Where Mac System Icons & Default Icons Are Located in OS X
The system icons of Mac OS X decorate nearly everything found within the Finder and desktop, ranging from default folder icons, to the default icons of hard disks, network machines, even the Finder sidebar items, and some toggles found throughout OS X. If you’ve ever wanted to access the full size original resources for these system icons, you’ll find they are intentionally buried within the operating system, but that doesn’t mean you can’t access them, copy them, or even change them if you want to.
For those who just want to poke around and already know why, the location of OS X system icons is the following path:
To get there and to find the Mac OS X system icon resource files, you can either manually navigate to the given system folder from Finder, use the Terminal, or better yet, use the excellent Go To shortcut and jump their immediately. We’ll cover the latter method, since it’s usually the quickest and most user friendly.
How to Locate & Access All Mac OS X System Icons
- Open a new Finder window from the OS X Desktop and hit Command+Shift+G (or go to the “Go” menu and choose “Go To Folder”
- Paste in the following complete file system path in Go To Folder:
- Choose “Go” and you’ll instantly be brought to the appropriate resources folder containing all system icons for OS X that are found throughout the Mac
The folder is best viewed in “icon” view with a reasonably visible icon size, which perhaps isn’t too surprising considering this the system icon folder.
You’ll find the directory contains tons of “.icns” files, these are the raw icon files for various system icons, including the default folder icons used for Applications, Documents, Desktop, Downloads, Developer, Generic (the default for a new folder), Group, Library, Music, Movies, Pictures, Public, and quite literally every other default icon, like mounted external drives, network volumes and computers, iPhones, Macs, and just about everything else.
All of the OS X default icons are stored here. You can use the ‘search’ function to break it down by specifics, narrowing down by ‘Folder’ will show you only the default folder icons used on the Mac:
This folder also happens to be where a whole bunch of high quality Apple and Mac hardware icons are located, which are used by System Profiler, for networking, and by iTunes, but you can copy them and use them for other purposes too if you feel like it. For example, we used one of these hardware icons in a walkthrough demonstrating how to change the Dock Finder icon.
Modifying Mac System Icons
Modifying system icons is generally not recommended, particularly for novice users. If you have any intention on changing a system icon or several of them, do back up the original .icns files first, and preferably, back up the entire Mac beforehand with Time Machine or your backup method of choice. This insures that you can revert things back to normal if you mess something up.
With that said, each system icon .icns file can be modified or changed, either directly by copying over the icns file, using copy and paste much like changing most other icons on the Mac, or even by editing the .icns file directly in Preview or another image editing app.
Regardless of what method you use to edit or change the icons, you will need administrator privileges to save or make any changes to the files stored here, given that this is a /System folder. Again, don’t make any changes if you don’t know what you’re doing and haven’t backed up the Mac, you can easily mess something up and render things in OS X quite odd looking by misappropriating icons, incorrectly modifying a file, or using an inappropriate size.