How To Update Application Icons In Snow Leopard [Mac]

Angela Randall 14-06-2011

<firstimage=”//×300.png”>application icons snow leopardWhen you upgraded to Snow Leopard most things probably got a whole lot better: more hard disc space, quicker performance and some other cool features. But occasionally you might stumble across something that doesn’t suit you and you want to change it back. It’s about this point that you might also realise that things don’t work quite how they used to.


One of these little annoyances is changing the application icons. Once upon a time, you used to be able to copy and paste your preferred icons straight into “Get Info” in order to change them to a new icon. But in Snow Leopard things are a little different. But don’t worry, we’ll get this fixed in no time.

Creating Or Finding New Icons

There are plenty of great tools to create .icns files, such as Img2Icns. These tools are described in more detail in this post How To Create & Change Mac Icons Quickly & Easily Read More . You can also find free icons using sites like InterFaceLift.

application icons snow leopard

Method 1: How To Change Application Icons (With Backup)

What we’re going to need to do is quit Finder and relaunch as the root user. This will give us the permissions to change the icon in the “Get Info” detail of the application.

Personally, I’m not too keen on plain icons, so that’s what I’ll change to demonstrate.


Add a Quit Finder Option To Finder

The best way to quit the Finder is to use Terminal to add a “Quit Finder” option to Finder. To open Terminal go to Applications > Utilities. Then type in the following command:

defaults write QuitMenuItem 1

This will add a “Quit Finder” option to your Finder menu after you relaunch Finder.

Relaunch Finder

To relaunch Finder, you can use the Force Quit dialogue. Access this dialogue by going to the Apple menu and choosing “Force Quit” or by pressing Command-Option-Escape.

You could also relaunch Finder by using Terminal and typing the following command:

killall Finder

Quit Finder

Now in Finder you should be able to go to Finder > Quit Finder in order to exit Finder.

snow leopard icons

Run Finder As Root User

While you’re still in Terminal you can launch Finder as the root user. To do this, you’ll need to use the sudo command. Type in the following:

sudo /System/Library/CoreServices/

You’ll then need to give your administrator password. When Finder opens it will be running as the root user, meaning you’ll have access to the properties of many more files than a regular user. Make the icon changes as quickly as possible and then relaunch Finder.


Changing Icon Files Manually

This way to changing the icons involves getting into the package and replacing the .icns file with another .icns file. This method allows you the option of backing up the original icon by renaming it.

  • Go to the application for which you wish to change the icon, then right click and choose “Show Package Contents“.
  • Then go to Contents > Resources and rename the .icns file for backup. Remember what the original name was! Copy the .icns file you wish to use into this folder and rename it to the same name of the original icon in this folder.

snow leopard icons

These changes should show up instantly in Applications, but you will need to restart your Mac before it will show up in the Dock.

Method 2: How To Change Application Icons (Without Backup)

This is using the copy-and paste method of changing icons, which doesn’t give you a chance to backup the original icon. You can use the previous method for obtaining file permissions or the following method.


Change Application Permissions Individually

This method of changing application permissions is simple when it works, but often the permissions can be a bit of a headache. Each application file needs the permissions to be changed individually and changed back individually afterwards.

  • Right-click on the application you wish to change and choose “Get Info“.
  • Click into the Permissions area and click on the padlock in order to make changes. You will be asked for your administrator password.
  • Change user type “Everyone” to “Read & Write” access.

snow leopard icons

  • Access the “Get Info” information of both the application image file you wish to use and the application you wish to change.
  • Click on the icon in the top left corner of the image you want so that it is highlighted.
  • Copy this file using CMD-C, then click on the icon in the top left of the destination application so that it is highlighted. Paste using CMD-V.

application icons snow leopard

This process can also be achieved by opening a file in Preview, then selecting the entire picture and copying, then pasting into the icon detail of “Get Info“.

Again, the dock won’t reflect changes until the computer is restarted.

Did one of the two above methods work for you?  Which one was easiest?  If you are having any problems updating your application icons, let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help.

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