How to Change Your Mac's Default Screenshot Directory

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Screenshots can prove a fundamentally important way of explaining what's going on with your Mac. Those images are saved to the desktop by default, though, so making many screenshots can clutter your space (and waste system resources).1520613578359

One warning: Do not delete the folder you select for screenshots unless you've repeated the process below, using the same Terminal command. If that folder is deleted, you're going to have problems.

If you want to switch things back in future so that images are saved on your desktop again, simply input the Terminal command as above, but for step 6 and 7, use the command "defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Desktop"

Here's how to change where they go:

1. Click Command+N to open a new Finder window.001

2. Click Command+Shift+N to create a new folder, where your screenshots will go. Keep this window open, and hit Command+1 to make sure it's in Grid mode.002 3255071520613451

3. Hit Command+Space to open Spotlight.003

4. Type "terminal" and select Terminal.004 3255071520613451

5. Ignoring the quotation marks, type "defaults write com.apple.screencapture location " making sure to enter the space at the end after 'location'.005 3255071520613451

6. Drag the folder you made into the Terminal window. The system directory path to the folder will appear.006 3255071520613452

7. Click Enter.007 3255071520613451

Now, your screenshots will appear in this folder.

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Again, a warning: Do not delete the folder you select for screenshots unless you've repeated the process below, using the same Terminal command. If that folder is deleted, you're going to have problems.

If you want to switch things back in future so that images are saved on your desktop again, simply input the Terminal command as above, but for step 6 and 7, use the command "defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Desktop"

macOS Guide

Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
After graduating from Bard College a B.A. in Literature, Henry T. Casey worked in publishing and product development at Rizzoli and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively. Henry joined Tom's Guide and LAPTOP having written for The Content Strategist, Tech Radar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time between going to live concerts, listening to too many podcasts, and mastering his cold brew coffee process. Content rules everything around him.
Henry T. Casey, on
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15 comments
  • Sonsarae Says:

    I followed the steps, even opened a Finder window to my Pictures to follow the demonstration and it will not work. In grid view, brought up the terminal and typed in the east words on the screen (with appropriate spaces), the screenshots still emerge on my desktop. I have a MacBook without the CD drive, so maybe the commands are different.

  • AlliOop Says:

    I did this just as you wrote a few months ago, and it worked without any other restart or commands. I had the folder on my desktop, and recently moved all my desktop folders into another folder including my new screenshot folder- oops! No problem, though - all my screen shots start going back to my desktop. That is when I noticed it. So not sure what problems it will cause to delete the folder, but moving didn't seem to hurt much, only needed to redo the command. Thanks for the tip!

  • READ THIS: Says:

    All the steps above will not take effect until you do the following AFTER STEP 7:

    Type the following to make sure the change take effect:
    killall SystemUIServer

  • Tom McMahon Says:

    Great guide - Much appreciated!

  • emasse Says:

    Thank you! This was really helpful

  • Sabaah Says:

    Super straight forward instructions with a great visual guide! Thanks :)

  • MikeT Says:

    Thanks! (No need to restart my Mac, btw.)

  • Nik Lad Says:

    the change won’t take effect until you restart your Mac, or, since we have Terminal open, we can tell the system user interface server to restart. We will do this by issuing the Terminal command below. Don’t forget the triple-click trick.

  • Petra Says:

    Hey, just thought I might help people when it doesn't work - for me, the system looked like all is working, but it wasn't. After dragging the folder, extra space was added, so try deleting it and then hit enter :) Works for me now!

  • NotSoTechie Cris Says:

    This works! I just pointedly followed through each step. Now, looking forward to a cleaner desktop. Can't belief how crazy it was before this. Multiple photos all over. Arrrrrgh. Thanks, Henry!

  • Jackson Says:

    For Shepp and others having problems the author leaves out a very important statement in the directions. After you type the location command ("defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ") DO NOT hit enter. Most anytime a command is given to input in Terminal you naturally hit enter. He left this exception out. That command is waiting for the location which it gets by dragging the folder to Terminal. Only hit enter after both of these things are done.

  • Emily Chilton Says:

    Amazing! Worked like a charm! Now I can screenshot without my desktop getting crazy covered.
    Thank you SO much! <3

  • WolfSpirit Says:

    Just for the record, the statement "Do not delete the folder you select for screenshots ... If that folder is deleted, you're going to have problems." is false. I've accidentally deleted my screenshot folder about a million times. It simply reverts back to saving onto the desktop with no further input. At least as of Sierra 10.12.6

  • Shepp Says:

    I get an error, too-
    "Rep argument is not a dictionary
    Defaults have not been changed."

  • Jonathan Says:

    Hi, thanks for the guide. Unfortunately, it seems that there's a missing step after Step 6. We need to type in "killall SystemUIServer" after defining the save location, otherwise nothing's going to happen. Hope this is in order. Thank you.

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