How to Change the Mac OS X Mail Dock Icon

Customizing the look

What to Know

  • In OS X 10.6 to 10.10: Ctrl-click or right-click Mail Dock icon > Options > Show in Finder. Select File > Get Info.
  • Select Sharing & Permissions > lock > password. Choose icon > Action > Get Info. Copy and paste icon into Mail Info > Lock.
  • In newer versions: Before doing above, restart Mac holding Command+R > Utilities & Terminal > type csrutil disable > Return.

This article explains how to change the default Mail icon for Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and later. The hawk-in-flight against the blue background of a postage stamp just doesn't fit in with everyone's desktop aesthetics.

Apple Touch Bar
Anil Bolukbas / Getty Images 

How to Change the Mail Dock Icon in OS X 10.6 to 10.10

You could change the icons for built-in apps way more easily in versions of Mac OS X preceding El Capitan (10.11). Here's how to do it if you haven't upgraded yet.

  1. Close Mail if it's open.

  2. Ctrl-click (or right-click) on the Mail Dock icon, highlight Options, and then select Show in Finder.

    Apple Mail dock menu with Show in Finder highlighted
  3. Your Applications folder will open with Mail selected. Select Get Info from the ​File menu.

    The keyboard shortcut for Get Info is Command-I.

    Get Info option under the File menu on a Mac
  4. Expand the Sharing & Permissions menu.

    Mail Info window on a Mac with the Sharing & Permissions pane highlighted
  5. Click the lock icon.

    Mail Info window on a Mac with the lock icon highlighted
  6. Enter your administrator password to authorize changes and click OK.

    Administrator permission prompt on a Mac with the OK button highlighted
  7. Make sure ​Read & Write is selected for everyone.

  8. Find the desired icon in Finder.

  9. Again, select ​Get Info from the Action drop-down menu.

  10. Click on the small icon in the info dialog of the icon file to highlight it.

  11. Select ​​Edit > Copy from the menu.

  12. Now click on the small icon in the ​Mail Info dialog.

  13. Select ​​Edit > Paste from the menu.

  14. Click the lock icon.

  15. Alternatively, once you've adjusted the permissions, you can open the Info windows for both the icon you want to use and Mail. Drag the new image over to the Mail icon and drop it

How to Change the Mail Icon in Mac OS X El Capitan and Later

Newer versions of Mac OS X and macOS have a protocol in place to prevent you changing the icons on the included apps. It's a security feature, but it will stop you from quickly changing the Mail icon.

Follow these steps to make it possible to change system icons.

  1. Shut down your Mac.

  2. Restart the computer while holding Command+R to enter Recovery Mode.

  3. Click Utilities & Terminal.

  4. Type csrutil disable and press Return.

  5. Reboot your Mac and follow the instructions above to change the Mail icon.

  6. Follow these instructions again, but type csrutil enable in Utilities & Terminal to turn the protections back on.

How to Restore the Default Mac OS X Mail Dock Icon (OS X 10.6 to 10.10)

To bring back the default hawk icon to Mail:

  1. Open the​ Mail Info dialog.

  2. Make sure ​Read & Write is selected for everyone following the steps above.

  3. Highlight the small icon image in the dialog and select ​Edit > Cut from the menu.

  4. Change the permissions back to Read-only for everyone.

  5. Close the ​Mail Info dialog.

  6. In Mac OS X 10.11 and later, you'll need to disable csrutil following the steps above before following this procedure.

If Your Icon File Has No Preview

To convert a PNG, TIFF, GIF or JPEG image to the proper .icns format, you can use the iConvert Icons online conversion tool.

If you do have a .icns file but it still lacks the preview necessary to copy the icon to Mail, you can create it with Image2icon.

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