Gray Folders on Mac

Gray folders can be extremely frustrating when you’re trying to transfer files on your Macbook. Usually you can quickly move files from one to another, but if the folder is grayed out then you won’t be able to do so.

There’s a few different reasons why you may find that some of the folders on your Macbook are grayed out – we’re going to run through the most common ones, and then what you should do to fix it.

Why Are Some Folders on My MacBook Grayed Out?

The most common reason why your folders appear grayed out when you’re trying to access them is that there’s been an issue when you were transferring data, likely whilst you were transferring to or from this folder.

There may have been an error that caused this to happen, either via your software or a disconnection from an external device.

Either way, it’s usually a pretty simple issue to solve – bear in mind though that these aren’t the only reasons why your folders may not be able to be selected, so run through the following to get things fixed.

How to Fix A Grayed Out Folder on My MacBook – How Can I Fix This?

As mentioned, this issue often indicates a permission problem or a disconnection from the file’s source. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to resolve this issue effectively.

Checking Your Connection

If the grayed out folder is on an external drive or a network location:

  1. Ensure the drive is properly connected to your MacBook.
  2. Check the network connection if it’s a networked folder.
  3. Try reconnecting the drive or refreshing the network connection.

Repairing Disk Permissions

For local folders, repairing disk permissions can often resolve the issue:

  1. Open Disk Utility, found in the Utilities folder within your Applications folder.
  2. Select your startup disk from the list on the left.
  3. Click on “First Aid” and then “Run” to start the disk repair process.

Using Terminal to Resolve Permissions Issues

If Disk Utility doesn’t fix the problem, you can use Terminal to reset permissions:

  1. Open Terminal from the Utilities folder.
  2. Type sudo chown $(whoami) followed by the path to the grayed out folder.
  3. Press Enter and input your password when prompted.

Checking Time Machine Backups

If the folder is part of a Time Machine backup:

  1. Ensure your Time Machine backup disk is connected.
  2. Enter Time Machine and navigate to the date of the backup containing the folder.
  3. Check if you can access the folder from this interface.

Remember, regularly backing up your data can prevent the loss of important information in such scenarios.

Using Time Machine or a cloud-based backup solution can safeguard your data against unexpected issues.

Update your macOS & restart

The final thing that’s always worth doing is updating the operating system that you’re running on your Macbook. If this becomes outdated, then things can start to go wrong on your device.

So, head to About This Mac and check whether there’s a software update you can install. Then, restart your device.


As we’ve covered, this occurs when macOS cannot access the folder, either due to permission issues or because the folder is part of an external drive that’s not properly connected. It can also happen if the file system is corrupt or if the folder is part of a Time Machine backup.

Going through the above troubleshooting steps should be enough for you to get it working again.


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