How to Hide or Remove Icons from the Mac Desktop

Apr 14, 2010 - 10 Comments

Finder You can really clean up your Mac Desktop by hiding all the hard disk and drive icons that appear by default on it. This is a settings choice that makes it so when you connect a new drive to the Mac, it won’t show up on the desktop, but it will be visible from a Finder window and accessible from the Finder or any application.

Keep in mind you can also just create a folder on the desktop or elsewhere on your Mac and manually drag an drop icons and files into that folder, that removes them from the desktop and cleans things up a bit – but you can’t do that with drives and volumes. To hide things like a hard disk or USB drive, you’ll need to turn to the settings option.

Here’s how to adjust what icons are visible on the Mac desktop, you’ll want to do this from the Mac OS and Mac OS X Finder:

How to Hide or Remove Icons from Mac Desktop

Navigate to the Finder of Mac OS if you have not done so already, then do the following:

  1. Click on the “Finder” menu and select “Preferences”
  2. Click on the “General” tab
  3. Uncheck boxes next to hard disks, drives, ipods, etc to toggle those icons off or on on the Mac desktop

hide remove icons from mac desktop

Changes take effect immediately and your hard disk will immediately disappear (Note this doesn’t really remove the icons in a deletion sense, it just hides them from being visually seen on the Desktop).

Any other icons you want cleared off the desktop you can simply just drag & drop them into another folder within your home directory, or elsewhere.

If you really want to have a clean and bare desktop, you can also choose to hide all desktop icons from ever appearing via the Mac OS command line by using a defaults command string. That defaults method basically disables the desktop, thereby preventing the icons from showing up at all, unlike the method described above, it applies to all icons rather than just selective choices of hard disks, drives, and network shares.


Related articles:

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


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  1. CSSnyder says:

    Thanks! This finally helped me to get rid of the Canon IJ icon on my desktop. It sat there all the time, even when not printing anything, and it wouldn’t let me move it to a folder. FYI – The Canon IJ icon was an “External Disk.”

  2. Donny says:

    Worked for me! Thanks!

  3. Michael Putinski says:

    Most confusing instructions I’ve seen in a while

  4. Tom W says:

    I can’t find general on finder???

  5. dimitar says:

    Thanks a lot! It was helpful.

  6. Alex L says:

    Doesn’t work at all… after unchecking the boxes the stuff on my desktop still shows up. When I try to move something to a folder, it just makes an alias. I tried to delete a program from my desktop by deleting it from the trash, but when I clicked on the program again in the folder, it just said it was an alias and couldn’t be opened because there was no original.

  7. Chris R says:

    I added a monitor to my mac (OS10.6.8) today and wanted my desktop items to NOT appear of the secondary display. (I use bump top so I have lots of icons, all nicely arranged into piles).

    How to do it: Right click the background, choose “Show view options” and reduce the grid size to the minimum. This work around does exactly what I wanted without any software.

    Note: Not sure if this is the best place post, sorry in advance…

  8. Ben says:

    Camouflage works great for Photoshop users. I use two monitors, with the pallets on my imac screen and the images on another huge monitor. It was driving me crazy to see all the junk on my desktop on the imac screen. Using the F key would only put a gray background behind the picture, which is on the second monitor. So while trying to work in PS, I was constantly looking at all of the icons and sticky notes on my desktop. This used to actually give me a headache, but no more.

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