An Exciting Organizational Discovery: Changing Folder Icons On My Mac

I suspected there was a way to change the folder icons on my Mac because over the years I have downloaded a couple of digital scrapbooking items that had unique icons, rather than typical blue folder.

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 1.57.19 AM

But I didn’t think much of it then.

Last week I bought myself another external hard drive. Three Terabytes! The one Terabyte drive of my iMac was only 200 GB away from being full and I was getting a lot of spinning beachballs (meaning my computer was running sluggishly). And the external drive I already had was only another one Terabyte. So I have been moving all my files from my internal to my external hard drive.

And I’m weeding and reorganizing as I go.

This evening I was working in my digital scrapbooking alphabet folders and I wished I could see what the alphas look like more easily, rather than having to go in and out of folders to see what’s inside. Then I remembered that I’d seen those unique folder icons and set about figuring out how to do it myself.

My initial search at the Apple support forum was barely helpful, though something I read there reminded me to check the Help on my computer, and I did. I found the directions for doing just what I wanted, but I couldn’t manage the last step of the procedure. So I posted about that on the Apple support forum.

A couple of hours later, someone referred me to this article, Changing Icons on OS X. Funny thing, it wasn’t the words in the article that helped me the most, but the screen shot. See the little icon up at the top of these windows? I didn’t even notice it a few hours ago when I was trying to follow the directions from my computer’s help document.

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 2.09.23 AM

So I tried again, and succeeded! I am so excited to be able to do this.

Now, instead of my alpha folder looking like this . . . 

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 2.12.33 AM

. . . it is looking like this . . . 

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 1.53.15 AM


I’ll tell you how it’s done. 

First, copy the graphic you want to use for your icon so it’s on the clipboard. I’m double-clicking on the capital A to open it in Preview and hitting Command-A and Command-C, the keyboard shortcuts for Select All and Copy. There will be “marching ants,” a flashing line, around the preview box to show you the graphic has been selected, as you can see along the left and bottom edges here.

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 2.26.50 AM

Close that preview window. Then, right-click on the folder you want to change and click on Get Info.

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 2.19.50 AM


That will bring up the little info window for the folder. Click on the little folder icon at the very top, the one I didn’t even notice the first time I tried to do this. (I only noticed the comparatively giant preview icon nearer the bottom, and it’s not clickable.) Notice in my screenshot the little folder icon at the top is highlighted in blue around the edges; that happens after it has been clicked.

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 2.22.44 AM

After clicking on that little, easily missed folder, hit Control-V, the keyboard shortcut for Paste, and the original icons will change in all three places: the tiny one at the top, the preview lower down, and in the Finder window. Woo hoo!

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 2.30.01 AM

Now to go repeat this many times because I have a lot of alphas!  😀

Cheer in the comments if you found this useful. And help our fellow PC users and let us know if you’ve done something like this on your PC.

Happy organizing!


Please comment. I welcome discussion and critique! Thank you!

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