Plist File, What is It? What Does It Do?
Ordinary Apple users never see plist files. However, while browsing your Mac files and folders, you may come across a file name extension, .plist. Some of our articles also mention plist file types. Sometimes deleting a plist file is suggested as a troubleshooting step in our articles. You may wonder what a plist file is or what it does. This article provides an overview of this file type from an ordinary user’s perspective.
What is a plist file?
Plist files are application preference files used in macOS, iOS or iPadOS operating frameworks. In other words, generally, these files store the user’s essential preferences and configuration settings for various applications. The plist file is also known as a Properties File or Property List. The plist files are formatted using XML.
As stated in the introduction of the article, I mention that you may see plist files when browsing your Mac’s user folders. However, plist files can also be found on other Apple devices. For instance, every iOS iPhone app includes a plist file called an information property list file or info.plist. This info.plist contains configuration data for the app. It is created by the developer of the app, and the user never sees it.
Should you delete a plist file?
Unless you are sure of what you are doing, the answer is no. You should not delete a plist file on your Mac. Especially avoid deleting preference files found in the root Library or System folders. If you want to delete a plist file for troubleshooting purposes, stick to the user’s Library folder. Furthermore, not all plist files are preference files. As the name indicates, some of them are property lists.
On your Mac, if you go to Users > [user name] > Library > Preferences, you will see many plist files for various applications. However, on your Mac, sometimes these preference files may have become corrupt and thus caused issues. For example, a corrupt plist file may result in a non-working app. In these cases, you may want to delete specific plist files, as we sometimes suggest in some of our articles. However, we always recommend that you put the plist file somewhere else as a backup, like moving it to your desktop, instead of fully deleting it. This will allow you to restore the deleted plist file if needed. Deleting a plist file will erase user settings. macOS will automatically create default preferences for the application. For example, if you go to Users > [user name] > Library > Preferences (go to Go > Go to Folder and enter “~/Library/Preferences/” in Finder) and delete the com.apple.dock.plist file, all of your dock customization will be gone. The Dock will return to its original factory state.
As stated above, as an ordinary user, you should not try to edit or delete these files. They take up little space. They are a normal part of the inner workings of the computer. If you see them, they do not indicate your Mac has a virus or your Mac is hacked, or something like that. It is best to leave them alone and let them do what they do.