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Has a toolbar or a window disappeared from your Mac? Or maybe it’s a menu bar icon that has gone missing.
Sometimes one unintentional key press or a change in a mystery setting is all it takes to make items disappear from view. As we’ll see below, it’s often easy to bring such items back if you know where to look.
Let’s explore several common items that could disappear from your Mac and how you can restore them.
1. The Dock
Can’t see the Dock anymore? Does it appear only when you mouse over the bottom edge of the screen? That’s most likely because you’ve triggered the Dock’s auto-hide feature, either by:
- Entering the full screen mode for the active app, or
- Hitting the keyboard shortcut Option + Cmd + D accidentally
The shortcut toggles the auto-hide feature, so using the same shortcut again will restore the Dock to its always-visible status.
You can also toggle automatic hiding for the Dock from System Preferences > Dock. Look for the Automatically hide and show the Dock checkbox and enable or disable it as needed. You’ll find the toggle option tucked away in the Dock’s right-click menu too.
If the Dock still hasn’t made a comeback, you can reset it to its default settings. To do so, open the Terminal app and enter the following command:
defaults delete com.apple.dock && killall Dock
Remember to hit Enter to execute the command.
2. The Menu Bar
Like the Dock, the macOS menu bar has an auto-hide feature, which you can toggle from System Preferences > General. Look for the Automatically hide and show the menu bar checkbox.
You can toggle the visibility of the menu bar with the shortcut Ctrl + F2 also. If this shortcut doesn’t work, ensure that:
- macOS is set to use F1, F2, etc. as standard function keys under System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard.
- You haven’t changed or disabled the default shortcut under System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Keyboard.
3. Menu Bar Icons
Let’s say you want to restore the Wi-Fi status icon to the menu bar. To do this, open the System Preferences app and look for menu bar using the search box provided at the top-right.
In the search results dropdown menu, you’ll see several Show [icon name] in menu bar items. (Notice the system icons you can choose to display.) Select the Show Wi-Fi status in menu bar option to access and enable that setting.
For any icons that you want to hide again, hold down the Command key, drag the icon out of the menu bar, and let go when you see an X mark next to the icon. Keep in mind that this works only for system icons.
You don’t have to worry about the Spotlight icon disappearing. It’s impossible to get rid of, accidentally or otherwise, unless you install a third-party app like Vanilla or Bartender.
4. Apps and App Windows
It’s easy to lose windows from sight when you’re working. You might click on the yellow Minimize button accidentally, or push a window out of view thanks to a misbehaving trackpad. If you’ve enabled hot corners for a faster workflow, reaching for any corner of your Mac’s screen by accident can force the active view out of sight.
Sometimes, app windows don’t respond as expected when you use the command switcher, making you think that you’ve lost a window. This happens, for example, when you switch to full-screen mode for a certain app and macOS automatically places that app on a separate desktop.
At times, it occurs when you open multiple windows of the same app in full-screen mode. In this case, only the latest window is accessible via the command switcher. Likewise, when you exit Split View by going full screen in either of the Split View apps, one of the apps might fail to appear when you hit Cmd + Tab.
In all cases, the easiest way to discover and recover lost windows is via these two macOS features:
- Mission Control: Displays an overview of all your active apps and desktops.
- App Exposé: Reveals all the windows of the active app.
Both views allow you to click on the “hidden” app or window to restore it.
You can trigger Mission Control with a four-finger upward swipe on the trackpad. Hitting the F3 key also works if you haven’t tweaked the default shortcut. To trigger App Exposé, you need a four-finger downward swipe gesture.
For both these features, you can switch to three-finger gestures via System Preferences > Trackpad > More Gestures.
5. Sidebars and Toolbars
In native Mac apps as well as third-party apps, you can restore items such as toolbars and sidebars from the View menu. If the app allows you to toggle the item in question, you’ll most likely find a corresponding View menu option for it.
This also applies to special views that are unique to each app. For example, you can use the View menu to toggle Tab Overview in Safari, Preview in Finder, and Notes Panel in Books.
6. Mouse Cursor
If you aren’t able to locate the mouse cursor or mouse pointer on your Mac’s screen, give the trackpad or mouse a quick shake. This makes the cursor temporarily bigger to help you spot it.
Is this trick not working for you? You might have turned off the corresponding macOS setting in the past—it’s enabled by default. To re-enable it, first visit System Preferences > Accessibility > Display. There, select the Shake mouse pointer to locate checkbox.
7. Specific Types of Spotlight Search Results
Can’t see web-based suggestions in Spotlight? Have specific types of data, such as presentations, disappeared from Spotlight results?
You might have disabled their display at some point. Let’s say you followed some online guide to improve Spotlight privacy. Then you most likely disabled Spotlight suggestions in keeping with the instructions. Or you might have decided you don’t need folders to show up in Spotlight.
Whatever the case, if you want to re-configure what’s visible in Spotlight search results, visit System Preferences > Spotlight > Search Results.
There, go through the list of data types available and select or deselect the relevant checkboxes to toggle their visibility as needed. Next, switch to the Privacy tab and add any folders or disks that you don’t want Spotlight to index.
If your apps are still missing from the search results, you might have to rebuild the Spotlight index.
Playing Hide and Seek With macOS
No matter how good an operating system is, it’s behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Both technical glitches and user errors play a part in system malfunctions. Disappearing onscreen elements are a common occurrence. And now you know where to look to restore such lost items on your Mac.
Of course, there’s a lot more that can go missing and stay missing, such as photos, files, and folders. But you can retrieve lost data if you have the right data recovery software for your Mac.
After learning how to bring back items that often disappear from your screen, how about trying the opposite? Check out how to hide unwanted items on your Mac for improved productivity.