Change the Desktop Wallpaper Automatically in Mac OS X

Dec 15, 2011 - 15 Comments


Can’t decide which wallpaper to use as your desktop background? Me neither. Fortunately there’s a setting in Mac OS X that causes the desktop picture to change itself automatically at a user selected time interval, ranging from every 5 seconds to once a day or upon system wake.

Essentially this means your wallpaper will change itself on a set schedule, so you’ll never be stuck with the same image. You can use this to rotate through wallpaper pictures, or if you get creative, to make some pretty interesting desktop background effects, like changing colors, or going from a black and white picture to a colorized version, and so forth.

How to Set Automatically Changing Wallpapers in Mac OS X

  1. Open “System Preferences” from the  Apple menu
  2. Click on “Desktop & Screen Saver”
  3. Go to “Desktop” tab, then click the checkbox next to “Change picture” and set the time interval, the default is a new background every 30 minutes
  4. Select “Random order” as well for best results

Change Desktop Wallpaper pictures automatically in Mac OS X

Whatever your background picture was set to will be changed immediately, and then it will change again at the time interval you selected.

If you need help finding some cool wallpapers, we’ve got plenty here.

Changing every 5 seconds can be a bit neurotic, but if you have enough similarly themed wallpapers to go with, it can create a feeling similar to the living desktops of Android fame.

This feature exists in nearly every version of OS X ever to exist, so it doesn’t matter what’s running on the Mac, it will be there for you to use if you want to have the active wallpapers like this.

Change desktop picture wallpaper randomly in Mac OS X

Another option is to use a free app like Wallpaper Wizard Lite, which will automatically download new desktop pictures in addition to changing them for you.


Related articles:

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


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. yussan says:

    i love it, and it’s available on high sierra too. thanks mac

  2. Claire says:

    Does the changing pictures expend battery? I feel like a picture slide show going on in the background all the time will drain power, especially if it’s on the 5 second loop (which is the option I want to do).

  3. Tavleen says:

    Is it possible to select the auto random picture wallpaper setting from a specific folder only?

    • Paul says:

      Yes, add the folder to the left side menu of wallpaper options, and select that with the random wallpaper change.

  4. Ben says:


    Want to know if their a way to changes pictures every 30 sec?



  5. Jay Duff says:

    Is there a way to do this from the command line (Yosemite or El Cap)?

    I was searching, and it looks like there used to be a prefs file one could toggle the XML in, but it no longer seems to exist.

    Any help is much appreciated!

  6. Tomaso says:

    I’ts sad that the Wallpaper Changer sees only the standard Fotos (or iPhoto) library. You cannot choose pictures out of another library.

    If You want to use Designer 2.0 to create a photo book You cannot see the Fotos library at all. With iPhoto it was no problem.

  7. Mike says:

    I set my macbook to change the wallpaper every day, but it doesn’t work. It changes more often, like every restart or so :-(

    • John Cope says:

      Mike: It won’t keep the changed desktop between boots, but if you don’t restart it will remain constant until midnight.

      I don’t know of another software or setting that would hold a persistent image between boots.

  8. Joshua says:

    I have my macbook set to rotate the image every 15 min, and I have it set to “fit to screen” so that the images don’t get distorted because I use a set of pictures that are all different shapes, sizes, and resolutions. I have the background set up to a shade of blue that is fairly neutral.
    My Question: Is there a way to make it so the background color, which shows on the side or bottom or top of my background picture, to change to best match the pictures that change?

    I have a feeling that the answer is no, but I figured I might as well ask. Thanks for your time.

    • Martha Harris says:

      There was a great free windows program that coordinated the color behind each wallpaper pic, wallpaper by Frank Heinz (or something like that.) I’m searching for equivalent for OS X.

  9. Terence says:

    I wish there was a way to make it every week. :(

  10. […] by creating a handful of different wallpapers and throwing them into a single folder, then use the automatic wallpaper changing feature in Mac OS X to rotate between the […]

  11. Jim Gates says:

    I have my setup configured so that not only do I get new desktops every 15 minutes on each of the spaces on my laptop, but also on the large monitor I have connected to it.

    But, the biggest issue of all was figuring out how to get it to “see” my iphoto images so that I could use those instead of the Apple supplied choices. Didn’t I read in your blog how to do that? If so, you might want to connect folks to that post as a reminder. If not, that would be a good post to write for your faithful readers.

  12. […] Selezionare “ordine casuale” e per i migliori risultati, altrimenti non spuntate la casella. Una volta fatto ciò le vostre immagini si alterneranno, casualmente o meno a seconda di cosa abbiate scelto, ogni tot minuti da voi scelti. Per i più esigenti esiste anche Wallpaper Wizard Lite, che trova e scarica anche nuove immagini, oltre a cambiarle per voi. Via | OSXDaily […]

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