How to Add a Screensaver to Your Mac

You're not limited to screensavers provided by Apple

Screen Saver Preference Pane
Adding screen savers can be as simple as clicking an installer app. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

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

Adding a third-party screen saver to your Mac is a simple process.

You can add it manually, or if the screensaver has a built-in installer, as many do, you can 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.

Screensavers are stored in one of two locations on a Mac.

  • /Library/Screen Savers/. Screensavers 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/. Screensavers stored here can only be used by the current user account. The tilde (~) character at the front of the path name 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 users home directory.

    Since OS X Lion, the Library folder has been hidden from easy access in the Finder. You can regain access by following the tips in OS X Is Hiding Your Library Folder.

    You can copy screensavers you download from the Internet to one of the above two locations. Mac screen savers have names that end with .saver.

    Tip: Never move a folder or file that doesn't end with .saver to a Screen Savers folder.

    Installing Screensavers the Easy Way

    Most Mac screensavers 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 wish to install. The installer will start.
    3. Most installers will ask if you wish to install the screensaver 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 screensaver offers, if any. Our Using the Desktop & Screen Saver Preferences Pane guide provides detailed instructions on how to set up a screen saver.

    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 simply 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, there's also a simple way to delete a screen saver.

    Simple Screen Saver Removal Process

    1. Launch System Preferences.
    2. Open the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane.
    3. Click the Screen Saver tab. In the left-hand pane is a list of installed screen savers. If you click once on a screen saver, a preview will display in the right-hand pane.
    4. If this is the screensaver you wish 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, as well as remove any screensavers you don’t like anymore.

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