Easy Mac Hacks: Set Screen Saver as Desktop Background

Every Monday we show you how to do something quick and cool using built-in OS X utilities such as Terminal, Apple’s command line application.

Every Monday we show you how to do something quick and cool using built-in OS X utilities such as Terminal, Apple’s command line application. These easy hacks can make life better and simpler, and don’t require any knowledge of coding — all you need is a keyboard to type 'em out!

Here's a cool little trick that lets you place your OS X Screen Saver as a background image on your Desktop, creating nice photo slideshows or animated backgrounds that you wouldn't ordinarily be able to accomplish without additional software. Continue reading and we'll show you how it's done, and how you can get back to your original Desktop when you get tired of it.

Setting Your Screen Saver As Background

To set up your Screen Saver to run as a background in the Finder Desktop, open the Terminal application (located in /Applications/Utilities).

Type the following command to move the working directory to a hidden System folder:

cd /System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Resources

Next, type the following command in order to get the Screen Saver to run on the Desktop:

./ScreenSaverEngine.app/Contents/MacOS/ScreenSaverEngine -background

Your default Screen Saver will immediately appear and start animating on the Mac Desktop. Note that if you have the clock overlay on the Screen Saver, it will appear as an overlay on top of all windows, so you may wish to turn that feature off before enabling the Desktop Screen Saver.



This will continue to run as long as you have the Terminal window with the command you entered opened.

Stopping the Background Screen Saver

If you no longer wish to see the Screen Saver appear on the Mac Desktop, then you can easily stop it by closing the open Terminal window where you typed the command. You'll be prompted to confirm the window close, noting that it will stop anything that is currently running. Click Close, and you'll notice your Desktop return to normal.

Cory Bohon is a freelance technology writer, indie Mac and iOS developer, and amateur photographer. Follow this article's author on Twitter.