Set a Screensaver as Desktop Wallpaper in Mac OS X
Using a Terminal command, you can turn any screensaver into your background wallpaper on the Mac. In the screenshot above I have the iTunes Album Art screensaver running as the Mac OS X desktop, but you can choose any screensaver you want. Here’s how to do this:
- Launch System Preferences
- Click on Desktop & Screen Saver and choose the screensaver you want to set as the background
- Open Terminal (located in /Applications/Utilities/) and paste in the following command:
Hit the Return key to execute the command string, this will start the screen saver in the background immediately.
As long as this command is running, the screen saver will be active. If you close the Terminal window, the screen saver will end and your Macs wallpaper will return to whatever you had previously.
Having trouble with the above syntax working? Make sure your syntax is correct, and that you’re using the proper syntax for each MacOS version.
If you’re on MacOS High Sierra or later, the command syntax must be modified slightly as so to run the Mac screensaver as wallpaper, like so:
Also, recall that the above commands need to be on a single line in order to execute properly. If you’re having issues copying and pasting the above text, you can split it into two commands.
First change the directory:
Then execute the screensaver command:
If you split the command into two, there is a period before the second part, so don’t miss that.
Stopping the screensaver is just a matter of hitting Control+Z, or closing the active terminal window. Although if you want, you can set the process to run on it’s own by adding an ampersand (&) to the end of the last command too, but then to stop the process you’d need to target it with Activity Monitor or the kill command.
The screensaver will take a few seconds and load as the desktop wallpaper. This ends up giving your Mac an effect similar to Android OS’s living wallpapers (you can get living wallpapers on iPhone too but you have to jailbreak).
Most screensavers won’t use too much CPU, in testing they generally run between 4-12% although Arabesque spiked as high as 40% at times. The amount of resources taken up depends on the screen saver itself, and the size of the displays where the screen saver is being rendered on, as well as the Mac itself. Regardless, running a screensaver in the background isn’t a good idea if you’re trying to preserve battery life or you need CPU power for something else.
This trick is a bit of an oldie but goodie, but I still use it from time to time for the eyecandy. It works in all versions of OS X from the earliest releases of Mac OS X to El Capitan. One of the more pleasantly subtle backgrounds to use this with are the image based screensavers like Beach or Forest, or you can create one with your own pictures, the effect is a moving background that pans and uses the “Ken Burns” effect over the images.