Mac Basics: Icons represent the files on your computer

Every volume (disk), application, file, and folder on your Mac is represented by an icon.

Icons look like the item that they represent. For example, your hard disk volume icon (Macintosh HD) looks like a hard drive, a text document looks like a piece of paper, and a folder icon looks like a folder where you store papers.

App icons are all generally unique, so they stand out from one another.

app icons

Folders contain other files, like your documents or apps. Certain folder icons help you identify what's inside of them, such as apps, documents or music.

folder icons

File icons generally display a document with an app logo or image that lets you know what application created it or opens it.

document icons

Changing icons

You can change some of the icons used in OS X. Choose one of the topics below to learn more about changing icons.

Changing an item's icon

To change the icon of an app, folder or file, first copy an image or another icon to the clipboard (Edit > Copy). You can then use that image for the item's icon.

  1. In the Finder, select the item you want to have a different icon.
  2. From the File menu, choose Get Info or press Command-I to open the Get Info window.
  3. Click the icon in the upper-left corner of the Get Info window to select it.

    get info window

  4. From the Edit menu, choose Paste or press Command-V to replace the icon.

Changing your user account icon

Your user account icon appears in the Login window when you log in (if your Mac isn't set to automatically log you in), and is used as your contact portrait unless you change it. When you first set up your user account, you have the opportunity to select a picture to use as your icon. You can also change the icon later by using these

  1. From the Apple () menu, choose System Preferences.
  2. Click Users & Groups.
  3. Click the image of your current user icon that you see to the left of the Change Password "button.
  4. A pop-up menu appears that lets you select another image.
    You can also drag or paste a picture into the menu or icon to replace it.
    You can also click Camera to use the camera built into your Mac to take a snapshot to use as an icon.
  5. If desired, crop and reposition the new icon.
  6. When you're satisfied with the image you've chosen, click Done to make the change.
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