I took a picture to add to my account on Mac.

Now I want to use it on messenger, but I can't find it. On the account config, it's too small. I need to find the original.

Where are the accout pictures stored on a Mac?

9 Answers 9


Mac OS X 10.5+ stores user's account pictures within the Directory Service with the exception of an account that has not modified their user picture from when first created. When first created an account contains a 'Picture' attribute in their user record that is a path to the image in question. This can be read using the dscl command (dscl . -read /Users/${USER} Picture).

If a user has modified their user picture at any time the account picture (aka cropped version if appropriate), it is stored in the 'JPEGPhoto' attribute of their user record.

Original files can be found at /Library/User Pictures if you're looking for an Apple provided picture, while your personal original files should be found at ~/Library/Images/iChat Recent Pictures/. If the files are ever removed from the iChat Recent Pictures folder, it will not affect your user account's image whatsoever.

If you wish to extract a version of your account picture you can do so by running the following command

dscl . -read /Users/${USER} JPEGPhoto | tail -1 | xxd -r -p > ${HOME}/Desktop/accountImage.jpg

The resolution can vary, depending on the original size of the photo and what version of the operating system you're using when it is saved.

If you are running Mac OS X 10.4, my memory is failing me as I don't recall if the user picture was stored in NetInfo or not.

  • 1
    Strange, my custom user picture is NOT situated in ~/Library/Images/iChat Recent Pictures. Commented Oct 17, 2009 at 8:03
  • @Uwe Honekamp - If that folder is ever cleared out it doesn't help as the actual image is stored in the JPEGPhoto attribute of your user record.
    – Chealion
    Commented Oct 17, 2009 at 16:55
  • 2
    I used this command: -read /Users/short_username JPEGPhoto | tail -1 | xxd -r -p > /PATH/TO/accountImage.jpg Ty Chealion
    – Zote
    Commented Oct 18, 2009 at 1:36
  • 12
    Just go straight to dscl . -read /Users/short_username JPEGPhoto | tail -1 | xxd -r -p > /PATH/TO/accountImage.jpg -- works as advertised, just that you get a 256x256 px version of your account picture. :) Commented Jun 29, 2012 at 14:00
  • 1
    @MariusButuc: My home computer gives me a 96x96 px version of a very old picture, but on my work computer it gives me the 512x512 px version of one of Apple's default pictures. I'm unsure what and where decides what sized is actually saved.
    – Chealion
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 6:23

I was having difficulty finding the account picture cache on Mountain Lion 10.8.3. They were not found in



~/Library/Images/iChat Recent Pictures/

Presumably this is because iChat became Messages in Mountain LionSo I used the command line tool fs_usage to find them. By running the command

sudo fs_usage -w | grep .tiff

And then clicking and setting a new account picture you can see the path to the file that is written to disk when you change account pictures.

Turns out that in mountain lion 10.8.3 the recent account pictures have moved to:

   ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.ImageKit.RecentPictureService/Data/Library/Images/Recent Pictures/
  • 3
    ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.ImageKit.RecentPictureService/Data/Library/Images/Recent Pictures/ worked for Mavericks
    – tolitius
    Commented Nov 16, 2013 at 20:21
  • Also Yosemite. Nice thing about this solution is that you just need access to the filesystem, not the live Directory Service.
    – Poulsbo
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 16:58
  • This seems to be the correct answer for more recent OSX versions Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 1:12
  • Confirming it works on El Capitan too.
    – Lloeki
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 7:04
  • Confirmed on OS X Yosemite Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 14:37

I found the default pictures in /Library/User Pictures

There are six subdirectories under this directory. You can put your own set of pictures in as part of the default collection.

Create a new empty subdirectory with your name and since this is a directory outside your account and can be accessed by any user, you will have to enter your administrator password.

Then copy and paste your pictures to this new subdirectory, again entering your admin password.

Your own pictures should now show up in the default collection. Then you will have to go into the contacts app and change your photo. Then go into the Users and Groups under system preferences and change the photos. To change the photos select edit and then default and then scroll down.

  • Worked for me. Why is this so out of the way!?
    – TJ Biddle
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 3:13
  • The key for me was to kill the Settings app then restart it after adding the photo to /Library/User Pictures Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 15:15

On Mac OS X 10.8.2 Mountain Lion, they exist as files that are a mix of jpegs and tiffs on my Mac. Thus, they can be copied to another location.

The full set of user photos are in two different locations. However, the user photo in question, does not necessarily correlate with the respective user folder. So it's a bit quirky.

Look at: Macintosh HD/Users/user0/Library/Images/iChat Recent Pictures/ By 'user0' I refer to the name of the first-defined user on the system (see below context). In this location are 3 user photos, for 3 of my 4 users. 3 jpegs, all good quality. Intriguingly, it is for all users except for user0. The jpegs are called the exact names as follows: 'Recent 1.jpg', 'Recent 2.jpg' and 'Recent 3.jpg'

For user0, this photo is in: Macintosh HD/Library/Caches/ It is a tiff, poor quality. The tiff is called exactly 'com.apple.user501picturecache.tiff'

Importantly, here is the system context to above: - An Apple iMac 20" early 2009 which originally ran Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard - The first-defined user was user0. Nor the name, nor the photo, have been changed. - All other users followed shortly after. Again, nor the names nor, nor the photos, have been changed. - It has been updated with every new Mac OS X when released. - Currently running Mac OS X 10.8.2 Mountain Lion.

Note: When I updated to Lion I recall that the user0 photo did not look so good at login. It looked poorer quality. So something happened there. I expect that Lion rearranged where the photos were and did something to the photos - I have no proof of this, it's just a hunch.


That's the way to find it on OS X 10.8.3:

~/Library/Containers/com.apple.ImageKit.RecentPictureService/Data/Library/Images/Recent Pictures/

  • No such directory on my 10.8.3
    – mmmmmm
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 9:38
  • @Mark Interesting...following the given path, I do find it on my 10.8.3
    – Ruskes
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 10:32
  • I am on a Mac Mini with no camera so picture was copied from a file. I found a copy in /Library/Caches/com.apple.user501pictureCache.tiff
    – mmmmmm
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 10:39
  • 1
    @Mark – Yes, I think that folder is just for the images taken with camera.
    – Wolfango
    Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 14:41

Building upon all the previous answers here is mine:

dscl . -read ~$USER JPEGPhoto | xxd -p -r > $USER.jpg

Also here is something mostly original I have found:

sudo plutil -convert xml1 -o - /var/db/dslocal/nodes/Default/users/$USER.plist |
    vim '+/>j/+3,/>j//<\/d/-1j | .!base64 -D > $USER.jpg' '+q!' -

Even if it is way more complicated it can be useful, because plutil is also available on other platforms. It converts the binary plist with the user info to xml, then uses vim to select the part with the picture and finally decodes it from base64 into jpg.

  • 2
    This is actually the only answer that helped me find the original profile picture (literally taken in the Apple Store when I bought the Mac in 2012; now on 10.15). The file /var/db/dslocal/nodes/Default/users/[username].plist, which can only be accessed when you're in superuser mode (using sudo), is a plist with a key jpegphoto whose value is the base64-encoded profile picture. Why was this answer on -1 when I found it? Re-upvoting!
    – Jim Danner
    Commented Jan 17, 2022 at 9:59
  • 1
    Same here, the only answer that helped me find the original profile picture, also literally taken in the Apple Store when I bought the Mac in 2012! :-) Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 18:34

Running Snow Leopard 10.6.8

I have found my captured picture for user login at the following location. Both the original and the cropped were found in ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.iChat/Pictures


Take a look in ~/Library/Images/iChat/Recent Pictures.


If you click on the icon in the "Accounts" preference page a context menu appears that offers "Edit picture ..." as the top-most option. This opens a dialog that - at least in my case - shows a larger version of my user icon. I guess for the specific purpose of creating a messenger icon it would be feasible to simply screen-shot this picture.

Admittedly, without having the technical background to answer the actual question I'm really not sure whether the actual user icons are stored in a regular file. If this file were located inside your user account (i.e. ˜/Library) the preference page would have to crawl deeply in your account for displaying the icon if another user merely opens the "Account" preference page.

If, OTOH, the file were be stored somewhere in /Library it would probably be difficult to set the icon individually for each user who doesn't have administrator rights. Someone else shed some light on this, please.

  • 1
    User details are stored in Directory Service (accesible for dscl - .plist files stored at /var/db/dslocal)
    – Chealion
    Commented Oct 17, 2009 at 6:22

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