How to Add a Screen Saver to Your Mac

You're not limited to screen savers provided by Apple

Are you tired of the same old screen savers for your Mac? Apple provides a number of screen savers with OS X and macOS, so there are plenty of images to choose from, but you can never have too many. Screen savers are available from third-party developers for almost every holiday or occasion and for many areas of interest, including pets, fantasy, and cartoon characters.

Adding a third-party screen saver to your Mac is a simple process. Add it manually or, if the screen saver has a built-in installer, let it perform the installation for you.

Installing Screen Savers Manually

Don’t let the word manual scare you. There are no complicated installation procedures, just a few basic choices to make. If you can drag and drop a file, you can manually install a screen saver.

Screen Saver Preference Pane on Mac.
Coyote Moon, Inc.

Screen savers are stored in one of two locations on a Mac.

  • /Library/Screen Savers/: Screen savers stored here can be used by any user account on your Mac. A pathname beginning with just a / indicates the file is stored on your startup drive starting at the root entry point, a fancy way to say open your startup drive, look for the Library folder, and then the Screen Savers folder.
  • ~/Library/Screen Savers/: Screen savers stored here can only be used by the current user account. The tilde (~) character at the front of the pathname represents your personal home directory. For example, if your home directory is named tom, the pathname would be /Users/tom/Library/Screen Savers/. The tilde is just a shortcut to your currently logged-in user home directory.

Since OS X Lion, the Library folder has been hidden from easy access in the Finder. However, you can regain access to your hidden Library folder if you know how.

Installing Screen Savers the Easy Way

Most Mac screen savers are smart little buggers; they know how to install themselves. Once you finish downloading a screen saver, you can install it automatically with just a couple of clicks or taps.

  1. Close System Preferences, if you happen to have it open.

  2. Double-click the screen saver you want to install. The installer starts.

  3. Most installers ask if you want to install the screen saver for all users or just yourself. Make your selection to complete the installation.

That's all there is to it. The installation is complete, no matter which way you choose to perform the installation. You can now select and configure the options your new screen saver offers.

Delete a Screen Saver

Should you ever wish to remove a screen saver, you can do so by going back to the appropriate Screen Savers folder, as outlined in the above instructions for manually installing a screen saver, and then dragging the screen saver to the trash.

Sometimes identifying which screen saver is which by its file name can be difficult. So, just as there's an automatic way to install a screen saver, in some versions of the operating system, there's also a simple way to delete a screen saver.

Screen Saver Removal

  1. Launch System Preferences.

  2. Click the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane.

  3. Select the Screen Saver tab. In the left pane is a list of installed screen savers. Click once on a screen saver thumbnail to display a preview in the right pane.

  4. If this is the screen saver you want to remove, right-click on the screen saver's name in the left-hand pane and select Delete from the pop-up menu.

With these instructions, you can build up your screen saver library and remove any screen savers you don’t want anymore.