OS X how to set screensaver as wallpaper on mac guide

Anyone who said you had to deal with a boring still wallpaper on your Mac was crazy; well… kind of.

Using just your Terminal app that comes pre-installed in OS X and a special command, it’s possible to set your favorite Mac screensaver as your wallpaper for a temporary period of time.

In this short and easy tutorial, we’ll show you exactly how that’s done.

Setting your screensaver as your Mac’s wallpaper

From the Terminal app, you can use a command to set your Mac’s current screensaver as the wallpaper for as long as the Terminal app is running the command.

This does mean the change isn’t permanent, but it’s still a cool thing to do and can help you keep the screen’s pixels moving for the most part while you’re idle without having your Mac go full-screen with the screensaver instead.

Having said that, here are the steps to set your screensaver as your wallpaper (as temporary as it may be):

1) Launch the Terminal app on your Mac and enter the following command, then press the Return key on your keyboard to activate the command:

/System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Resources/ScreenSaverEngine.app/Contents/MacOS/ScreenSaverEngine -background

terminal command screensaver as wallpaper on OS X

2) Keep the Terminal app running for as long as you want this screensaver to remain on your Desktop as the wallpaper.

When you quit the Terminal app, or use the Control + C keyboard combination, the wallpaper will return to its normal wallpaper image.

Cool screensaver, what is it?

We covered this screensaver a while ago – my screensaver is an animation created by Ramus Neilson called WatchOSX based off of the Apple Watch face and it keeps time accordingly. It’s free to download and comes with a variety of different watch faces to choose from.

Of course, this Terminal command works with any screensaver, whether it’s one that comes with your Mac out of the box, or a third-party screensaver you’ve downloaded and set up on your Mac.


This Terminal command is more of a party trick than a permanent solution, since it won’t actually keep the screensaver as your wallpaper forever, but it’s still a cool concept. Perhaps some day in the future, Apple will enable live wallpapers on the Mac so we can have movement right on our Desktops.


Did you find this command interesting? Share in the comments.

  • Gregg

    Ok, that was cool.

  • Ángel Javier Esquivel

    Now, we need to find a way to keep the screen saver running while Terminal is closed

    • Scotow

      Use it like this “screen -dm [command]”

  • I really do hope Apple will let us use live wallpapers. Should be too hard on the battery for MacBooks.

  • I just tried this but I’m getting this “No Videos” messages. Any help?

  • This is so cool! Now if we only didn’t need Terminal to be open 24/7.

    • Scotow

      Check my comment just above.

  • MinkShoals

    Looks like my previous post got deleted because it included code. But if you want this to run without keeping terminal open, create an applescript and save it as an application. Then you can run the app as a login item.

    • triggerhappypunk

      i like this idea! if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind posting the steps required? sorry, i’m not familiar with scripts, any help would be appreciated, thanks.

      • KingR

        I would also like to know the steps. Thanks

  • Michael Firestine

    Maybe you could launch the command with nohup and also background the process by ending the process with a & to keep it open 24/7?

  • Adam

    Works beautifully with the Apple TV screensaver videos!

    • Mr.Coolfreak

      It made by Macbook Pro (2015) lag and definitely affects battery life

      • Adam

        I’m not disagreeing about the impact to battery life but I didn’t really notice any lag while it was on. There was a delay for it to start up but after that it went smoothly.

        Setup is a 2012 non-Retina MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM and 500GB SSD. Videos were cached, not streamed.

  • triggerhappypunk

    really appreciate you taking the time to write this up, thank you!

  • Starfall88

    Nice one

  • Robert Goldberg

    This is exactly what I wanted! Thank you!