Customize the Mac OS X Login Screen

Feb 22, 2007 - 91 Comments

After several hundred times of logging into your Mac you may be tired of looking at the same old login screen. Maybe you’d like to have a customized login screen for your school or employer’s workstations. Forget the $10 programs that automate the process, we’ll show you how to customize the login screen entirely on your own, for free. It’s not as difficult as you might think, and it’s a fun way to personalize your Mac a bit more. Be sure to check out the screenshot below for an example of the results.

Changing the Login Screen Apple Logo in 10.4 and before

Changing the default Apple logo is quite easy and you can put virtually any 90×90 tif image in it’s place, here’s how to do it through the GUI:

  1. Hit command-shift-G to bring up the “Go to Folder” dialog and paste in the following path exactly:
    /System/Library/CoreServices/SecurityAgent.app/Contents/Resources/
  2. In this directory you will find a file called applelogo.tif. Make a backup copy of the file ‘applelogo.tif’ by holding down the option key and dragging it to your desktop. this is very important if you want to revert to the default Apple logo
  3. Rename your custom tif logo file to ‘applelogo.tif’ and move it to this same Resources/ folder, you will be asked for the administrator password. Note: it must be 90×90 and a tif file (preferably transparent for best results)
  4. That’s it! Now when you login, your new logo will appear. To revert back to the default Apple logo, follow the same directions and replace the new logo with the original applelogo.tif file that you backed up

Change the Login Screen Apple Logo in 10.5 Leopard

Follow the exact same directions as above, but use this directory instead:
/System/Library/CoreServices/SecurityAgentPlugins/loginwindow.bundle/Contents/Resources
Everything else is the same!

Changing the Login Screen Background Image – 10.4 and before

This is even easier than changing the Apple logo, here’s how to do it:

  1. Hit command-shift-G to bring up the “Go to Folder” dialog and paste the following directory path in:
    /Library/Desktop Pictures/
    (You can also just navigate here on your own through the root of your hard drive)
  2. Find ‘Aqua Blue.jpg’ and rename it to ‘Aqua Blue2.jpg’
  3. Move the JPG file you’d like to be displayed as the login screen’s background image to the Desktop Pictures directory, and rename the file to ‘Aqua Blue.jpg’
  4. Close the folders and log out or reboot, your login screen will now display your new image as the background

This trick works easily because ‘Aqua Blue.jpg’ is the default for the background image, so by placing any JPG file as the same name in the Desktop Pictures directory, it will be displayed instead. Cool huh?

Change the Login Screen Wallpaper Image in Snow Leopard 10.6

Directions for Snow Leopard 10.6 are the same as Leopard 10.5 directly below…

Change the Login Screen Wallpaper Image in Leopard 10.5

Launch the terminal and issue the following commands:

  • cd /System/Library/CoreServices
  • sudo mv DefaultDesktop.jpg DefaultDesktop_org.jpg
  • sudo cp /path/of/image.jpg DefaultDesktop.jpg

Of course, change /path/of/image.jpg to the path of the image file you want to use. Basically what you’re doing here is moving to a folder, backing up the old “DefaultDesktop.jpg” by renaming it, and then copying in the new image and naming it “DefaultDesktop.jpg” instead. This trick works the same as it did in 10.4, just with a different file name and location to work with.

The screenshow below demonstrates the final effects of these tricks:

If you happened to have misplaced, deleted, or forgot to backup the ‘applelogo.tif’ file, click here for a backup of it.

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Posted by: OSXDaily in 10.5, Customize, Fun, How to, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

91 Comments

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  1. niclet says:

    Hit command-control-G to bring up the “Go to Folder”

    Isn’t shift-command-G instead?

    • macbookuser says:

      thanks! is there anyway to change the black lock screen ?(the one where you login in after screensaver)

  2. anon says:

    great tip. i wonder if there is a “more elegant” way to do this without changing the background to “Aqua Blue.jpg.” I’m thinking that there is probably a way to set a file pointing somewhere to “Crazy Reflection.jpg” or whatever your background file might be.

    Either way it doesn’t matter but just thinking aloud.

  3. adurdin says:

    Yes, open up Terminal.app and write

    defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow DesktopPicture /Users/Shared/Wallpaper-Serenity.jpg

    Change /Users/Shared/Wallpaper-Serenity.jpg with the path to whatever wallpaper you want to use, of course — if you don’t know what the path will be, then just drag the file into the terminal and it’ll write out the path for you.

  4. Vladimir says:

    adurdin that is awesome I much prefer that over replacing the original JPG file

  5. Nathan says:

    Could someone please send me all of there os x wallpapers to: natleahy@hotmail.com

    Thanks

  6. Nathan says:

    Could someone please send me all of there os x wallpapers to: natleahy@hotmail.com

    Thanks 0000000000000000000000

  7. [...] Customize the Mac OS X Login Screen – an ugly but quick hack to change your login screen (tags: mac hacks) [...]

  8. [...] Login Window Tweak One thing I don’t quite like is the dull blue login window. Or the dull apple for that matter. I normally tweak that by going to location and simply replacing file and file. Firefox I’m on delicious and put it in my Firefox too. I added a custom downloadbar. I upgrade the search engines, which you can control in OSX by holding down the command key while using the up and down key. posted 29.09.07 21:54 PM by mpty tagged dummy stored here [...]

  9. George Hozendorf says:

    It appears to this novice the files have changed with Leopard. Does anyone have the directory paths for both theses hacks using Leopard? Thanks

  10. Rick says:

    works in Leopard too, get rid of that hideous purple cloud, sky, space, thing, yuk.

  11. anon says:

    @George

    The new file is in /System/Library/CoreServices/ and is called DefaultDesktop.jpg.

    Always remember to backup files. :)

  12. HOLOGRAPHICpizza says:

    The new path to change the apple logo is

    /System/Library/CoreServices/SecurityAgentPlugins/loginwindow.bundle/Contents/Resources

  13. Hans Lecaros says:

    Where do i get the Old Mac icon in the screenshot above?

    Thanks

  14. Jay Monk says:

    i just realized the potential of being in the folder where the logo is in leopard. you can switch out peoples icons so that the close red ball is now green or any other colour. you can switch out the shut down and restart icons. just screw around with people lol. and yes thanks for the tips.

  15. Jason Huebel says:

    Thanks so much for this set of tips. I upgraded to Leopard this evening and was flabbergasted that Apple would use such a hideous background on the login screen. I mean really, all that purple and the lame star field? Back to the nice, quiet, clean Aqua Blue background…

  16. nico says:

    Easier way to change login screen wallpaper with 10.5.1:
    – choose a .jpg image
    – name it DefaultDesktop_org.jpg
    – bring it in the core services folder (System/Library/CoreServices)
    – authentify when system ask for it
    – tip password
    – choose “replace” …and it’s done, without working in Terminal

  17. Rough Rookie says:

    I tried to change the Aurora image at login to a cooler image – Earth…

    I did the following;
    Change the Login Screen Wallpaper Image in Leopard 10.5
    Launch the terminal and issue the following commands:

    cd /System/Library/CoreServices
    sudo mv DefaultDesktop.jpg DefaultDesktop_org.jpg
    sudo cp /path/of/image.jpg DefaultDesktop.jpg

    first of all, what is SUDO MV and CP? I presume it’s move and copy?

    After doing the Command shift G thing and getting the prompt, I still couldn’t modify the art.

    Seems simple…someone please help!

  18. Rough Rookie says:

    Sorry for lat submittal…I just read NICO’s 12-21-07 tip and it worked like a freakin charm. No problem, no programming, and it worked perfectly the first time out.

    Thanks Nico!

  19. Seaneee says:

    So I was able to change the login pic in 10.5, but when I did the icon swap, no dice. Still shows the same old apple logo. Cleaned caches, repaired permissions, restarted. Still same logo. Any ideas?

  20. Harlan says:

    @ Seaneee:

    I got the same problem… I deleted caches too, and resaved the nib file, no success. Apple must be caching it somewhere….

  21. Harlan says:

    Wait! I made it work. I swapped the resources in the 10.4 directory, instead of the 10.5, it worked straight away. Wierd.

  22. Flynn says:

    Where can i get some tif logos?

  23. ewrwerw says:

    sdfdsfs

  24. whoops says:

    can someone tell me how to restore the login wallpaper to exactly how it was before. Please

  25. Sean says:

    anyone know how to change the apple picture in the menu bar at the top of the screen?

    I wanna use a rainbow apple I have.

  26. Sean says:

    anyone know how to change the apple picture in the menu bar at the top of the screen?

    I wanna use a rainbow apple I have.

    email me at cid.randell@gmail.com if you know please.

  27. Flynn says:

    the logo thing worked amazingly but the backround image thing was a catastrophie!

  28. juju says:

    Where can you get the old mac icon???? The one from the screenshot above

  29. Randall says:

    Bad.

    I tried changing the login wallpaper and it went to a default aqua instead of my picture and the original file got misplaced. Now I even tried downloading a program to set the wall paper and it still stays aqua.
    Sorely disappointed.

  30. Chris Davis says:

    Hey bro’s. Need some help here. I do EVERYTHING that the login background tutorial tells me, but everytime I head over to the login window it stays blue. What up?!?!

  31. Chris Davis says:

    Hey bro’s. Need some help here. I do EVERYTHING that the login background tutorial tells me, but everytime I head over to the login window it stays blue. What up?!?!

    Please email

    cjpdavis@bigpond.net.au

  32. deBaer says:

    Make sure that the applelogo.tif is exactly 72x72dpi, else it will be scaled in the most horrible way. (Under X.5)

  33. cybercarl says:

    In Leopard, does anyone know how, or a site that explains how to change the panel the Apple logo and buttons sit on? I suspect it means altering one of the nib files somewhere, but not sure.

  34. Peacekeepr says:

    Is there anyway to change the “box” (for lack of a better word) color? I know you can change both the txt and the background image, but i am interested in changing the color and design of the actual login window box.

  35. cardreader says:

    I’m having the same problem as chris davis. Followed the tutorial but now, no matter what I do I get a solid blue login screen. The login box is still there, of course. Any help on this?

  36. Jessicakayla says:

    The tutorial didn’t work for me, but i have the Aurora screen. And I did it doing both and neither worked, it just stayed the Aurora. Help?

  37. cardreader says:

    Jessica…Try here: http://lifehacker.com/355609/customize-your-macs-logon-screen#c4202846 It gives a pretty good explanation.

  38. Sam says:

    i changed the nib files and put a quartz composition on it but now whenever i startup my mac it keeps cycling through a blue screen and a blue screen with a loading icon rotating thing. how do i login and reset it or would i have to reinstall os x. please help!

  39. jesse says:

    Sam you can probably log in through Single user and restore any nib files that you changed. i just messed up my mac by basically erasing my login window, so i couldnt log in at all. luckily i was able to fix it through booting in single user. i think you just have to hold command S as the computer is booting

  40. pop says:

    This Is only working when I log out. But when I booting I get only blue screen and poor resolution as well. Does any body know, where could be problem?

  41. John Jansen says:

    1 tiny tip for changing you login screen background.

    The image you are trying to use must not be in a user specific directory i.e. your “Documents” directory etc. Put it somewhere common to all users

  42. mEan.MAC says:

    Important Tip:

    If you create your images on a PC – it will not work. This maybe one of the reasons this trick does not work.

    I created my images on a PC (using Photoshop). I was then able to use Graphic Converter on my Mac and re-save the images. Once I did that it worked.

  43. Michael Pescetto says:

    Does anyone know how to take a screenshot of the login window like they did above? I tried the command+shift+3, but it has no desktop to save to, and I’m pretty sure that it’s a launchd that doesn’t start till you’re logged in.

    thanks.

  44. [...] want to back this up, copy it somewhere safe in case you need it again. Another method is described HERE if you don’t want to replace the original file and you don’t mind using your [...]

  45. jacob says:

    jacobandellis

  46. jacob says:

    djhdfhddbfb

  47. [...] login image of your Macintosh can get boring after a while. While it has always been possible to change the login wallpaper, it’s a convoluted process and a little intimidating for the [...]

  48. E Sheldon says:

    For those with the blue screen: You may have to change the ownership of DefaultDesktop.jpg after copying.

    From the terminal:

    sudo chown root DefaultDesktop.jpg

  49. T Davis says:

    Can we get this updated for Snow Leopard?

  50. T Davis says:

    Never mind. Apparently its all the same. It hadn’t occurred to me that upgrading would just set them back to default. I’m embarrassed at how obvious that is.

  51. Logan says:

    Go to http://www.mediafire.com/?sharekey=b8153bbc83d3e8b6d2db6fb9a8902bda to download New Login Screen v1.0.zip. it contains a FREE program to change the background of the login screen in less than 30 seconds!

  52. Bryan says:

    I did the above instructions to change my Login Background for Mac OS X 10.6. Both files DefaultDesktop.jpg and DefaultDesktop_org.jpg changed to the image I wanted. But now my login screen is just a blue screen. What went wrong?

  53. bobbytomorow says:

    thanks now I, like many others, have a plain blue screen as a login image >:(

  54. Anon says:

    Ditto on the blue screen. Can’t even rename the default background from DefaultDesktop_org.jpg to DefaultDesktop.jpg.

  55. RootyMcRooter says:

    if you are having problems with a blue screen it is likely a permissions issue, make sure you copied it over properly as sudo

    by default users do not have access to anything in /System because it is so easy to mess things up, Apple did this on purpose to avoid problems.

    same thing with the file name, if you can’t rename it, it’s permissions (need admin access, which is why command says sudo)

    you can do all this through the GUI as well, just Get Info on the DefaultDesktop.jpg image and click the lock icon under Sharing & Permissions to unlock it and be able to change the image

  56. RootyMcRooter says:

    this works too apparently

    set new:

    defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow
    DesktopPicture “/path/to/background/image.jpg”

    revert:

    defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow
    DesktopPicture “/System/Library/CoreServices/DefaultDesktop.jpg”

  57. Anon says:

    Fixed permissions, and tried Rooty’s second suggestion as well. Still blue = (

  58. Anon says:

    Had to use a free trial of the $5 software Visage Login to finally get rid of the blue login screen. http://keakaj.com/visagelogin.html

  59. Hotha Dweller says:

    @Anon

    You probably corrupted the plist file com.apple.loginwindow.plist

    They are fickle

  60. Hotha Dweller says:

    Oops posted too soon, com.apple.loginwindow.plist is located in

    ~/Library/Preferences/

    and

    /Library/Preferences/

    Two different files.

    Make a backup of com.apple.loginwindow.plist and rename it to something like com.apple.loginwindow.plist-backup

    Rebooting will rebuild the file usually

  61. mccoytest says:

    I have to admit I did not read ALL the comments on changing the login screen for 10.6 but here’s my $.02:
    1) follow the first two instructions
    2) instead of the the third, create a link to a file in your wallpaper directory. It doesn’t have to exist (yet) The following syntax is a good example:
    sudo ln -s /pictures/Wallpapers/myCurrentLoginScreen DefaultDesktop.jpg
    3) that’s all the sudo’s you need; then go to your wallpaper directory and create another soft link from the filename you chose to an existing image, like this:
    ln -s SwirlGreenOnBlack.png CurrentLoginScreen
    4) there is no 4, but now you can change your login screen easily, any time you want, by removing the CurrentLoginScreen link and resetting it to a new image.

  62. Pavyon says:

    hey, that’s cool :)

  63. zorro says:

    Xes, viva la revolution

  64. harry says:

    Found this one as background. Only 1440×900 for 15″.
    He scares the intruders. ;-)

    http://img36.imageshack.us/img36/2689/defaultdesktop.jpg

  65. [...] Customize the Mac OS X Login screen [...]

  66. Phil says:

    So I have this really sweet desktop background right now, and I set my login screen to be the same image b/c that’s how sweet it is. Then I thought “what if I could link them so whenever I change my desktop, it also changes my login screen?!”

    The first thing that came to mind was to create a symlink/alias to the desktop image and drop it in place of the DefaultDesktop.jpg. So I found the plist file where that’s located:

    defaults read com.apple.desktop
    or
    ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.desktop.plist

    But I can’t figure out how to access the right node of that object. It’s buried in Background.default.ImageFilePath (I come from javascript land, so I usually access nested objects with dot syntax). Does anyone know how I can retrieve that property in terminal?

    Does that seem like it would work? Or am I oversimplifying a task that is way to complex to be worth the time in the first place?

  67. Bo says:

    Does anyone know what the hex color code is for the background of where the logo icon is placed? It doesn’t appear that .tif images can be transparent and I would like the background to match.

  68. whorider says:

    Fix Permissions:

    sudo chmod 644 /System/Library/CoreServices/Your_New_Wallpaper_Name

  69. John Doe says:

    I would like to know how I could change the Mouse Position on the Login Screen, I find it a bit of a drag bringing down the mouse from the upper left corner of the screen, plus I want to know how to change the cursor speed on the Login Menu as well. Lets say for example for the new Position of where the mouse begins I want it to be at the center of the screen or have it sitting else where thats near the Login Window, to make things easier.

    Thanks :)

  70. nick says:

    i tried this~~ “nicholai-mitchkos-macpro31:~ nm$ sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow DesktopPicture “/Users/nm/Desktop/Mac.jpg”

    2010-03-07 16:12:52.191 defaults[577:a0b] _CFGetHostUUIDString: unable to determine UUID for host. Error: 35

    can anyone help me change it i run snow leopard 10.5.5

  71. [...] si es que se le quiere dar un poco de variedad a la pantalla inicial. A esto se le puede unir el truco, en verdad complicadísimo, para cambiar también la imagen de apple en la pantalla de selección de usuario. El tip viene a través de la gente de OS X Daily e incluye [...]

  72. Liko says:

    So i was trying to change my background in 10.6.2 and when i did it it just changed the background in the login screen to the blue picture u see in startup. can i fix it? if not would i have to pop in my osx disk? PLEASE EMAIL ME AT wyseboy@rocketmail.com PLEASEEEE

  73. seriousissueslol says:

    i’m thinking that i have the same issue as Liko…my login screen is now a boring blue color instead of the image that i wanted.
    i then made the (repeated mistake) or trying the non-sudo way this site gives.
    ive rebooted a couple of times and still no changes.

    please help!!

  74. seriousissueslol says:

    i run mac osx 10.5.8, by the way

  75. [...] Shared Customize the Mac OS X Login Screen – OS X Daily. [...]

  76. [...] regardless of where it’s from, I’m big on customizing things whether it’s changing the login screen on my Mac or adjusting the background picture of the [...]

  77. [...] OS X login screen but don’t feel like getting your hands dirty mucking around in system files the old fashioned way, check out a free app called [...]

  78. Joseph says:

    Is there any way of doing this without damaging your system? (Not unless it does…)

  79. Declan Thomas says:

    every one who i know has osx 10.5 and i only have 10.4 some came over. so thanks for your help to make my tiger like a lepord !!

  80. benjamin says:

    desktop 2 login .app

    greeteengs

  81. taxi says:

    so now, lots of us end up with blue screen after followed this tutorial’s instruction. and still no solution ?
    Can someone please help plssss. i just want me old screen back now …

  82. taxi says:

    Btw, i think whoever post this tutorial should have remove this post or update this with a warming, since there are so many people end up with problematic situation !

  83. taxi says:

    here is a solution i found …. not sure if it is the best but it seems to work for me , at least i get my login screen back.

    1.Find a friend who uses mac ( Alternatively if u have time machine old back ups i think it will work too)
    2.Copy & paste & replace the following 2 files from his/her mac or form ur time machine backups to yours

    /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow.plist
    /System/Library/CoreServices/DefaultDesktop.jpg

    (for those who has DefaultDesktop_org.jpg, just delete that file and replaced with the DefaultDesktop.jpg u copy from ur friend’s mac)

    Again, i’m really not a expert in mac, so i’m not sure if this is the best way to do it,but hope this will help.

  84. Daffou says:

    on Lion (currently Golden Master) the login texture is customizable, you can find it here…

    http://bit.ly/kfU8ct

  85. anon says:

    I found that the Apple logo, for 10.4 and down, doesn’t have to remain 90×90 pixels. You can go as large as 250×250 pixels. Anything larger than that will be cut off.

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