It’s Easier Than You Think

It’s Easier Than You Think

Some might argue that a Live Wallpaper (a moving desktop background) is a waste of your Mac’s processing power. We can admit that might be the case, but they’re also a lot of fun!

It used to be difficult to get a Live Wallpaper on a Mac, but it’s much easier these days.

From apps that provide them to making your own, we’ve outlined several ways to get yourself an animated desktop below, so you always have something interesting to look at when you’re taking a break on your Mac.

1. Try the Built-in Dynamic Desktops

Dynamic desktop options in System Preferences

If you head to System Preferences > Desktop & Screensaver > Desktop, you’ll find a folder called Desktop Pictures under the Apple menu. Inside that you’ll find a heading for Dynamic Desktop.

Here are the built-in Live Wallpapers that Apple has included with your Mac. Most of them offer the same image but shown at different times of day.

If you click on one and set the dropdown menu to Dynamic, the background will slowly shift from day to night versions over the course of the day.

The wallpapers in Light and Dark Desktop also shift throughout the day when their dropdowns are set to Automatic.

You can also customize a dynamic desktop by clicking on the Pictures folder (or by adding another folder by clicking on the plus (+) icon), selecting an image, then checking the Change picture box.

Desktop settings with image from Picture folder selected and change picture box checked

You can set the time dropdown menu to whatever you want, from a super active background (Every 5 seconds) to one that shifts from image to image slowly (Every 30 minutes).


There are only so many built-in Live Wallpapers, but the ones that exist are really beautiful. Try these out if you want to see if you like an animated desktop background. If you don’t, you can always switch back to a still image.

2. Use Websites for Moving Wallpapers

The main page of the Satellite Eyes website

There are tons of websites out there where you can get free Live Wallpapers for your Mac.

You can start with our list of the best dynamic Mac wallpaper sites. Then check out options like Satellite Eyes, which makes your wallpaper a satellite image of your current location with a variety of map effects.

3. Use Live Wallpaper Apps

Some live wallpaper apps available in Mac App Store

Entire apps are dedicated to giving you galleries of animated and dynamic wallpapers to adorn your Mac desktop with. Many of them, like iWallpaper, allow you to simply click on a Live Wallpaper option and hit a Set as wallpaper button, so you don’t even need to open System Preferences on your Mac.

Some apps keep the Live Wallpapers simple by just having them be slow-moving animations, like Earth 3D Lite. Others, like Live Wallpapers HD & Weather, offer practical images like clocks and dynamic weather forecasts.

Most of these apps are free, though a number come with in-app purchases for particular wallpapers or payment for removing watermarks.

Still, for just a few bucks you can get some beautiful Live Wallpapers that you can install extremely easily via the Mac App Store. This is a great way to get Live Wallpapers if you’re a little tech weary and want more options than the default dynamic desktops on Mac.

Download: iWallpaper (Free, in-app purchases available)

Download: Earth 3D Lite (Free)

Download: Live Wallpapers HD & Weather (Free, in-app purchases available)

4. Make Your Own Live Wallpapers

Dynaper marketing image with quick overview of app shown and described

On top of all of these other options, you can make your own live wallpapers if you want. To do this, you can upload Live Photos you’ve taken into dynamic wallpaper sites and apps, like Dynamic Wallpaper Club and Dynaper. Then have the Live Photos become short videos that play on your desktop.

Download: Dynaper (Free, in-app purchases available)

5. Turn Screensavers Into Live Wallpapers

Terminal with screen saver command typed out open on a Mac

Many live wallpapers are Quartz animations. You’ve already got some Quartz animations on your Mac: the default screensavers. These can be made into animated wallpapers pretty easily.

First, head to System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver. In the Screen Saver tab, select an animated screen saver you like for your background.

Now open Terminal and input the following command:

/System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Resources/ -background

Hit Enter on your keyboard and your desktop should now be your screensaver! This will run until you close your Terminal window.

Live Wallpapers for Mac: Fun, Fresh, and Funky

Live Wallpapers may eat up some computing power, but they can be really pretty and soothing to look at.

If you want a little more life in your desktop wallpaper, we hope our guide will help you get it, so your Mac can remain something you’re interested in looking at.

MacBook Pro 2021 model
4 Ways to Stop Your Mac Wallpaper Changing After a Restart

Does your Mac wallpaper reset every time you reboot your Mac? Here’s how to stop it.

Read Next

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *