Anastasiia Panchenko
PR-manager, who loves to write tips for Mac and iPhone users
December 6, 2021
12 minutes to read

You can find most of the system settings on your Mac in System Preferences. By managing these settings, you can make your working process more convenient and efficient. In this article, we will explain where the Settings on a Mac are located and how to adjust them in System Preferences.

How to change mac settings


  1. What are system settings on Mac?
  2. Where are the settings on Mac?
  3. How to change the default settings on a Mac.
  4. How to customize System Preferences.
  5. How to change Finder’s settings.
  6. Where to find application settings on Mac.
  7. Mac settings that you might not need.

What are system settings on Mac?

Every operating system has a control panel where the users can configure the appearance or actions of applications and system processes. These are usually called “preferences,” “settings,” or “options.” While on Windows the settings are located in Control Panels, on macOS, you can find most settings in the System Preferences window. Also, some settings can be changed in the Preferences windows of default or third-party applications.

In System Preferences, you can set up your screen appearance, configure bluetooth, Internet, printer/scanner connections, make changes in security and privacy settings, and more.

Where are the settings on Mac?

To manage the settings on your Mac, you must first open the System Preferences app. You can reach System Preferences right from the menu bar.

Here is how to get to settings on your Mac:

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the menu bar.
  2. Select System Preferences.
  3. In the window that appears, you can manage settings of different options on your Mac. Apple menu bar

Another way to get to Mac settings is to go to the Applications folder in Finder or to the Launchpad. From there, click to open System Preferences. Also, you can search for System Preferences using the Spotlight.

If you often need to open System Preferences regularly, you can add its icon to the Dock bar for quick access.

The System Preferences icon looks like a set of interlinked cogs. Once you add System Preferences to your Dock panel, you can right-click on its icon and quickly choose the proper category of settings you wish to review.

The dock panel

Read also: How to use System Preferences on Mac.

How to change the default settings on a Mac

You can change your Mac’s default settings in System Preferences. Once you launch System Preferences, you will see a window with different categories of options.
The System Preferences window contains many various icons, each of which will lead you to a specific group of settings. Here you can manage your Apple ID, check for new software updates, change the Dock panel and Menu bar appearance, select a new desktop wallpaper, control language preferences, check the battery level, take control of extensions, change startup programs, and so on. You simply need to go into the proper category and adjust the settings as you wish.

The System Preferences window is divided into three parts. On the top, you can see your user account name and the Apple ID and Family sharing sections. Below that, in the central part of the window, you will see system settings connected with your personal usage of the device. The bottom part of the window represents the settings that will help you manage interaction with the hardware. The System preferences window In the General category, you can manage the basic settings of your Mac. Here, you can modify the screen appearance, select light or dark themes, adjust sidebar icon size, and view scrolling options. General settings window Also in the General settings section, you can change the default browser and tabs and windows preferences. By default, when you click to open a link on your Mac, the system opens it in Safari. However, you can change this if you want. Just select any installed web browser on your Mac that you want to use as the default.

How to find settings in System Preferences

If you cannot find an appropriate settings option in System Preferences, you can use its search option. This allows you to find necessary settings even if they are not mentioned in the icons’ names. To do this, type what you are searching for in the search field, and you will see a highlighted section where you can find those settings. System preferences window showing how to find certain settings

How to customize System Preferences window

You can customize System Preferences, for example, by organizing the icons in the window alphabetically or by categories. You can even remove unneeded icons from the System Preferences, for example if you don’t use a specific option and don’t want to be confused by the large variety of settings categories in this window.

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click on View in the menu bar.
  3. Select Customise.
    System preferences in menu bar
  4. Uncheck any unused categories. System preferences window showing categories

How to customize Dock & Menu bar

One more setting you can change in System Preferences is the appearance of the Dock panel. For this, do the following:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Go to the Dock & Menu bar section.
  3. Here, you can change the Dock panel size and its position on your screen, enable magnification, manage whether or not to show recent applications, and more.
System preferences window showing dock and menu bar tab To learn more interesting tricks on how to add or rearrange icons on the menu bar, read our article: “Mac menu bar: How to use and customize it.”

How to change Finder’s settings on Mac

Unlike most Mac settings, you will not find the Finder’s settings in the System Preferences window. You can change Finder’s settings in its own Preferences section.

Here is how to find and change Finder’s settings:

  1. Launch Finder.
  2. Click Finder in the menu bar and select Preferences (or use the CMD+, shortcut).
    In the window that appears, you can set up Finder preferences.

    • In the General tab, you can select which items will be shown on the desktop, and which folder will be displayed when you open a new Finder window. Finder preferences window
    • In the Sidebar tab, you can manage the folders that will appear in your sidebar. Tick the checkboxes of the items you want to be displayed in the sidebar. Finder settings window
    • In the Tags tab, you can organize files by adding tags to them. You can even choose your favourite tags for quick access in the context menu. Manage finder preferences
    • In the Advanced tab, you can manage the warnings, the position of the folders, and more. Finder window show settings

Where to find applications settings on Mac

Typically, third-party applications have their own Preferences window where you can change the settings for that app. To manage application settings, do the following:

  1. Launch your application.
  2. Click on the application name in the menu bar.
  3. Select Preferences.
  4. You will then see a window, where you can change the app’s settings.

Various applications have their own settings you can adjust. For example, in the Safari settings window, you can change your homepage, remove history items, choose the location for downloaded files, manage browser extensions, and more.

Application settings window showing general tab

Mac settings that you might not need

There are some settings on your Mac that you probably don’t need and can turn off. Moreover, some default Mac preferences can affect your device’s performance and slow down the system. Below, we will show which options you should disable to speed up your Mac.

A big number of startup programs and extensions and heavy apps eat up a significant amount of RAM memory, leading to a lack of free disk space – all this can lead to slow Mac performance. If you want to fix a slow Mac and clean up your disk from all unwanted junk files, use a special cleanup utility called MacCleaner Pro.

MacCleaner Pro allows you to remove caches, service files of already deleted apps, completely uninstall apps, find and remove duplicates, detect heavy-consumers, analyze disk space usage, and detect large unused files.

Download a free trial on MacCleaner Pro and optimize your Mac’s performance.

Disable Startup programs

Startup programs are also called login items. These automatically launch applications when you start your Mac. However, when many unneeded applications start every time you boot your Mac, it might be irritating, and moreover, it can be one of the reasons why your Mac starts to work slowly.

To remove startup programs, follow these steps:

  1. Launch System Preferences.
  2. Go to Users & Groups.
  3. Open the login items tab.
  4. Select an app and click the “Minus” button to stop it from opening automatically when you log in.
Settings window showing users and groups tab
Note: In System Preferences you can disable login items only. To take control of all startup programs and launch agents, you usually need to run each application separately and change the setting in their Preferences. Also, you can easily manage all startup programs with the help of MacCleaner Pro. This software tool allows you to disable, enable, or remove different types of startup programs. Also, with MacCleaner Pro you can detect other issues impacting your Mac’s performance and fix them.

Here is how to disable startup programs with MacCleaner Pro:

  1. Download and launch MacCleaner Pro.
  2. Go to the Speed up section.
  3. Select Startup apps.
  4. Use the toggle button to turn off unneeded apps and prevent them from starting automatically at Mac startup.
MacCleaner Pro window showing speed up tab

Turn off unneeded notifications:

A big number of notifications can be irritating, especially when you are trying to focus on your work. Moreover, when many applications are working in the background, this can drain your MacBook’s battery very quickly.

To take control of notifications and disable unneeded ones, do the following:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Go to the Notifications section.
  3. Select the app you don’t want to show you notifications.
  4. Switch the toggle button to turn off notifications for this app.
Settings window showing notifications tab

Prohibit access to your location

Most applications can track your location. If you want to to check which apps have access to your location and change the permissions for some of them, do the following:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Go to the Security & Privacy section.
  3. Select Location Services in the sidebar.
  4. Click the lock icon in the lower part of the window for changes.
  5. Enter your user password to allow making changes.
  6. Uncheck unwanted apps that you don’t want to track your location.
  7. Once again, click the Lock icon and close the window.
System Preferences window


In this article, we showed you where the settings on Mac are located, how to change them, and the main Mac preferences that you should know about. Some settings should be checked so that they don’t slow down your Mac’s performance. Also, if you do face slow performance on your Mac, you can fix it with a special utility called MacCleaner Pro.

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