The Mac OS X Desktop

« Previous Guide.
Next Guide. »
In Mac OS X the Desktop is the area of the screen where your work begins.  After you turn on and log into your Mac you are taken directly to the Desktop.  When there are no open application windows running or those active windows have been hidden, you will see something similar to the following on Mac OS X Leopard.


The first and most important icon that you will see after logging into your Mac is the "Macintosh HD" as shown in the upper right corner of the Desktop.  By default, it is located at the upper right but you can customize your Desktop and thus can move it to a location of your choosing.

Note that when you launch OS X for the first time on a brand new Mac, the Macintosh HD is the only icon you'll see on the Desktop after the Setup Assistant completes. When all windows are minimized, the Desktop beomes visible.  When you have application windows open the Desktop remains in the background and lies beneath all the windows.

The Desktop is comprised of several objects such as:

You can store documents, folders, files, pictures, applications, and just about anything on the Desktop. When you insert a CD or a DVD into your Super Drive or Combo Drive, OS X intelligently identifies it and creates a visible icon on the Desktop. You can double-click the icon to easily access the files, music, or movie that is on that disk. When you connect an external device to your Mac, OS X immediately knows what kind of device it is and performs a process known as mounting. An icon is shown on the Desktop that corresponds to the type of device that is connected. There is no need to load or install drivers, what a relief for those new to the Mac!

Every user in OS X has his or her own Desktop.  In fact, the Desktop is an area under each user's Home Folder.  The Desktop is your unique stamp for your Mac and is fully customizable.  For example, you can change the look and feel, change the desktop picture, configure the screen saver, and change the desktop sounds to name a few.


  • February 27, 209 - content modification
  • July 13, 2008 - content modification, updated image for Leopard
Created: 10:27 PM on Dec 24, 2006
By: switchtoamac