Macs are known for their intuitive, user-friendly interface. These sleek devices are highly adaptable, allowing users great flexibility and customization.
If you haven’t yet, you should begin tweaking your Mac settings to get the most of its capabilities. We’ve listed below the best settings on your Mac to boost your productivity, efficiency, and comfort. Buckle up!
1. Automate software updates
Apple consistently releases software updates to fix bugs and potential security issues, aside from the significant software upgrades. You have the option to configure your Mac settings and set software updates to automatic to avoid manually checking for it. To do this:
- Go to the Apple menu → About This Mac.
- Click Software Update.
- Tick Automatically keep my Mac up to date.
You can always turn off auto-updates on your Mac, especially if you’re wary of the bugs and performance issues typical of new updates.
2. Adjust the Dock
The Dock is a prominent feature, enabling you to interact with your Mac in countless ways. It lets you quickly launch, open, close, and switch between apps. You can also customize its appearance, including changing the color of your Dock.
It’s a fluid feature that you can customize. To delete apps, just control-click an app→ hit Options → select Remove from Dock.
You can also add your favorite apps to the Dock. If you have an app in the Dock because you’re currently using or have recently used it, just control-click it → select Options → choose Keep in Dock. If it’s not yet in the Dock:
- Open Finder → choose Applications on the sidebar.
- Choose and drag an app to the Dock’s main section (leftmost section).
Here are other easy-to-use macOS Dock shortcuts to further help boost your productivity.
3. Setup a Hot Corner
Hot Corner is an underrated feature that allows you to use either or all the corners of your Mac screen to trigger actions like opening the Launchpad or accessing your desktop.
Customize how you use Hot Corner on your Mac to make your workflow seamless. You can even use it to keep people from snooping on your screen’s contents!
If you don’t always need to access functions like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, you can remove them from your Menu bar. Just tweak the following on your Mac’s Menu bar settings:
- Go to System Preferences → Dock & Menu Bar.
- Select functions on the sidebar.
Note: You can only add and remove functions that have a Menu bar indicated underneath them.
- Untick Show in Menu Bar.
Additionally, if you find the Menu bar distracting, you can make it automatically hide and appear only when you hover your cursor over it. Just go to System Preferences → Dock & Menu Bar. Tick Automatically hide and show the menu bar on desktop.
5. Enable Handoff
If you have several Apple devices, make the most of the Apple ecosystem by using Handoff. This feature allows you to begin something on one device and continue it on another. Part of this is the Universal Clipboard that lets you copy-paste items from your Mac to your iPhone and vice versa.
Check here if your Mac supports Handoff.
6. Tweak the Trackpad’s gestures
One of the settings on the MacBook I love to explore and modify is its Trackpad gestures. Once you get a hold of using them, using your Mac will be a breeze. To begin customizing:
- Go to System Preferences → Trackpad.
- Tick the gestures you want to use.
- Now, explore gestures from the Point & Click, Scroll & Zoom, and More Gestures tabs.
7. Customize the Control Center
Mac’s Control Center consolidates key macOS system settings serving as a one-stop-shop for all the Menu bar items and controls you need—including volume, brightness, Focus modes, and Wi-Fi.
Our guide can help you can learn more about how to use Control Center on your Mac.
8. Modify the cursor
You can also modify your pointer’s color and size to help you locate it faster or simply add some personality to it.
- Go to System Preferences → Accessibility.
- Click Display on the sidebar → choose the Pointer tab.
- Move the slider beside Pointer size to enlarge your cursor.
- Select from the palettes beside Pointer outline color and Pointer fill color to change your cursor’s color.
Tip: If you frequently lose your cursor on your desktop, especially if you have multiple displays, tick Shake mouse pointer to locate to help you find it faster. Quickly moving the pointer back and forth enlarges it enough for you to spot its location.
9. Setup Bookmarks in Safari
If you frequently visit certain websites or specific web pages, bookmarking them allows you to revisit them with a click quickly. Simply drag the URL to the Bookmarks section to add it as a bookmark. Alternatively, hover your cursor over the address bar until you see an Add (+) icon. Control-click and add it as a bookmark.
10. Create Safari Tab Groups
While bookmarks are helpful for sites you want indefinite access to, Tab Groups are ideal for sites you plan to use short term. This feature allows you to group together specific tabs, enabling you to switch between different tab groups while staying on a single Safari window.
11. Change Finder settings
What I hate about using Finder is being shown a messy Recents folder whenever I launch the app. You can change this to a destination of your choice by doing the following:
- Open Finder.
- Select Finder on the menu bar → choose Preferences.
- On the dropdown menu beside New Finder windows show, select which window you want to show instead.
12. Create Smart Albums in Photos
If you love saving photos on your Mac, creating a Smart Album in Photos is an excellent way to sort and organize your images quickly.
The feature allows you to save conditions or criteria that the app uses to sort your images automatically. Examples of the conditions include the type of camera you used, the date when it was captured, or whether you used a flash to take the shot.
Using tags can save your life if you have many files and folders for different workflows. Tags are colored categories that make it easier to locate your files, whether on your Mac or iCloud.
To add a tag to a file, control-click, select a color, or click Tags to choose one of your tags. You can also tag open files in some macOS applications like Pages and Numbers.
Simply hover your cursor on the right side of the document’s title, click the Tags field, select a tag from the dropdown list, or enter a new tag.
14. Change your Display
If you work in front of your screen for hours on end, it’s essential to finetune your display to make it less harsh for your eyes. Aside from adjusting the brightness, your Mac offers different settings to help reduce blue light.
For example, turning on Night Shift on your Mac allows it to shift its display colors to a warmer tone after dark. This is based on the premise that exposure to bright blue light at night alters your sleep patterns.
Meanwhile, enabling Dark Mode on Mac gives you a darker UI following a color scheme that’s easy on the eyes. It works system-wide and includes all the built-in apps and third-party apps that support the feature.
You may also set it to automatic instead to automatically change your Mac’s appearance from light to dark depending on the time.
15. Stop AutoPlay Content
If you use your Safari for browsing, chances are you’ve encountered irritating background sounds or automatically playing videos. While harmless, this can be extremely annoying if you have several tabs open. To change this:
- Open Safari → Preferences.
- Select Websites.
- Click Auto-Play.
- Click the dropdown menu beside When visiting other websites and select Never Auto-Play or Stop Media with Sound.
We’ve also written a similar article on how you can stop autoplay in Chrome on Mac and Windows PC.
16. Setup iCloud backup
Apple offers a free cloud service for syncing and storing your files and folders. Syncing apps and folders to your iCloud storage help back up files on your Mac and ensures that you have access to the latest version of your files on whatever device you’re using.
17. Customize Location Privacy settings
In this day and age, you don’t want to flippantly allow random apps to track your current location unless necessary—such as for delivery services and the weather app.
See which apps track your location so you can block those you do not trust. To do this:
- Go to System Preferences → Security & Privacy.
- Click the Privacy tab → select Location Services.
- Untick all the apps you don’t want to share your location with.
18. Manage Battery settings
While Macs are designed to be efficient, there are other ways to reduce energy usage and preserve your Mac’s battery life. One of the basic things you should do is check your Mac’s battery health.
You can also enable Optimized Battery Charging to improve your Mac’s battery health. It does this by reducing the time it spends fully charged. To do this:
- Go to System Preferences → Battery.
- Select Battery on the sidebar.
- Tick Optimized Battery Charging.
19. Turn on File Vault
For precautionary measures, you may want to encrypt your data if your Mac gets stolen or lost. For this, you can use File Vault, Mac’s built-in disk encryption feature. It asks you to elect a Recovery Key or your iCloud account to decrypt your data.
20. Enable Unlocking Mac with Apple Watch
If you have an Apple watch, you can use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac. This saves you from the need to type in your password or hold the Touch ID. However, note that this will only work if your Apple Watch is unlocked and resting on your wrist.
21. Create a customized Focus
Focus is a relatively new feature that came with macOS Monterey. It’s a nifty feature that allows you to control which notifications and alerts can reach you so you can focus on the tasks on your plate.
If you already have Focus mode set up on iPad and iPhone, you can simply sync and use the same Focus settings across your Apple devices.
To set up Focus on your Mac:
- Go to System Preferences → Notifications & Focus.
- Click Focus.
You can select a provided Focus or create your own.
- Begin selecting the notifications from certain people and apps that you would allow.
You can also set a schedule for when your Focus will automatically turn on and off.
Finder is Mac’s file manager that gives you access to all your files, folders, apps, and downloads on your Mac. Customizing your Finder sidebar based on your usage and preferences can boost your productivity and help reduce clutter. To manage your Finder sidebar:
- Open Finder → click Preferences.
- Click the Sidebar tab.
- Tick the items you want to appear on Favorites, iCloud, Locations, and Tags.
23. Choose where Spotlight searches
Spotlight lets you search for anything and everything on your Mac. If you often search for items from the same destination, you can select where you want Spotlight to search. In doing so, you reduce wrong hits and make the search more efficient.
Go to System Preferences → Spotlight → select the locations you want Spotlight to search for your queries. There’s much more to Spotlight than meets the eye, though. To appreciate the feature, here’s a complete guide on using Spotlight on Mac.
24. Enable Spatialize Stereo
If you’ve celebrated Spatial Audio on iPhones and Macs, Spatialize Stereo will excite you. It uses software magic to play any non-Dolby stereo mix into a surround sound experience.
When listening to a typical stereo mix, go to the Control Center → click anywhere on the Sound pane → click Spatialize Stereo.
Note: This only works with a compatible hearing device and Mac.
If you’re a fan of using shortcuts on Mac, you can modify your Mac’s Menu bar settings to add them there for easy access:
- Open Shortcuts.
- Click a shortcut you want to add to your Menu bar.
- Click the Shortcut Details or the icon with three lines at the top right.
- Tick Pin in menu bar under the Details tab.
26. Add Legacy Contacts to your iCloud
Apple Digital Legacy is another hidden macOS Monterey feature allowing you to pass on your Apple ID and all the private information they contain once you pass on. This may be beneficial if you have sensitive data that your family or friends might need, like business and health files.
27. Enable Mail Privacy Protection
If you regularly receive spam and follow-ups, spammers are likely tracking how you behave. They often use tracking pixels to check how you have interacted with their emails.
Using Mail Privacy Protection ensures that they won’t have anything other than non-specific information they can’t use to profile you or track your behavior. Here’s what you need to do:
- Open Mail → Preferences.
- Click the Privacy tab → tick Protect Mail Activity.
28. Set up iCloud Recovery Contacts
I’ve always feared the thought of forgetting my own Apple account login details. If you’re like me, setting a recovery contact might be for you. This involves electing a trusted contact to whom Apple will send a six-digit recovery code which you can then use to reset your Apple ID password.
29. Create Smart Folders
If you’ve ever wanted to declutter your Mac’s desktop or keep specific files more organized, you know how useful Smart Folders can be.
Smart Folders are essentially virtual folders that can be created using any combination of criteria, making them extremely versatile and customizable. To create a Smart Folders: Go to Finder → click File → New Smart Folder → specify the criteria (Set the first rule and add a rule) → click Save. Now enter a name and location!
30. Enable Fast User Switching
Switch between accounts quickly by enabling Fast User Switching. This will allow you to alternate between your main account and any other account you have set up in seconds. Just do the following:
- Go to System Preferences → Dock & Menu Bar.
- Scroll down and click Fast User Switching.
- Tick Show in Menu Bar or Show in Control Center, depending on where you want to access it.
There are several accessibility functions in Mac to help people navigate and interact with their Macs better. Adding color filters on your Mac may be beneficial if you have color blindness. Meanwhile, you can go hands-free when using Voice Control on your Mac.
If you use these accessibility functions often, you can opt to add them to your menu bar or Control Center. Go to System Preferences → Dock & Menu Bar → select Accessibility Shortcuts. Tick one or both Show in Menu Bar and Show in Control Center
32. Automatically launch programs
If you always open the same apps and programs for your workflow, you can customize your login items – that is, the programs that launch automatically when you log in to your Mac:
- Open System Preferences → Users & Groups.
- Select the Login Items tab → hit the Add (+) button.
- Choose the application you wish to add → click Add.
33. Choose a different browser
Aside from Safari, there are many other browsers you can use on your Mac. If you want to use a different browser for their added features, you may do so. Just go to System Preferences → General. Click the dropdown menu beside the Default web browser and select your preferred browser.
34. Mute Notifications
Getting hundreds of notifications from apps and messaging platforms can distract and ruin your momentum. We’ve written a guide that shares different ways of turning off notifications on your Mac.
Mac has many features and functions up its sleeves. While we’ve listed plenty of things you can and should explore tweaking your Mac’s settings, it’s not an exhaustive list.
Go ahead and browse through our articles to find other useful features to explore. Of these settings, what’s new to you? Share them below.
- How to transfer data from old to new Mac
- Use Stage Manager for multitasking on Mac and iPad
- How to prepare your Mac for macOS Ventura
- How to transfer data from your Windows PC to a Mac
Rachel loves anything Apple —from iPhones, to Apple Watches, to MacBooks. She is also a medical writer and a ghostwriter for various publications.