Where Mac System Icons & Default Icons Are Located on Mac OS

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Mac OS X’s system icons decorate almost everything found in the Finder and desktop, ranging from standard folder icons to the standard hard drive, network machine icons, even the Finder sidebar items and some switches found all over Mac OS X. you have ever wanted to access the original full size resources for these system icons, you will find that they are intentionally buried in the operating system, but that does not mean that you cannot access them, copy or even modify them if you want.

For those who just want to poke around and already know why, the location of Mac OS X system icons is the following path:

/System/Library/CoreServices/CoreTypes.bundle/Contents/Resources/

To get there and find the source files of the Mac OS X system resources, you can either manually navigate to the given system folder from Finder, use the Terminal, or even better, use the excellent Go To shortcut and immediately jump over it. We’ll cover the latter method as it is usually the fastest and most user-friendly.

How to Find and access all Mac OS X system icons

  1. Open a new Finder window from the Mac OS X desktop and hit Command + Shift + G (or go to the “Go” menu and choose “Go to Folder”
  2. Paste the following full file system path into Go to Folder:
  3. /System/Library/CoreServices/CoreTypes.bundle/Contents/Resources/

  4. Choose “Go” and you will immediately be taken to the correct resource folder with all the Mac OS X system icons found all over the Mac

The folder is best viewed in the “icon” view with a fairly visible icon size, which is perhaps not surprising considering this is the system icon folder.

Mac OS X system icons

You will see that the folder contains tons of “.icns” files, which are the raw icon files for various system icons, including the default folder icons used for Applications, Documents, Desktop, Downloads, Developer, General (the default for a new folder ), Group, Library, Music, Movies, Pictures, Public, and quite literally any other standard icon, such as attached external drives, network volumes and computers, iPhones, Macs, and just about everything else.

The location of Mac OS X system icons

All standard Mac OS X icons are stored here. You can use the ‘search’ feature to break it down by details, if you limit yourself to ‘Folder’ you will only see the default folder icons used on the Mac:

Default Mac system icon in OS X

Also in this folder happens to be a whole bunch of high-quality Apple and Mac hardware icons, used by System Profiler, for networks, and by iTunes, but you can copy them and use them for other purposes too if you think you like it. For example, we used one of these hardware icons to demonstrate how to change the Dock Finder icon.

Mac hardware icons

Change Mac system icons

Changing system icons is generally not recommended, especially for novice users. If you plan to change one or more system icons, do that back up the original .icns files first, and preferably back up the entire Mac in advance with Time Machine or your backup method of choice. This ensures that you can bring things back to normal if you mess something up up.

With that said, any system icon .icns file can be modified or modified, either directly by copying the icns file, with copy and paste, just like changing most of the other icons on Mac, or even by editing it. .icns file directly in Preview or any other image editing app.

Display default folder icons in the Mac OS X Systems folder

Regardless of the method you use to edit or change the icons, you will need administrator privileges to save or modify the files stored here as this is a / System folder. Again, don’t make changes if you don’t know what you’re doing and haven’t provided support up it’s easy to screw up the Mac up and making things rather strange in Mac OS X by obscuring icons, mis-resizing a file, or using an inappropriate format.

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mac OS


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