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?


5 Answers 5


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).

  • 2
    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, 2012 at 20:12
  • This pasting nor dragging a JPG does not work for me (OSX 10.9.2).
    – gosuto
    May 12, 2014 at 7:48
  • 1
    You also need to have enabled changes by clicking the padlock icon so that it's open. Aug 5, 2014 at 0:12
  • 2
    WOW. As a user coming from Windows 10 all I can say is WOW.
    – Micro
    May 18, 2016 at 20:50
  • 2
    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.
    – Alexander
    Jan 3, 2020 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, 2018 at 7:11
  • This works on macOS Ventura 13.1. I put a .png file in /Library/User Pictures, closed and re-opened System Settings and was able to see and choose the photo in "Suggestions".
    – user98513
    Jan 18, 2023 at 23:55
  • Just a quick 2024 note. I just used this to find an original Avatar picture I use everywhere, which was great. It was interesting to see they've now moved everything to HEIC format, no more TIFF files.
    – mjuarez
    Apr 27 at 4:51

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, 2021 at 21:50

Heads Up,

I was upset when I took a screen shot and the dimensions were not allowing me to paste it using the instructions above.


Step 1: ) Make sure the photo is not too rectangular.

Step 2: ) Open in Preview and export to jpeg.

Step 3: ) If the photo is too obtuse you can do a screen shot of a screen shot.

Step 4: ) Drag the photo onto the existing photo that is presently there.

  • In Sierra 10.12.6 I found that the image needed to be equal dimensions and saved as a jpeg so that the avatar could fit and be recognized and display properly then I could zoom in and out as needed.

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