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All system preferences discussed

Apple ID
Your Apple ID is at the top. You can't live without this if you want to use a Mac.

You need it to download software from the App Store, buy music or movies, or log in to your Mac if you've forgotten your password.
Plus you need it to work with iCloud, Apple's cloud service. With this you can make your Mac synchronize with your iPhone or iPad, and make online backups. You can also get a free email address with @ icloud.com behind your chosen name.
iCloud is free up to 5 Gigabytes of data, after which you can buy extra if necessary.

Your Apple ID is personal. Take good care of it!

If you're signed in with your Apple ID, your name and photo will be prominently displayed at the top of System Preferences:

Click on Apple ID to learn more:

Two-factor authentication
Secure your data extra by turning this on. More about this in chapter Security =>Privacy on the Mac.

Indicate here what should be stored in the Apple cloud. If you also have an iPhone or iPad, you can sync your Mac with it using iCloud and vice versa. You can immediately see how full your free 5 Gigabyte of data is.

Media and purchases
This one is important. Do you want to be able to quickly buy things like apps, music and books without any hassle?
Or are you careful and do you always want to enter a password?
Indicate that here:


Choose here whether you want the screen to be dark, light-coloured or adapted to the time of day: Light, Dark or Auto.

Accent colour:
With this you can give buttons and bars a different color. Especially with the Dark display it gives a more festive look. Try out what you like.

Marking colour:

Sidebar icon size:
You can indicate the size of the symbols in the Side Bar here. You will find the Sidebar on the left in a Window, more in chapter. Working with the Finder.

Show scroll bars / Clicks in the scroll bar:
How should your Mac behave while scrolling the scroll bars? Do you always want to see scroll bars or not?
Note: You will see a scroll bar when the document you are viewing is longer than your screen. It is always on the right side of your window.

Default web browser:
Do you prefer to use a different browser than the included Safari? You can indicate this here - provided you have other web browsers installed. For example: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Brave, Edge, etcetera.

Prefer tabs:
Working with tabs instead of separate windows can be more efficient when working in full screen size.
Also indicate your preferences with regard to saving documents you have created.
You can also choose whether you want to see the documents from the previous time again when you restart an app.

Desktop... :
You can choose a self-taken photo from the Photos program or a specific picture in a folder under 'Folders':

But you can also choose a solid color:

and Screen Saver

As for Screen Saver (the movie that runs when your Mac gets bored): such a movie is fun, but slumbering requires a lot less power! Energy-conscious Macers therefore opt for Sleep Mode. To be found under System Preferences => Energy Saver).

Hot corners...
Indicate here what the Mac should do when you move your mouse into a screen corner.
MacMiep itself has shown the Desktop at the top right, the Put Display sleep mode at the bottom right, and all the App windows at the bottom left.

NOTE: Always fun when someone else works on my Mac who is not used to it ... hehehe *insert evil grin here* .

Dock and Menu bar
That thing full of icons. Discussed in chapter 'Personalize your Mac' .

The Menubar offers you the opportunity to quickly access a number of things. For example:

Wifi settings:


You can choose how you want to work. Try out what you like best!

Hide menu bar
Not only can you choose to auto-hide your Dock, but also your Menu bar:

Mission Control
Indicate here with which keys or mouse actions you can, for example, switch between program windows, get an overview of all open documents and the like.

Siri is the sidekick on your Mac. If you engage her, you can give various assignments and ask questions. Regarding privacy: Apple is listening on a random basis to improve Siri. Here you turn on Siri and choose the voice, language and key combination to wake her up at 'Enable Ask Siri'

Settings of the quick search function of MacOS, where and what should and can he find what?
More in chapter Software and sub-chapter Security => Privacy.

Set here which latest news you (or not) want to receive by means of a notification at the top right of your screen. This could be a notification in your calendar, a new email that has arrived, someone who wants to chat with you, or notifications from apps. In the left row you will find all apps that can / want / are allowed to report. You allow yes or no here and when.

Notification from 'Notifications':

Language and Region
Your holiday love visiting? Do you prefer to work in French? Set the system language here. Please do a Restart before the change becomes visible.

Internet Accounts
This includes settings for iCloud, MS Exchange, Google and other providers.

NOTE: you will have to do the advanced configuration of e-mail in your e-mail program. => more in chapter Internet.

Users and Groups
Here you can change your password and create new users. Creating multiple users is particularly useful if you want to use one computer with the whole family. This way everyone can use their 'own' Mac.

Preferences important for security are always secured with a padlock. You cannot change them without an administrator password.

You can read exactly what this means in chapters 1 User and 1 Mac and multiple users

This is the place to be for people who have problems with seeing, hearing and / or with their motor skills.
For example, you can have your screen display gray values ​​or a negative image (Invert colours), or have it enlarged with Zoom.

Voice Control
You can also control the Mac with your voice:

In addition, the Mac can also read files and messages with Speech. The possibilities are endless.

Numeric keypad
Owners of a large keyboard with extra numerical part on the right, please note:
At Pointer Control you can also indicate whether you want to work with the Numeric part of the keyboard as a replacement for the mouse. By default, the sign is set to numbers, unlike in Windows.

Screen Time (formerly 'Parental Control')
Here you can not only gain insight into your computer use, you can also indicate time limits for users (sorry kids), but also indicate whether dirty words or pictures may be displayed. This can be secured with a code.
The title is therefore not entirely accurate. More in the multiple users chapter.

Extensions are pieces of software that add extra functions to your Mac or apps. For example in Safari you can add an addblocker.

Security and privacy
You can find settings in the field of computer security and privacy here. You will find an explanation in the chapter Security => Keep your Mac safe and also Privacy on the Mac.

Software update
This is an important one. It is important to keep your Mac up-to-date for security reasons. After all, programming is human labor and there will always be errors and things to improve. Updating can be done automatically if desired.

The Mac will download the updates in the background and a message at the top right will indicate that it needs a restart:

You can find the settings for that at Advanced... :

NOTE: Do you work with professional audio equipment or other software or hardware that is sensitive to system updates? Then rather turn off automatic updating.
The same applies to Maccers who prefer to wait a while before installing a new update. MacMiep is one of them.

Here you have to enter all your (wireless) internet settings, as well as settings for local networks. More in chapter Internet => your Mac on the web and chapter Sharing => with Windows or Linux.

This is the way to communicate wirelessly with mice and keyboards. You will see the available Bluetooth devices in the white field. If nothing is there, check whether they are powered on and whether the battery is not empty.
Click on the relevant device to make contact.

Under Advanced you will find additional options:

Note: Bluetooth is also used for Airdrop: networking between Macs.

Choose your alert sound at Sound Effects:


For the internal microphone you can adjust the volume of the recording here at Input volume:

Note: If you are using an external audio device (headphones, USB preamplifier or USB microphone), it will also appear here.

Sound in the menu bar
Check "Show volume in Menu bar" to quickly access the louder / quieter button:

Printers and scanners
You will find the installation and use of printers and scanners in the Software chapter.

Set how your keyboard should behave here. For example, how fast should a letter repeat when you hold down a key longer? Try out what's comfortable for you.
You can also set the function of the Fn key at 'Press Fn key to ....' and the Function Keys F1 and so.

You can also turn off automatic spelling correction under the Text tab. You can find it under the Text tab. Uncheck 'Correct spelling automatically'.

Note: Within programs themselves there are often options for spell checking as well.

Shortcuts or Key combinations
You will also find various Shortcuts that you can use, for example to take a screenshot (this is how MacMiep gets the pictures):

Talk and let your Mac write down what you say. Turn it on or off here and choose the language if necessary:

Discussed in chapter Personalise your Mac. Users of a MacBook or separate Trackpad can enjoy themselves here; there are many finger gestures you can do.
Watch the videos for what is meant:

Discussed in chapter Personalise your Mac. You are not obliged to work with Apple mice. MacMiep works with a small and simple laptop mouse. All mice work immediately and you can set them here.

You can set the brightness and size of the things on your screen (formerly "resolution") here.

You can also find colour profiles and colour calibration (for the graphic designers and photographers among us) here.

NOTE: If you have the luxury of two screens, you can also indicate here how the Desktop should run and where the Menubar should be.

Night Shift
It is now common knowledge that blue light is bad for your sleep. It inhibits the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. That's why Apple has the option to make your screen less blue and darker in the evening and at night. This can be done via a self-selected time schedule, but also from sunrise to sunset. This will then adapt itself to the time of year.

At Colour temperature you can set how warm or cold (resp. Redder or bluer) the colours of your screen should be. When you work a lot in the evening, warmer is really nicer, but not in case you work with colour professionally.

Owners of an iPad can use it as a second screen for their Mac.

NOTE: No screenshots, because MacMiep does not have a (recent) iPad that is suitable for this.

Energy saver
Sleeping or turning it off makes little difference to my 27” iMac from 2011: 0.45 Watts against 1.36 Watts. However, having the screen quickly go black delivers more: 42.5 Watt (off) against 104 Watt (on)! Newer Macs are even more energy efficient.

Date and time
Speaks for itself. Do you want numbers or a real clock in your Menu bar? Indicate it here.

You can also choose your Time zone on this globe here. Handy for frequent travelers.

Here you will find the settings for, among other things, sharing files and printers. This is useful when you are on a network with your Mac. More in chapter Networking with Windows or Linux.

Time Machine
The automatic backup program. MacMiep urgently advises to use it.
Otherwise, don't cry when things go wrong and you have lost your data!
Read more in chapter Help! => backup your Mac.

Startup Disk
Here you can indicate with which system and on which disk the Mac should boot. Useful if you also run Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp.
More about this in the Switching from Windows to Mac chapter.

Or, like MacMiep here, running macOS 11 Big Sur on an external SSD and 10.15 Catalina on her iMac's internal drive:

NOTE:Target Disk Mode, also known as 'Target Mode', is the ability to use your Mac as an external hard drive. This can be useful when your Mac's built-in screen is broken. You can read more about this in the chapter Help!=> Hardware problems.

Additional system preferences
Some software or hardware installs an additional System Preference. For example, MacMiep has an external USB audio card from Line 6 and a Wacom drawing tablet:

CDs and DVDs (old school)
Older Mac systems still have a System Preference for this, which is why MacMiep still reports this. What should happen when you insert an empty / full CD or DVD? Indicate it here.
To burn? That is still integrated in macOS. It also works with external USB burners. MacMiep, for example, has an LG USB burner for incidental fire cases.
More about burning in chapter Software.

Where is the burning program?
Switchers: stop searching for a burning program on your Mac; burning is integrated in macOS!

The next chapter is:
working with Finder

Disclaimer: MacMiep is independent. This means she writes what she wants, based on 30 years of Mac-experience. She doesn't get paid for stories (positive or negative) on this website. MacMiep is not interested in your data. However, she does use Google's services. Google is indeed interested. Are you happy with MacMiep? Please support your local cat shelter.