Changing your Mac’s desktop background

Apple’s latest operating system comes with some amazing photos of Yosemite National Park, but who wants their machine to look exactly like everyone else’s? Today we’re talking about how to change the background on your desktop to a photo of your choice. Onward!

The secrets lie in System Preferences

The controls for your desktop (and screen saver!) are in System Preferences, which you can open by typing it into Spotlight, opening it from your Applications folder, or selecting it as a menu item under the Apple menu on the top left.

There is one other way to get directly to this control panel, however – you can right click (or hold the Control key and click) on your desktop, then select “Change Desktop Background…”

Picture perfect desktop settings

Now that you’re here under the Desktop & Screen Saver preferences, you’ll see two panes at the top of the window. By default you should be in Desktop, the left one.

Here you’ll see a thumbnail of your current desktop photo, which is probably one of the provided Apple system pictures. These are automatically sized for your display, so feel free to experiment with how they look and find one that might work for you.

In this mode many people enjoy using the features at the bottom of the window. The two checkboxes, “Change picture: every x minutes” and “Random order” allow your computer to cycle through the available pictures in the folder you’ve selected in the left sidebar (“Desktop Pictures” by default.)

If you’d rather use your own desktop photo, press the square plus (+) button on the bottom left of the window. This will let you navigate to a folder where the picture you want to use is stored. I have a separate folder in my Pictures folder specially for desktop photos, and once you use this plus sign, whatever folder you select will be added to the sidebar so you can easily access it in case you want to change things.

You can also drag a picture on your computer right into the little preview window without having to select and add a whole folder to the sidebar. In any case, when you pick one of these custom photos, you’ll notice that a new set of options pops up. There are five choices for positioning pictures that aren’t the exact same size as your screen: Fill Screen, Fit to Screen, Stretch to Fill Screen, Center, and Tile. These don’t always perform consistently, so you might have to experiment with them a little to find a good fit.

Hopefully that helps you get going with customizing your own desktop. As always, if you have any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions for future newsletters, please hit reply and let us know. Thank you for reading Mac Tips!