In this article, I will present the most helpful approaches for textual and file search on a Mac with Finder.
1. How to open and use Finder on Mac
Spotlight is amazing for quick lookups, but when you need to make a more detailed search on your Mac that can be saved for later use, Finder is a better option. Finder allows you to do more precise searches, as well as better options for sorting and viewing the results.
To search, click on the search field located top-right on Finder or use the shortcut Command+F.
You can change the results' appearance using the button at the top. For example, when the result has many files, it is better to display them as a list or column.
You can sort the results on certain criteria using the "Sort" button. Simply click on the column property and choose sorting criteria.
2. Advanced search by Finder
Unlike Spotlight, Finder does not support search operators directly in the search query. Instead, you need to open the search box with Command+F, and then click on the "+" button. On the left side, you will see the form from which you can choose the criteria for your search.
You can add multiple conditions using the "Add" button and remove them using the "Remove" button.
You can set a Boolean operator (OR, AND, or NOT) in any conditions by holding the "Option" key and pressing the "…" button that will replace the "+" button on the right side.
Finder also allows you to save your current search results as a Smart Folder for later use. To achieve this, click on the "Save" button and specify the name and the location of the folder. If "Add To Sidebar" is selected, the search folder will be added to your sidebar for quick access.
3. Search in hidden and system folders
By default, macOS hides system files from the users, as accidentally changing them might cause application errors. However, you may need to access them to change system settings or delete the junk files left by a removed application.
You can quickly show or hide all hidden files with Command+Shift+Period.
To search system or hidden folders with Finder’s search box:
- Open Finder and enter Command+F to bring up the search window (make sure "This Mac" is selected, so you can search in the whole system).
- Click on the Dropdown list on the left and choose "Other."
- Navigate to "System Files" and double-click to add them.
- Open the right Dropdown and choose "are included." You can now search in system files as well.
- Click on the "+" button on the right to add another search option.
- From the Dropdown list on the left choose "Other" again, navigate to the "File visibility" property (could also be named "File invisible") and double-click to add it.
- Select "Visible or Invisible" in the right Dropdown.
4. Save the search settings in Finder
The following steps will show you how to save these or any other settings for easy access and further use.
- Click on the "Save" button at the right to show the Save dialog.
- Change the default name and location as you wish. Make sure "Add to Sidebar" is checked if you want to access it quickly.
- Click "Save."
If "Add to Sidebar" was checked in the previous step, a file with the given name will appear on the Sidebar on the left. Whenever you want to search in the system or hidden files, open it and type your search words in the search box.
Note that Finder still will not let you search in hidden files beginning with a period (e.g. ".identityService.csv"). You have to search them manually or use third-party software.
5. Search for deleted files
Any files you remove are stored in the Trash Bin unless the system doesn’t have enough free space at the moment of deletion. To access the Trash folder, simply click on the Trash icon in the Dock.
You can also locate the Trash Bin folder in Finder:
- Click Go -> Go to Folder on the menu bar at the top.
- Paste the path:
in the dialog and hit "Return" to open the path.
- Once you get to the Bin folder, you can use Finder’s search bar to look for a specific file.
- Drag and drop the item to a folder outside the Trash, or if you want to put it in its original folder, right-click on the file and choose Put Back.
Note that once you delete a file from the Trash, it will be deleted permanently.
If your deleted file is not in the Trash, you can recover it from an earlier disk or cloud backup. If you don’t have one, you might want to read how to create backups with the Time Machine or iCloud and prevent future file loss.
If you don’t have any backups, your last option is to try Data Recovery Software such as Disk Drill.