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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.

4 Answers 4

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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.

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  • Awesome! thanks! ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.desktop.plist is what I was looking for. And I'm still on snow leopard.
    – Daniel
    Aug 5, 2011 at 0:28
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    I'm not seeing this file on mavericks, any other ideas? Mar 11, 2015 at 4:12
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    That plist file doesn't seem to exist any more.
    – nroose
    Jul 24, 2020 at 16:53
  • Correct.. plist and Desktop folder no longer exists in Big Sur. Feb 10, 2022 at 18:44
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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 \
    'SELECT * FROM data ORDER BY rowID DESC LIMIT 1;'
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4

As of Catalina (MacOS 10.15.5) and Big Sur (MacOS 11.2), I can verify that this is now the location of the desktop background images.

System/Library/Desktop Pictures

If you want to navigate to it, you can press command K and paste the text below in.

file://System/Library/Desktop%20Pictures

1.4 GB too. : [

You'll need to turn off System Integrity if you wish to give write privs to that folder so that you can remove any of these images.

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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, 2014 at 12:16
  • 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. Jun 26, 2014 at 23:01
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    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, 2019 at 17:05

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