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How to Use a Screensaver as Your Background on OS X

Today we bring you a neat little trick: You can set a moving screensaver as your desktop wallpaper on OS X. All it requires is a single Terminal command and a few seconds of time.

Sure, this trick doesn’t provide much useful value other than being fun. But it’s certain to prompt some questions from friends or coworkers as to how you did it.

Before we begin, however, we first should drop into the screensaver settings and make sure we have the one we want to display. To do this, open the System Preferences and click “Desktop & Screen Saver”.

Now you can select your screen saver, which will also become your new desktop wallpaper.

Next, open the Terminal, which can be found in Applications > Utilities.

With the Terminal open, type the following command (or just copy and paste it) and hit Enter:

/System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Resources/ -background

Once you execute this command, the screensaver will run as your wallpaper until you click on the Terminal and press Ctrll+C to stop it (or quit the Terminal entirely).


There is also a small application called Wallsaver that accomplishes the same thing, though it appears this app has not seen any development since 2009. Further, it’s kind of silly to use a separate piece of software for something that you can do with the Terminal. On the other hand, the command to accomplish this is kind of long and unwieldy so an app may make sense for some people.

On that note, you can save this command in a separate text file if you wish to use it from time to time, by pressing Command+S in the Terminal or clicking on the Shell menu and selecting “Export Text As”.

This will save the Terminal’s output, which you can then copy and paste into the command line anytime you want to employ this trick.

Finally, be advised that if you use an older Mac with a slower GPU, then you might experience a bit of a slowdown, especially if you’re using a particularly intensive screensaver. It’s just something to keep in mind, particularly if you’re trying to get some work done and it seems like your computer just can’t keep up.

Born and brainwashed as an Ohio State Buckeye, Matt Klein fancies himself a modern-day jack-of-all-trades; favorite conversation starters include operating systems, Android, BBQ, quantum physics, and roller skating.

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