I just got Mountain Lion. On previous versions of OS X, I could choose a photo from the filesystem as my account avatar. This doesn't seem possible under the Users & Groups section of System Preferences.

Screen Shot

Any ideas on how to do this?


I haven't found a way to choose a photo from that popup dialog, but you can add one by dragging an image file onto the picture itself (that dialog may have to be closed for this to work).

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    That's the way I did it, worked fine. But, I agree with stantonk, there needs to be a way to add an image through a dialog associated with that pop down menu. – Richard Sep 2 '12 at 20:12
  • This pasting nor dragging a JPG does not work for me (OSX 10.9.2). – jorijnsmit May 12 '14 at 7:48
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    You also need to have enabled changes by clicking the padlock icon so that it's open. – Andrew Swan Aug 5 '14 at 0:12
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    WOW. As a user coming from Windows 10 all I can say is WOW. – Micro May 18 '16 at 20:50
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    Thanks, you've saved me a lot of time! At least roughly 8 yrs later, in 2020 I'd expected an option to add a custom directory to choose pictures from. Just like it's possible for the wallpaper. – AMartinNo1 Jan 3 '20 at 8:27

You can either drag and drop an image file into the avatar selector "well" (next to the Change Password button) or copy and paste image data (open your photo in Preview, Select All, Copy. You will have to click the avatar selector first so that it's focused (has the blue border around it) before you Paste.


I did find the actual folder where they are stored

Click on your hard drive/library/User Pictures

I created another folder there for my custom pics and they show up just fine.

  • Yes that's right /Library/User Pictures but it seems like they have to be .tif files to be recognized. Did you manage to get .png or .jpg to show up in the Avatar pane Default area? I've had no luck. – chrips Aug 15 '18 at 7:11

To expand upon what Andrew Swan and Jonathan Poh have said,

  1. Open an image in Preview and select the desired region you want for your avatar enter image description here and Copy it.
  2. Open System Preferences enter image description here
  3. Open Users & Groups enter image description here
  4. Unlock the Panel if it is locked! enter image description here
  5. Click your user icon enter image description here
  6. Paste and adjust the zoom as desired enter image description here

NOTE: Drag and Drop DOES work but only when you drag the image onto the Users & Groups window, over the user's avatar (Seen in picture from Step 5). I kept trying to drag the picture into the edit pane (Like in picture from Step 6)

  • Thanks for the careful explanation of the trick, which worked with Catalina. – Paul Price Jan 22 at 21:50

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