How-To

How to fix a disappearing Dock on Mac

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Your Mac’s Dock provides quick and easily access to all of your favourite apps, but from time to time the Dock has been known to vanish!

If you’re struggling with a disappearing Dock, then in this article I’ll share all the ways that you can coax the Dock out of hiding. We’ll be starting with the easiest fixes first, before moving onto some of the more obscure and complex techniques. By working your way through the following list in order, you should be able to return the Dock to its rightful place, with the minimum amount of time and effort.


Are you in fullscreen mode?

Whenever you enter macOS’ fullscreen mode, the Dock is hidden automatically to give your apps and windows more onscreen space.

If you’re currently in fullscreen mode, then you can temporarily uncover the Dock by moving your cursor to the area of the screen where the Dock would usually be; the Dock should appear for a few seconds, and then vanish.

There’s no way to make the Dock a permanent fixture in fullscreen mode, so if you want the Dock to quit its vanishing act, then you’ll need to exit fullscreen mode. You can either:

  • Press the “Esc” key on your keyboard.
  • Move the cursor to the upper-left corner of your current window, and then click the green button (where the cursor is positioned in the following screenshot).

Is the Dock set to hide automatically?

By default, the Dock is set to remain onscreen permanently, but there’s a setting that automatically hides the Dock whenever you aren’t hovering over it.

If you share your Mac with other people, then there’s a chance they might have dipped into your “System Preferences,” and modified your Dock’s settings. Even if you have sole custody of your Mac, there’s a chance you might have inadvertently enabled this setting, by  triggering the “Option + Command + D” shortcut. Alternatively, if you recently installed some new software, then it might have modified your Dock’s settings without your explicit permission.

To check whether your Dock is set to hide automatically, move your cursor to the area where the Dock normally resides. If the Dock reappears, then you’ll know it’s set to hide automatically.

To restore your Dock to its original settings:

  • Click the “Apple” logo in your Mac’s menu bar.
  • Navigate to “System Preferences… > Dock.”
  • Find the “Automatically hide and show the Dock” setting, and select it. Your Dock should once again become a permanent onscreen fixture.

Are you running the latest version of macOS?

Apple have a reputation for thoroughly testing their software, but no software is completely immune to bugs! If you’re not running the latest version of macOS, then there’s a chance you’re encountering a problem that’s already been fixed in a subsequent update.

If you’re running Mojave, then:

  • Select the “Apple” icon from your Mac’s menu bar.
  • Select “System Preferences…”
  • Click “Software Update.”
  • If an update is available, then click the “Update Now” button to install.

If you’re running an earlier version of macOS, then the update process is slightly different:

  • Launch the App Store application.
  • Select the “Updates” tab.
  • Install any available updates.

Restart the Dock

Whenever you encounter a problem with your Mac, it’s always worth closing the offending app or piece of software, and then relaunching it, to see whether this resolves your problem.

Although you can’t close the Dock in the traditional sense, you can restart it using a Terminal command:

  • Open a new Finder window.
  • Navigate to “Applications > Utilities” and launch the Terminal application.
  • Copy/paste the following command into the Terminal:

killall Dock

  • Press the “Enter” key on your keyboard.

The Dock will now be stopped and restarted automatically, which may be enough to resolve your problem.

Restart your Mac

Although it’s frustrating, when macOS gets into a tangle sometimes the only solution is to restart your MacBook! Once your Mac restarts, the Dock should be back to normal.

Resetting the Preference list

A corrupted preference file can cause all kinds of strange behaviour with the Dock, including making the entire Dock vanish. You can restore your Dock to its original state by deleting its preference file; as soon as your Mac restarts, it’ll create a fresh copy of this file automatically.

Although deleting the preference file will resolve any issues caused by corrupted Dock preferences, you’ll lose all of your customisations, including any apps and shortcuts that you added to the Dock.

To go ahead and delete the preferences file:

  • Open a ‘Finder’ window.
  • Select ‘Go’ from the toolbar, followed by ‘Go to Folder.’
  • In the window that appears, enter ~/Library.
  • Open the “Preferences” folder.
  • Find a file named “com.apple.dock.plist” and drag it to the Trash.
  • Restart your Mac.

About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Sheffield. She writes about Android, Java, Kotlin and all things Apple. She is the co-author of O'Reilly's "iWork: The Missing Manual," and the author of "Android UI Design," from Packt Publishing.

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