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How to Customize System Preferences on Mac and Remove App Panes


Experienced Mac users know that many applications and utilities contain a preference pane component. It means that upon being installed on Apple computer, such apps create associated panes by adding icons to the System Preferences window. macOS reserves the first few rows of the System Preferences window to place its own settings.

how to access system preferences

Typically, third-party preference panes are added to the ‘Other’ category though there may be no clear indication or label. Such panes are located at the bottom of the window, and often they remain there even after the related application has been deleted. Learning how to remove preference panes on Mac will help you prevent clutter in your System Preferences window.

How to Find System Preferences on Mac

Mac computers store System Preferences in two places. Personal preference panes are located in the home folder and can only be accessed by a particular Mac user. Meanwhile, public preference panes are kept in the system library folder and can be accessed by any user having a profile on your Mac.

  • To access the personal preference panes, use the path ~/YourHomeFolderName/Library/PreferencePanes.
  • To discover the public preference panes, use the path ~/Library/PreferencePanes.

As soon as you learn which folder contains the needed preference pane, you can use Finder to access that folder directly. Please mind, the Library folder may be hidden on a Mac by default. Experienced Mac users can run Terminal commands to show hidden folders and files. Less experienced users can try special apps to access the hidden files. Mac beginners can start with basics and access System Preferences from Apple menu -> System Preferences. Or, by clicking the ‘System Preferences’ icon in the Dock.

The System Preferences window has all options organized into separate preferences. Typically, they appear as a grid of icons. To access a particular preference pane, click the needed icon. For instance, if you’re looking for settings that control the look of your macOS desktop, you can find them in ‘Desktop & Screen Saver’ preferences. All available settings are laid out in rows by category. To arrange them in alphabetical order, choose View -> Organize Alphabetically.

How to Set Preference Pane Options

Every single preference pane has options a Mac user can tweak at his own discretion. The majority of panes have a Help button to provide more information about its particular options. At the same time, there are locked preference panes indicated by a closed lock icon. Locked preference panes have dimmed options for Mac’s security and protection. Mac users can unlock the locked pane to make settings. Just click the lock icon and type in the administrator password for your Mac.

How to Remove System Preference Panes in Mac

There is a universal method that works for all types of preference panes, personal or public. To delete a chosen preference pane, go to System Preferences window. Right-click on the needed preference pane icon, then select “Remove X Preference Pane” from the drop-down menu.

removing mac preferences

If this doesn’t work for you, there is an option to deal with a specific preference pane manually. For instance, take public preference panes located in ~/Library/PreferencePanes. To access the folder, open your startup disk in the Finder, find the Library folder, and then go to the PreferencePanes folder. Look through the files in this folder and delete the unwanted preference pane by dragging it to the Trash. Mac users have to be careful and make sure to delete the correct folders. Removing any of the Apple System Preference Panes can cause severe damage to macOS and hinder its performance.

preference panes

What if a Mac user chooses not to remove the preference panes left after the related app has been uninstalled? Eventually, your System Preferences folder will get overcrowded with icons, and it will be less comfortable to find particular settings. If that's the case, you can use macOS Spotlight search built into the System Preferences to detect the needed preference pane.

Just type the approximate name of the needed parameter into the Spotlight search bar. For instance, if you want to change the wallpaper on your Mac’s desktop, enter “wallpaper” into the search field. After that, the system will display the preference pane relevant to desktop wallpaper settings.

Bottom Line

Every Mac user can master the skill of system preference customization. Removing the unwanted preference panes as well as setting the needed ones can help to customize the macOS look and feel. Users can try a standard way of preference pane removal or go deeper to delete particular personal or public preference panes.

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