Preferences,’ and using the ‘Shortcut‘ option.

screenshot of HiddenMe's preferences screen with the keyboard shortcut annotated

Bonus: Use Desktop Stacks in macOS Mojave

If the only reason you want to hide desktop icons is to make your desktop look neat and clean for screenshots and presentations (like me), there’s an easier and better option that you can use.

With macOS Mojave, Apple brought a new ‘Desktop Stacks’ feature to Finder which automatically ensures that your desktop looks neat and clean by combining files of the same type together.

To enable Desktop Stacks, all you need to do is launch the Finder, click on ‘View’ and then click on ‘Use Stacks’ and that’s it.

GIF showing macOS Mojave's desktop stacks feature in action

Alternatively, you can just use the keyboard shortcut ‘control + command + O’ to enable Desktop Stacks on your Mac.

Note: As I mentioned earlier, Desktop Stacks is only available in macOS Mojave. If you’re using an older version of macOS, you’ll have to use the Terminal or an app like HiddenMe to make your desktop look clean.

SEE ALSO: How to Add Spaces to Organise Apps in Dock On Mac

Hide Desktop Icons on Mac to Give It a Cleaner Look

By using either of the above methods, you can ensure that no one is able to catch you off-guard and make you feel ashamed about your digital cleanliness habits. Now, you can clutter up your desktop to your heart’s desire and when the moment comes, you can clean it up with a few keystrokes. So, try these methods out and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

comment Comments 9
  • Eric Weir says:

    Tried this on another writer’s suggestion. Didn’t work. Tried it just now again. Didn’t work again.

    In the Past I have relied on Path Finder app’s “Hide Finder’s desktop” feature for this. It has worked flawlessly in the past. Setting up Path Finder on a new computer I elected it again. It worked for a few hours. Then desktop icons started showing up even with the option set.

    Makes me wonder if there’s something else going on in the system, e.g., some other setting, that’s interfering. I’ve asked for help from the developers. Usually they’re pretty responsive. Not this time.

  • just a friend says:

    just highlight all desktop icons and move them to documents no need to download 3rd party apps

  • Jennifer Hammer says:

    Thank you so much! I am using the “view stacks” feature today so I can show a slideshow at a family funeral without all my other folders getting in the way. This is just fantastic! I appreciate you sharing!

  • Jane Carter says:

    There is a mouse gesture to quickly hide all the icons and folders on your desktop, WITHOUT using Terminal. It works on all my old Macs, but not on any of the new ones.
    Do you know what it is?
    I do it by mistake when Im putting 2 fingers on my mouse, but cannot find exactly what I did.

  • SMA says:

    The “Terminal” option WORKS! Just copy and paste what they have in the gray boxes! Very easy…

  • Chaitanya Patel says:

    I have Samsung Galaxy S8(SM-G950U1). It’s snapdragon varient. Which mod apk should i use for ???? Can you give me suggestions ??

  • Nehal says:

    Hi, could you please help me with the link to gcam for Samsung galaxy s9

  • Matty D says:

    Thanks for pointing me to the free app, HiddenMe. It’s just what I needed to make my desktop more beautiful.

    • tommy says:

      I mean hidden bar app better than hidden me* do try!

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