Personalize Your Mac by Changing Desktop Icons

Change the icons on your Mac to express your personality

mac desktop

Your Mac's desktop is a lot like your home; it needs to be personalized to make it seem like 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 the ones you want to use.

These instructions apply to devices running macOS 10 or later.

How to Change Icons on a Mac

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 IconFinder and Deviantart.

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

After you locate icons online that you want to use to personalize your Mac, here's how to change up your Mac.

  1. Find an icon set you want to use online and download it to your Mac.

  2. Locate the new file you want to use.

  3. Copy the picture. How you do so depends on the format of the image you're using.

  4. If the file you downloaded is a folder with the icon already applied to it, right-click it and select Get Info from the pop-up menu. In the next window, click the icon next to the name of the file and press Command-C.

  5. If the file is a standalone image file (e.g., a PNG), open it in a program like Preview, press Command-A to select the whole thing, and then press Command-C to copy.

    An icon image open in Preview on a Mac
  6. Right-click or Control-click the drive or folder you are personalizing and click Get Info.

    Option menu on a Mac with Get Info highlighted
  7. Click the thumbnail icon once to select it.

    Get Info window on a Mac with the thumbnail highlighted
  8. 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.

    A Mac desktop with a customized icon highlighted
  9. Repeat the process for any other folders or drives you are personalizing.

Changing a Mac’s Icon With an ICNS Icon

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 ones for 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 image from the ICNS file to a folder or drive is slightly different from the usual process and not as well-known.

  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 .icns icon files.

  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.