A description of all System Preferences in Mac OS X

A description of all System Preferences
Note: absolute beginners are advised to skip this at first.


At 'Highlight color':

You can also choose how big the icons in the Side Bar have to be, and when scroll bars need to behave.

Choose what you like, or choose a color:

You can also choose your own photographs from your Pictures folder.

and Screen Saver

Regarding Screen Saver (the movie that plays when your Mac's is bored), choosing for the Sleep option is much more energy efficient. Options for Sleep are to find in the 'Energy Saver' preference panel.


The row filled with icons. Apple calls those icons ‘Docklings’...

Mission Control
Indicate here which keys or mouse clicks you can use to show, for example, all open program windows or can get an overview of all documents that are open. More about Mission Control in the Finder chapter.

Language & Region

You oversea love comes to visit? Do you prefer working in French ? Here you can change the system Language. Log out to make the change visible.

Under the Text tab, you can also turn off the (annoying?) automatic spelling correction function. Check off 'Correct spelling automatically'.
This is also the place to correct the use of quotes and dashes.

Note: Within programs themselves there are often options for spell checking.

Security and privacy

Settings regarding security and privacy can be found here. More details in the chapters Security and Privacy.


Spotlight is the speedy local search engine of Mac OS. Where and what should and shouldn't it find ? More in Software chapter and the sub-chapter Privacy.

Settings for the latest news in real time on your screen. This may be a message in your calendar, a new email that has arrived or someone who wants to chat with you.

A report of 'Notifications':

Cd’s en dvd’s
What should happen when you insert a blank / full CD or DVD ? Set it here. Burning is integrated into Mac OS. More about burning in Software section.

Where is the cd burn program?
Switchers: Stop searching for a burn program on your Mac!
Burning is integrated into MacOS!

Brightness and resolution.

Calibration (for printers and designers):

Note: If you use two displays with your Mac, you can specify how the Desktop should behave and where the menu bar should be set.

Energy Saver
Sleep or off makes little difference for a 27 " iMac from 2011: 0.45 Watt vs. 1.36 Watt.
But letting the screen power down quickly results in big energy saving: 42.5 watts (off ) to 104 watts (on)!

At the Text section you'll find the automatic spell control settings.

You can also find Shortcuts here, for example to make Screen shots:

MacMiep uses a small Logitech laptop mouse. You are not obliged to work with Apple's Mouse.

MacBook users can see what their Trackpad can do here. Take a good look at the movies to find out how to work with your trackpad:

Printing and Scanning
Installing printers and scanners can be found in the Software chapter.


Choose your warning signal, input / output device and microphone. For the internal microphone: here you can control the volume of the recording and also choose whether ambient noise is to be reduced.

Note: In case you use an external audio device (USB preamp or -microphone), it will also appear here.

Service from Apple for exchanging data between your mobile devices.

You do need an Apple ID to use iCloud services
You can choose which services you wan to use. Please take notice that Apple is an U.S. based company that has to comply to the Patriot Act rules. No total privacy!

Internet Accounts
Here are included settings such as MS Exchange, Email and Gmail.

Note: Advanced setup for email has to be done in your email program. = > More in the Internet chapter.

Gmail and Google+
Gmail and other Google services, you can also set here.

Here you 'll find all your (wirelesss) internet modem settings, and settings for local or wide area networks. More details in the Internet and Network chapters.


This is a way to communicate with mice and keyboards. You see in the white field the BT devices that are available.
Click on the device to make contact.

Under Advanced... you can find additional options:

Note: You can also find in the upper right of the menu bar an icon that leads you to the Bluetooth System Preferences:

Here you will find the settings for sharing files, printers, and scanners. More about this in Chapter Network.

Users and Groups
Here you can change your password, create new users and specify what they can or cannot do. Multiple account creation is particularly useful when you use one Mac within a family. More in chapter User = > Users section.

Parental Controls
Determine when family members may use the Mac, at what hours of the day and how many, and what they can or can't do: chapter User = > Users section.

App Store
Checks if there are improvements to the software you use. This applies to all Apple software and also for printers. You can choose whether your Mac downloads automatically and in the background yes (default) or no. You will automatically be notified when there's an update.

NOTE: Better keep the default setting on.

Dictation and Speech
Command your Mac at Dictation,

and let him talk back to you with Text to Speech.

Date and Time
Speaks for itself. Would you like numbers or a real clock in your menu bar?

You can also set your local time zone. Useful for distant travelers.

Startup Disk
You can optionally specify which system and which disk to boot the Mac. For example, when you're running Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp. More on this at the Switching chapter.

Time Machine
The automatic backup program in Mac OS. Use it!!
More in Chapter Problems => Time Machine sub chapter.

For people who have bad vision, hearing or motor skills, this is the place to be.
You can, for example, instead of a warning signal to get a flickering screen, your screen to display grayscale or negative image (Invert colors) or to magnify at Zoom.

In addition, the Mac also read files and reports. Choose Open VoiceOver Utility for specific settings.

Numeric keyboard
In case you use a large (non standard) keyboard with a numeric keyboard attached, you can use the numbers as a replacement for your mouse.
In default, you can use those numbers as numbers. Do you want to use it otherwise, visit the Accessibility prefs.

Additional System Preferences
After installing some software or hardware there may appear additional System Preferences.
For example, MacMiep uses an external USB sound card made by Line 6.

Disclaimer: MacMiep is independent. This means she writes what she wants, based on 25+ years of Mac-experience. She doesn't get paid for stories (positive or negative) on this website.