Stop Spaces from Rearranging Themselves in Mac OS X

Nov 12, 2011 - 12 Comments

Stop Spaces from Rearranging Themselves in OS X

New versions of OS X have an interesting and sometimes unusual change to Mission Control’s behavior, where desktops/spaces will automatically rearrange themselves based on how recently they’ve been used or accessed.

If you’ve set your spaces (virtual desktops) to be in a specific order, this is fairly annoying, but it’s also easy to stop those spaces from rearranging themselves.

  1. Launch “System Preferences” from the  Apple menu, and click on Mission Control
  2. Uncheck the box next to “Automatically rearrange spaces based on most recent use”
  3. Close out System Preferences

With the automatic rearrangement disabled, Mission Control will again remember your app and desktops placement and not reorder them on it’s own.

Like this? Check out some more Mission Control tips.

This first appeared in the Mac OS X 10.7.2 update but has stuck around in modern versions of OS X too. Whether you like it or not is kind of a matter of personal preference, sometimes it’s very useful, but sometimes it can lead to confusion.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Mike says:

    This was in 10.7.0 too.

  2. marc says:

    If only Lion didn’t insist on creating a space when an application goes full screen. This is especially a problem when using Aperture, perhaps others, when you have the application assigned to a specific space. In my standard set-up Aperture is in space 3 and ctl-3 on the keyboard will bring me to Aperture… unless it’s in full screen mode in which Lion puts it on a freshly created space.

    If that isn’t bad enough the full screen entry and exit animation is excruciatingly slow. And there are some bugs. When the application pops up a HUD (Heads Up Display window) in full screen mode every once in a while the HUD shows up on the assigned space, not the space the application is currently using in full screen mode.

  3. Darian says:

    It’d be good if they had this sort of control on Launchpad.

  4. vdiv says:

    I regret upgrading to Lion because of the dysfunctional Mission Control. Don’t understand what was wrong with Spaces — it worked great with multiple monitors.

  5. John says:

    Thanks for the tips. Just started with Lion, really disappointed in mission control. Spaces was so much better. Can’t understand why apple had to do away with the best features of spaces in mc.

  6. William Furr says:

    Thank you. I didn’t realize it had changed; just thought I was going nuts.

    I like having a consistent order for my apps. Makes it easier to consistently switch between them.

    Note to OS and app makers: please leverage your users’ spatial memory. It’s very powerful, much more so than other forms of short term memory.

  7. Reid Blomquist says:

    Most annoying 10.7 feature!! Really shouldn’t be default behavior…spaces are there for YOU to arrange them as you see fit. Thanks for the info.

  8. komrad says:

    Thanks! I’m new to Mac OS and thought that somehow I was accidentally moving them. It’s good to know that is was the OS and not me.

  9. Gleb says:

    why is this the default behaviour

  10. Rick says:

    Wow, thanks for this post, was struggling with this issue for the last 2 years and just gave up, but thanks to this post it’s fixed now!

  11. Zack says:

    What do you do when doing the above steps does not work? I’ve been struggling with this issue for months and am beyond fed up with it. My desktops spaces are constantly rearranging themselves, and to make this extremely clear- I have the “Automatically rearrance spaces…” feature turned off, but it still does it. Ive tried restarting the computer, reseting the scm and PRAM many times. This same thing happens on every single mac I have used (over 12) and yet there seems to be no solution. Is there some other feature to enable or disable to permanently stop desktops from rearranging themselves, or adding new blank desktops in random spots between my desktops ? I’m currently experiencing this problem on my 2013 15″ retina with Yosemite, my other 2013 15″ retina with El Capitan, my 2009 macbook pro with Yosemite, and my wife’s 2009 macbook unibody with Yosemite.

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