Where does OS X store your current desktop picture? I read somewhere else that it was in /Library/Caches/com.apple.Desktop. But I don't have that directory.


Starting in Lion, I don't think Lion caches desktop pictures anymore (possibly because you can have multiple at a time, for different desktops/spaces).

In that case, use plutil -p to dump the binary plist file in text form using terminal:

 plutil -p ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.desktop.plist

The Apple delivered desktop images are stored in /Library/Desktop Pictures , so you can eliminate those (or seek those if you used an Apple picture for one or more spaces). Before Lion, the preference file that controls desktop images is text format any to find out the current image, open ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.desktop.plist in a text editor and find the first ImageFilePath property. That will tell you the path to the current desktop image.

  • Awesome! thanks! ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.desktop.plist is what I was looking for. And I'm still on snow leopard. – Daniel says Reinstate Monica Aug 5 '11 at 0:28
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    I'm not seeing this file on mavericks, any other ideas? – Chris Smith Mar 11 '15 at 4:12

In current versions of macOS (at least in Mojave, probably since Sierra, not sure about others) the location of the desktop pictures are stored in a SQLite database located at ~/Library/Application Support/Dock/desktoppicture.db.

I did not dig into details of the database structure but you can get the file path with this command:

sqlite3 -readonly ~/Library/Application\ Support/Dock/desktoppicture.db \
  • I just confirmed that this is true at least since High Sierra. – zachjs Jun 1 '19 at 2:42
  • This worked for me except I used 'SELECT * FROM data ;' – DrKumar Dec 17 '19 at 22:22

If you just go into system preference, then desktop. you can simple click and drag the little image you have onto your desktop.

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    This doesn't say where the photo is stored, just that you can copy it somewhere else. – grg Apr 11 '14 at 12:16
  • That's a helpful tip because I just wanted to backup my current desktop file. Also it provides you the exact filename, so you can search the filesystem and find the original location. The other methods didn't work for me with High Sierra – Donn Lee Aug 27 '19 at 17:05

It does allow you to retrieve the image if that is what you want. Also once you drag it to your desktop you'll know the filename and then you can use Spotlight to search for the original copy, thus finding the location that you stored it in.

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