How to change the icon of a file or folder in OS X

All applications and documents on your Macintosh computer have something called icon.  An icon is the picture that you see next to the filename of the file.  For example, the picture above is a picture of the icon for the Apple messages application.  Normally you won’t want to go messing around with icons but sometimes there may be an occasion where you want to change an icon. For example Apple have a generic ‘folder’ icon for every new folder  that you create,  but you may want to give the folder your own icon to make it more visually recognisable.

Here I have change the icon of a folder called ‘Places’ to a cartoon of a house to make it stand out.

Read on for how to do this.

In this example I will change the icon for a Safari shortcut from the generic Safari icon to an icon that suits the shortcut I have made.

Here is what a safari bookmark shortcut normally looks like. This is a shortcut that I have made to the Google Sheets website.

Here’s a screenshot of the default icon for a bookmark that I have saved to the desktop from Safari. Safari gives it a generic icon.

1. Download a new icon

You can’t use any picture for a new icon. It needs to be an ICNS icon file. You can find these files on the internet by doing a Google search for ‘icons’. There are millions of sites available with free icons to download. Download the ICNS file that you would like to use.

2. Select the file or folder and ‘Get info’

Once you have downloaded an icon, go back to your file that you want to give this icon to. Single click on the bookmark or file that you want to change. ( Don’t double-click or it will open the file!) Single clicking on a file selects it  but does not open it. With the bookmark selected press ‘Apple i’ or go to the ‘File’ Menu and select ‘Get Info’.

An information window will appear. It looks like this:

After I have selected ‘Get Info’ a window appears that has a little picture of the icon for my Safari bookmark in it.

Notice the icon in the top left of the  window. This is where all the magic happens. If you drag another icon on top of this icon it will change the icon for that file.  

3. Drag in a new icon file into the ‘get info’ window.

Drag a new icon file on top of the picture in the window, drop it there, and the icon will change to the new icon.

After I have dragged an icon on top of the picture it has now changed to be the new icon.


The change will be be reflected in the original file as follows:

Now the web shortcut has an icon matching the website.


Now my bookmark to Google Sheets has it’s own icon!




One response to “How to change the icon of a file or folder in OS X”

  1. anomynous

    i have a macbook air and i tried to change the folder icon but it just comes up with that preview icon and it has been doing that for so long

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