Personalize Your Mac by Changing Desktop Icons

Your Mac's desktop is a lot like your home; it needs to be personalized to make it seem like it's your place. Changing desktop icons is one of the easiest ways to add a personal touch to your Mac's desktop, and it takes only a few mouse clicks after you find just the right icons.

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Personalize Your Mac by Changing Desktop Icons

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If you're going to personalize your Mac desktop, you need new icons. Many icon collections are available on the web. The easiest way to find Mac icons is to search on the phrase "Mac icons" in your favorite search engine. The search returns numerous sites that offer free and low-cost icon collections for the Mac, including Iconfactory, IconFinder, and Deviantart.

Most of the sites, such as Iconfactory, supply their icons in the form of empty folders that have the icon already applied to them. You can easily copy the icons to other folders and drives.

A few sites, such as Deviantart, supply icons in Mac’s native ICNS file format, which requires a slightly different process.

Download the Icon Sets

After you locate icons online that you want to use to personalize your Mac, download them to your computer. Each icon set downloads as a disk image (.dmg) file, which is automatically converted to a folder when the download is complete. You'll find the expanded file in your Downloads folder or your default folder for downloads if you save them somewhere else.

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Changing Your Mac's Folder Icons

Get Info windows used to change icons.

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To change your Mac's folder or drive icons, you copy the new icon you want to use and paste it onto the old one in the Get Info screen.

Copying the New Icon

Inside the icon set file you downloaded, you'll find several folders, each representing a different icon. If you examine the folders, you'll find they're empty folders with no content. What each folder does have, however, is an assigned icon.

To copy the new icon from a downloaded folder:

  1. Locate the downloaded and expanded icon set file and open the icons folder.
  2. Right-click or Control-click the icon you are going to use and select Get Info from the pop-up menu. In the Get Info window that opens, you'll see a thumbnail view of the folder's icon in the top left corner of the window.
  3. Click the thumbnail icon once to select it.
  4. Press Command + c or select Copy in the Edit menu to copy the icon to the Mac clipboard.
  5. Close the Get Info window.

Changing a Mac's Icon

  1. Right-click or Control-click the drive or folder you are personalizing.
  2. From the pop-up menu, select Get Info. In the Get Info window that opens, you'll see a thumbnail view of the drive's current icon in the top left corner of the window.
  3. Click the thumbnail icon once to select it.
  4. Press Command + v or select Paste in the Edit menu to paste the icon you copied to the clipboard onto the selected drive or folder icon as its new icon.
  5. Close the Get Info window.

The drive or folder now displays its new icon.

That's all there is to changing desktop and drive icons and folders — unless you download icons in the ICNS format.

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ICNS Icon Formats

The Apple Icon Image format supports a wide variety of icon types ranging from tiny 16-by-16-pixel icons to the 1024-by-1024 icons used with Retina-equipped Macs. ICNS files are a handy way to store and distribute Mac icons, but their one downside is that the method of copying an icon from the ICNS file to a folder or drive is slightly different from the usual method and not as well-known.

Changing a Mac’s Icon With an ICNS Icon

  1. Right-click or Control-click the folder with the icon you want to change and select Get Info from the pop-up menu. In the Get Info window that opens, you'll see a thumbnail view of the folder's current icon in the top left corner of the window. Keep this Get Info window open.
  2. In the downloads folder, select an icon you want to use. The downloaded file may contain several folders, but you want the one labeled "Mac." Inside the folder are different icons, each an .icns file.
  3. Drag the selected icon to the open Get Info window and drop it on the icon thumbnail in the top left corner. The new icon takes the place of the old one.