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16 May 2017

Customise Folder & App icons in OS X

Updated to include instructions for OS X El Capitan and macOS Sierra

Customising icons in OS X is pretty easy and is a great way to personalise your machine.


Changing an item’s icon

1. Select the folder or app whose icon you wish to change and press cmd + i to open the Info panel (alternatively right click the item then select Get Info).

Select the folder or app then press cmd + i to open the Info panel

2. Open the image you want to use as the icon in Preview then press cmd + c or click Edit > Copy to copy the image.

Open the image in Preview and copy it with cmd + c

3. Back in the Info panel click the small icon in the top left corner (not the preview at the bottom). It should have a blue outline once selected correctly, then press cmd + v to paste the new icon. If you are customising a system app you may be prompted to enter your password before the changes are applied.

Selected Info panel icon showing blue outline


Resetting an item’s icon

Removing an icon is just as easy, click the small icon at the top of the Info panel again and press delete to revert back to the original icon.

Remove the icon by pressing delete


Forcing Dock icons to update

Once you have made the change the icon should be immediately updated in the Finder and the Info panel but to force the icon to update in the Dock run killall Dock in the terminal to restart it.

Run killall Dock to force the dock icons to update

Customising the Finder icon

Changing the Finder icon is a bit more tricky, as it requires manually replacing the icons and clearing the icon cache.

1. Navigate to /System/Library/CoreServices/Dock.app/Contents/Resources/. The easiest way to do this is to press cmd + shift + G in Finder to open the ‘Go to Folder’ panel and then enter path.

Use the Go to Folder panel to navigate to /System/Library/CoreServices/Dock.app/Contents/Resources/

2. Locate the files ‘finder.png’ and ‘finder@2x.png’ and backup up these files, as they will be needed if you ever want to revert back to the original icons at a later date. I renamed the files to finder.bak.png finder@2x.bak.png respectively.

3. Then copy your new finder icons into this folder making sure they are named ‘finder.png’ and ‘finder@2x.png’.

Backup the originals and copy in the new icons

4. Now we need to find and delete the icon cache, this will force the cache to be recreated and updating the icon in the process. Navigate to /private/var/folders/ and then search for ‘com.apple.dock.iconcache’ selecting folders option to search within the folder rather than the whole Mac. Put this file into the trash then run killall Dock from the terminal to restart the dock.

Delete the com.apple.dock.iconcache file

Resetting the Finder icon

To revert to the default icon just repeat the previous steps but use the icons backed up previously.


OS X El Capitan and macOS Sierra

One of the new features of El Capitan is Security Integrity Protection that prevents system files being added, edited, or deleted.

This means that while SIP is enabled you won’t be able to change the icons for system programs such as Finder, Safari, and iTunes.

Luckily it’s straightforward to disable SIP temporally, change your icons using the process outlined above, then re-enable to ensure your system is secured.


Disable SIP

1. Reboot your Mac and hold cmd + r to boot into Recovery Mode
2. Click Utilities in the menu bar, and select Terminal
3. Type the following command into the terminal then hit return: csrutil disable; reboot

Enable SIP

1. Reboot your Mac and hold cmd + r to boot into Recovery Mode
2. Click Utilities in the menu bar, and select Terminal
3. Type the following command into the terminal then hit return: csrutil enable; reboot

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