In macOS Sonoma, Apple introduced dynamic desktop wallpapers, but not everyone may find them appealing. If you wish to remove these new additions from your Mac, here’s a guide on how to do it.
The Mac has allowed users to change their desktop background for decades, dating back to the original Mac.
With the launch of macOS 14 Sonoma in 2023, Apple included the option to set dynamic or animated wallpapers as your desktop. While this is a cool feature, it can consume additional storage space on your Startup Disk and put an increased processing load on your Mac.
For various reasons, you might want to delete the dynamic wallpapers from your Mac, especially if you don’t use them.
Setting in System Settings
You can choose your desktop wallpaper in the macOS System Settings app by accessing it from the Apple menu at System Settings and then selecting Wallpapers from the list on the left.
This menu offers a range of wallpaper options, including built-in or custom static images, dynamic wallpapers (similar to screensavers), or solid colors. You can also configure wallpapers to shuffle or cycle through different combinations.
To set a wallpaper as your Mac’s desktop, click on a thumbnail image in System Settings. The chosen wallpaper will be downloaded from Apple’s servers—a departure from previous macOS versions where wallpapers were built-in.
Wallpapers that haven’t been downloaded yet will have a small downward-pointing arrow below their thumbnails.
During the download, a small circular progress indicator will appear at the top of the wallpapers pane. It’s worth noting that dynamic wallpapers take up more storage space than static ones and may take longer to download.
Where are dynamic wallpapers stored?
After downloading, Apple’s dynamic wallpapers are stored on your Startup Disk in /Library/Application Support/com.apple.idleassetsd/Customer – which comprises multiple folders with coded names.
com.apple.idleassetsd also houses tiny thumbnail preview images and a small SQLite database file for all the assets.
Once downloaded, each wallpaper resides in one of the named folders mentioned above, and you can open each folder to view the assets inside. Each dynamic wallpaper is essentially a QuickTime (MPEG or HEVC) movie file.
In fact, you can open each movie file in macOS’s QuickTime Player app to play them. If you select Window->Show Movie Inspector from QuickTime Player’s menu bar, you can view details about each movie file, including its encoding, resolution, data rate, aspect ratio, and various other video format technical details.
The asset folders are organized by resolution—so depending on which wallpapers get downloaded, some of the folders may be empty. Generally, the folders with the largest storage sizes are the ones where the downloaded assets are stored.
If you download most of the Apple wallpapers at medium resolutions, the disk space used can be significant – around 1GB or more.
Deleting wallpapers from your macOS Sonoma
Since the wallpaper download folders aren’t system-protected, you can remove any wallpapers from the storage folders. If you no longer want wallpapers you downloaded earlier, simply open the asset folders and drag the .mov files to the Trash in the Dock.
Alternatively, you can select the .mov files you want to delete in Finder and then press Command+delete on your Mac’s keyboard.
Once the files are in the Trash, select Empty Trash from the Finder menu. This action deletes the .mov files and frees up the storage space they occupy.
It’s advisable to close the System Settings app before removing any downloaded wallpapers from your system.
Restart Wallpaper Services
To update the user interface of the System Settings app and notify it of download activities, macOS employs a background service known as “Wallpaper (System Settings).”
After removing wallpapers from your Mac, it’s crucial to restart the Wallpaper services to restore the System Settings UI to its accurate state and update the actual desktop appearance.
To initiate this process, ensure that System Settings is closed. Then, open the /Utilities/Activity Monitor app by double-clicking it in the Finder and type “Wallpaper” into the search box at the top of the main window.
In the results, you’ll find five items, including two system extensions, two services, and one background process or daemon. The ones you need are named “Wallpaper” and “Wallpaper (System Settings).”
The first service monitors and alters the actual desktop wallpaper in the Finder, while the other manages the wallpaper display in the System Settings app.
After deleting your wallpaper files, select the “Wallpaper” service in Activity Monitor and click the small button in the toolbar with the “X” to stop the Wallpaper service.
macOS will automatically restart the Wallpaper service upon noticing the service has stopped. When it does, the default desktop in the Finder will be restored if the deleted wallpaper was in use.
Repeat the same process for the “Wallpaper (System Settings)” service. This action stops the service responsible for managing the UI in the Wallpaper pane in the System Settings app and restarts it automatically.
Upon reopening the System Settings app, you’ll observe that the user interface has been reset to the correct state, matching the condition of the downloaded wallpapers on disk. Thumbnails of deleted wallpapers will be reset to the correct state.
While live wallpapers on Mac add a cool feature, if you prefer not to use them, you can save substantial disk space by deleting them.