Top 7 Ways to Personalize Your Mac Desktop

Akshata Shanbhag Updated 14-12-2019

Thanks to System Integrity Protection (SIP)—an Apple security feature—personalizing your Mac with deep system tweaks is not possible. But there are still other ways to spruce up your macOS desktop.


On that note, let’s see how to customize your Mac in seven easy steps.

1. Start With a Brand New Wallpaper


Simply swapping the default wallpaper for a background you like can make your desktop feel new again. To make this tiny change, visit General > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop.

There, pick a fresh image from the default Mac desktop themes, or go with a nice solid background color. You can also select one of the options under the Dynamic Desktop section for a wallpaper that changes to match the time of the day.

Better yet, access your Photos library from the sidebar to set your wallpaper to a photograph you love and don’t mind seeing every day.


Want to spice it up further? Set the wallpaper to change every hour, or add useful information to your desktop with an interactive wallpaper. To make these advanced tweaks and find wallpapers, go through the tips and apps in our ultimate Mac wallpaper resource The Ultimate Mac Wallpaper Resource: Apps, Tricks & Tips Finding the right wallpaper can make staring at your Mac desktop when you should be working an incredibly worthwhile experience. Read More .

2. Set Up a Custom Color Scheme


Starting with macOS Mojave, you can mix and match various color presets for system accents and highlights to come up with a fresh color scheme. To do this, visit System Preferences > General. and pick new colors under Accent color and Highlight color. You’ll then see the updated color scheme reflected across buttons, boxes, menus, selections, and other system elements.

In the same preference pane as above, switching to Dark Mode is another tweak you might want to consider. It’s one of the exciting new features of macOS Mojave The 10 Best New Features of macOS Mojave What's new in macOS Mojave? Our Mojave review covers everything you need to know about in the latest version of macOS. Read More and gives a sleek dark appearance to elements like the Dock, menu bar, app windows, and sidebars.


Since you can’t add system-wide themes to your Mac, your best bet is to activate app-specific themes. For example, if you use Alfred to control your Mac and have activated the Powerpack, you can use a custom theme to change how Alfred looks.

3. Add Icons and Backgrounds With Personality


You can not only scale icons up or down in Finder (via View > Show View Options > Icon size), but also change how they look using custom icons. When you’re browsing online repositories for icons, look for icons with the ICNS extension, which indicates that they’re in the Apple Icon Image format.

To change the icon for a folder (or a file), first copy the icon file. Now select the folder whose icon you’d like to replace and click on File > Get Info.


In the folder inspector that pops up, select the icon at the top and click on Edit > Paste. Now your custom icon is in place. If you’re not happy with it, select it in the inspector and hit the Delete key to switch back to the default icon.

PNG and JPG images can also work as the source for icons, but if you plan to use them, you have to open the image and copy-paste it to the folder inspector. Simply copying the image file doesn’t work.

You can even use an existing icon as the image source by copying it from the relevant inspector. For example, here’s a snapshot of my Home folder icon after I replaced it with the icon from the macOS Mojave installer.



Want to swap out the default app icons in the Applications folder for custom ones? You can, except for the apps that come bundled with your Mac. But you can use the icons of system apps as sources for third-party apps.

For example, you can replace the icon for your music player app with the system icon for iTunes. I have done that for VOX Music Player, as you’ll see in the screenshot below.


Did you know that you can add a new background to Finder from View > Show View Options > Background? This is possible only in the Icon view or “grid view” in Finder. (Not sure which view we’re referring to? We’ll help you get familiar with Finder view options.)

4. Revamp the Login Screen


To personalize the login screen on your Mac, start by switching to a new user picture for your account. You can do that from System Preferences > Users & Groups > Password. In this settings pane, click on the existing user picture next to your user name to swap it out for one from Apple’s default set or your Photos library. Hit Save to get the selected picture in place.

Next, you might want to come up with an entertaining lock screen message. You can add it under System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General. There, first select the checkbox for Show a message when the screen is locked.

(If the option appears grayed out, you’ll need to click on the lock icon at the bottom of the pane and enter your system password when prompted. This gives you access to the lock screen message setting.)

Next, click on the Set Lock Message button, type in what you want the lock screen to say, and hit OK. When you restart your Mac, you’ll see the message at the bottom of the screen, right above the power options.

5. Get a Better-Looking Dock


To personalize your Mac’s Dock, you should at the very least declutter it. Remove the icons of apps you don’t use often by dragging the icons out of the Dock and releasing them when you see the Remove prompt. Then, drag your favorite apps to the Dock from the Applications folder.

You can also reposition the Dock, resize its icons, and set them to magnify to various degrees on hover. To access the settings for these tweaks, head to System Preferences > Dock. Of course, instead of fiddling with the Dock, you could replace it with a third-party app like uBar or DockShelf.

6. Give Individual Apps a Makeover


Play around with the built-in settings for installed apps to add more personal touches to your Mac. For example, if you have the Slack desktop app installed, you can brighten up the Slack sidebar with a new theme.

In the Mac Mail app, change how your emails look by tweaking fonts and colors from Preferences > Fonts & Colors. Plus, you can highlight individual messages by selecting them and picking a new color via Format > Show Colors.

Get a new skin for the Terminal via Preferences > Profiles when you have it open. Select one of the themes available in the sidebar and click on Default at the bottom of the sidebar to set your choice as the default theme. You’ll need to restart Terminal for the new color profile to show up.

If you’re a dark mode enthusiast, how about enabling Dark Mode in your favorite Mac apps 15 Mac Apps That Enable Mojave's Dark Theme Everywhere macOS Mojave's new dark theme looks great and is easy on your eyes. Here's how to make every app and website on your Mac dark. Read More ? Ulysses, Bear, Things, Tweetbot, Spark, and quite a few other apps support Dark Mode.

7. Add Custom Sounds to Mac


You don’t have to limit your personalization efforts to visual changes. How about adding a few audio tweaks too? For starters, pick a different system voice as the default from System Preferences > Accessibility > Speech > System Voice. Next, choose a new alert sound from System Preferences > Sound > Sound Effects.

You can even set your Mac to announce the time at set intervals from System Preferences > Date & Time > Clock.

Have You Customized Your Mac Desktop Yet?

As you can see above, with a little thought, time, and effort, you can make your Mac desktop truly yours. Once you do that, it’ll be even more of a pleasure to look at and work with. After you’ve made all those visual tweaks, why not add a few functional ones to streamline your Mac experience and make everyday tasks easier? For a start, you can remap your Mac’s function keys to trigger useful apps and functions.

And if you want to do more cool stuff, check out these Mac dashboard widgets that you might actually use 9 Mac Dashboard Widgets You'll Actually Use Don't neglect your Dashboard any longer. Try these nifty Mac Dashboard widgets to add useful functionality! Read More :

Related topics: Application Dock, Mac Customization, Mac Tips, Mac Tricks, Wallpaper.

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  1. Ray
    May 9, 2019 at 6:00 am

    Pop!_OS theme >>> MacOS themes

    Nobody can change my mind.

  2. Alan
    April 20, 2019 at 11:18 am

    The upshot of this - any many other articles on the web - is that MacOS remains the most boring, unimaginative UI anywhere. When there are a number of windows open and overlapping, all the top bars look identical so when you click one, it's often one of the ones below that suddenly comes to the front because you couldn't see where one ended and the next began. I wish Apple would stop treating its customers like nitwits who only deserve a one-size-fits-all grey (or black - wow! - even more boring). Going by other posts, I'm not the only one.

  3. Denis Howe
    March 4, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    Is there any way to make the borders of windows a little more obvious? E.g. change the colour, make them thicker.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      March 12, 2019 at 1:40 pm

      Not any easy way that I know of, Denis.

    • mark
      October 30, 2019 at 10:53 am

      go to settings > accessibility > display/screen > check 'high contrast'

  4. Andrew
    January 4, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    How do you stretch the dock from one end of the desktop to the other like windows taksbar? The annoying spaces between both ends of the dock to the end of the screen is annoying.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      January 9, 2019 at 11:22 am

      Andrew, if you want to stick with Dock, it looks like your only option is to fill the it with apps to stretch it all the way to the edge of the screen.

      Otherwise, you could try uBar to get something similar to the Windows taskbar. uBar is 50% off right now.

  5. HotManBurning4Love
    February 28, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Wanting ability to have MULTIPLE Desktops and files IN THEM just as you would have multiple terminals in parallel, but have those ON the Laptop starting wherever the MAIN System was moved or placed.

    • Justin Pot
      February 28, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      I have to be honest, I'm not sure what it is you want, but from what I do grasp I think that there isn't a way to do it. Sorry about that.

  6. Jonnymoe
    May 11, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Don't forget bowtie for showing now playing information on your desktop from itunes etc.

  7. Mike
    February 21, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Still looking for a tool that would allow me to change all windows to varying degrees of transparency...

    • Justin P
      February 22, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      I just uninstalled something that did that...looking it up now. Here it is:

      Work with most, but not all, apps.

  8. Sarah Reichelt
    February 13, 2014 at 3:07 am

    Pic-a-POD is an app that downloads pictures of the day from a variety of sources and uses then to change your desktop periodically.

  9. Nathanael
    February 11, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    I have Satellite Eyes now- I must say, it is really cool. Flavours, I tried that, but at the time it was not for Mavericks so by the time it was, my trial had ended.