We have an iMac with several accounts (two admins, one normal and one parental controlled).

My son's account (the parental controlled) will not let me change the desktop wallpaper! Seriously? I even told it to allow him to run system preferences (once) and even though I chose another wallpaper image, it won't work.

SURELY there is a way to change the simple desktop wallpaper for a managed account without opening the terminal?

Thanks for any tips.

  • 1
    Turn off restrictions, change the wallpaper, turn on restrictions.
    – ughoavgfhw
    Commented May 8, 2011 at 23:51
  • I thought if that. But seems very cumbersome for something as simple as changing a wallpaper. Plus, I believe you have to reboot in order to do that. But I might be wrong on that one.
    – cbmeeks
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 3:18
  • @ughoavgfhw +1 -- Can you post your comment as an answer?
    – Austin
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 5:23
  • I can do that. But last night it asked me to reboot the computer. My son likes to play with PhotoBooth so that means that every time he wants to change it, I've got to turn off parental control, reboot, set the wallpaper, turn on PC, CONFIGURE parental control again. Granted, if this is the only way then my son will have to "suffer" with only the occasional wallpaper change. But I wonder if there is a terminal command to set it (for Stretch to Fit, for example) and a folder to store the image.
    – cbmeeks
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 13:15
  • Congratulations, your comment made me realize a better answer.
    – ughoavgfhw
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 21:22

2 Answers 2


You can set the wallpaper to automatically show images from a certain folder, switching images every X amount of time. This way, your son can put the image he wants in the proper folder and remove the old picture, and the next time it is changed it will choose the only picture there.  Use the + button to select the proper folder, change the stretching rule to fit your needs, and check the box for automatically changing the picture. If you don't set it to automatically change pictures, it will look for the last picture used and show a blank screen when it doesn't find it. You can force the image to be reloaded by logging out and back in, or by executing killall Dock from the Terminal.

  • Thanks, but this option is not available in the parental controlled accounts (especially a simple finder one). Also, when I turn off simple finder and click Preferences (Allow Once) I get to this screen but none of the settings stick. It reverts back to the Orion Nebula (or whatever that nebula is called).
    – cbmeeks
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 10:55

Have you tried making an automator application to take a dropped image and call the "Set the Desktop Picture" action? workflow application to set the Desktop Picture

Any image dropped on the icon should work once you allow the application to run.

My guess is some other problem is preventing this since I've tested several restricted accounts and all of them allow desktop pictures from the control-click, control panel as well as the application suggested above.

  • Wait, I haven't tried the Control Click! I will try that one today. Thanks
    – cbmeeks
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 10:56
  • Nope. Control click is not allowed for a managed account. I will try the automater idea. But I have to say this is pretty frustrating. I understand not changing audio drivers for a managed account but not changing your desktop image? Jeesh...
    – cbmeeks
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 11:04
  • Automater didn't work. Nothing works. Argh that is frustrating. Maybe tonight I will post screen shots of every setting so people can see what I'm doing. Thanks
    – cbmeeks
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 11:12
  • Automater works for me on 10.6 so it's not so much you don't know how to operate this functionality but that your software isn't working. Either your software has become corrupt or you have inadvertently locked this down further than a simple managed account. I tested the automator on two different macs - one 10.6.6 and one 10.6.7 - have you tried making a new account and testing or at least summarizing the details on how you have restricted this particular account. You're going to learn a bit about accounts before this is done ;-)
    – bmike
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 15:00
  • Well, I found out what caused it to stop working. I deleted his account, recreated it and set it to standard with no PC. Naturally, everything works. Then, I went into his home directory and added my account (with recursive drilldown) so that I can access his stuff. And when I logged back in, I couldn't change anything. Had to delete the account again. I've locked his account down again (PC and SimpleFinder) and I still can't change his desktop. This is a brand new iMac so I don't see how anything is corrupt.
    – cbmeeks
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 1:31

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