Where’s Temp Folder on Mac OS? Find & Open Mac Temporary Directory

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The Mac operating system has several system-level temporary folders that contain temporary files used by macOS itself, along with various Mac apps. These temporary folders are not intended to be confronted by the user, but in some rare situations, it may be necessary for an advanced Mac user to locate and maybe even poke around the temporary folder, be it for system administration purposes, troubleshooting, digital forensics, or any other specific reason.

This one tutorial will show you where the temporary folders are on Mac OS and how to access them.

This probably goes without saying, but this is only intended for advanced Mac users. Hardly anyone should dig into the temporary folders of macOS / Mac OS X, and you shouldn’t try to manually delete data from any of the tmp folders as you could break something or crash it completely up your system installation, or an app, or even active document data, causing data loss, or reinstalling Mac OS X / or reinstalling macOS, or restoring from a backupup. If for any reason you want to clear the temporary item files on a Mac, just restart the computer to use system-level temporary files, while user-level caches and temporary files can be manually cleaned if needed for some reason .

Again, do not try to change anything manually or delete files in the temporary folders of the Mac OS system. If you screw in some way up and delete a critical system file or folder, you must follow these instructions to recover deleted system files by reinstalling the macOS system software.

How to Find where the temporary folder in Mac OS is located

The easiest way to find out where the MacOS / Mac OS X Temp folder is located is to use the echo command on the $ TMPDIR environment variable on the command line:

  1. Open the Terminal application, found in / Applications / Utilities / and type the following command string:
  2. echo $ TMPDIR

  3. The output of the command is the Mac’s temporary directory

TMPDIR will always be a path to a seemingly nonsensical directory structure as it is not meant to look at the user or be served by the user, it is a temporary system directory after all.

For example, if you use the command above, you might see something like the following as the output of the command for echo $ TMPDIR:

$ echo $ TMPDIR / var / folders / g7 / 7du81ti_b7mm84n184fn3k910000lg / T /

In this case, the path to the macOS temporary folder is “/ var / folders / g7 / 7du81ti_b7mm84n184fn3k910000lg / T /”

To be thorough, you can also use printv to print environment variables and use grep like this:

printv | grep TMP

This will also reveal the same TMPDIR path by printing something like the following:

TMPDIR = / var / folders / g7 / 2du11t4_b7mm24n184fn1k911300qq / T /

How to Open and open the Temp folder in Mac OS

You can immediately open and open the Temp folder in a new Mac OS Finder window by using the ‘open’ command and pointing it at the $ TMPDIR environment variable as follows:

  1. In the Terminal application, type the following command string:
  2. open $ TMPDIR

  3. Hit Return and a new Finder window with the $ TMPDIR will immediately open

Open the System Temp folder on Mac

Notably, $ TMPDIR is not protected by System Integrity Protection (meaning whether SIP is enabled or disabled, you can still change, edit, delete, and write to that folder), so be careful as many files and items in the $ TMPDIR will be active. used by currently open applications. Inside $ TMPDIR you will find all kinds of media caches and other files. As mentioned before, you should not manually change or delete anything in these folders unless you know exactly what you are doing.

Alternatively, you can also change the current working directory on the command line to the temporary directory from the command line with a simple cd command:

cd $ TMPDIR

The $ TMPDIR is just like any other directory

Other temporary macOS folders

Another temporary folder in Mac OS is universal to all users and is located in the following location:

/ tmp

For what it’s worth, in Mac OS / tmp actually just links to / private / tmp /, so you can also just navigate to / private / tmp / to find the same data, whether it’s a bunch of caches or the contents of a ram disk or anything else contained therein.

There are also several user-level temporary folders such as user ~ / Library / Caches / caches folder, and some apps also have specific temporary folders, Outlook has temporary folder, for example, just like the Mac App Store (which is tucked away in $ TMPDIR ), and many Mac apps dump temporary files in the user-level cache folder.

The primary user’s temporary directory is located at:

~ / Library / Caches / Temporary Items /

As mentioned earlier, you probably shouldn’t try to delete or modify anything in the temporary folders no matter where they are, be it in your user folder or $ TMPDIR or anywhere else as you can easily screw something in up or end up with unintended results. If for any reason you are concerned about the contents of $ TMPDIR or any other similar type of files and data, just close all open apps and restart the Mac to remove temporary items from / private / var / folders and much of what in $ TMPDIR too.

Do you know of any other useful ones tips or tricks regarding the temporary folder on Mac OS / Mac OS X? Share in the comments below!

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