A Simple Hidden Feature You Can Use to Change Your Login Image in macOS

Len Epp
3 min readNov 30, 2021

Setting up a new computer from scratch is a huge chore.

The best way to manage this process is to document every step in detail the next time you do it, so that you can be confident you can set up everything exactly as you want it to be, with any new computer you get going forward.

I have a long “Setting Up” document I wrote and maintain in the Notes app that is saved in iCloud, so that when I set up a new Mac, the documentation is already there, as soon as I sign in with my Apple ID and it syncs.

This is especially useful when you’re going to be clicking links on your new computer when you’re setting everything up, e.g. to download Chrome or any other app, or to add the specific Chrome extensions you use.

Recently, I found myself shouting at my new MacBook (M1 Max!) over something very simple: I just wanted to add my login image to my user profile, to replace the penguin Apple had put there, and my old instructions didn’t work.

Now, I have nothing against penguins, but the image I’ve used for years, and grown quite fond of, is this picture of William Shatner smoking:

Here’s where you need to go to see your login image:

System Preferences > Users & Groups

If you go there on a new computer, you’ll see whatever stub image Apple has added, but there’s no obvious way to change the image.

You might think you’re on your way if you hover over the image, because then you’ll see an “edit” option:

(Just incidentally, the design convention of hiding extremely useful features and essential information is insane; I’m looking at you, Gmail.)

The problem is that if you click the “edit” button, there’s no option to select an image from anywhere on your computer; macOS will only show you a limited set of options.

That’s crazy, but obviously someone at Apple understood that it’s crazy, and snuck in a hidden feature: if you just drag and drop an image from your computer onto that circle (where you see the “edit” option above), voila, you’ll have your preferred login image.

Pro Tip: Even if you don’t see the image on the right, and the spot appears blank, if you hover in that spot, you’ll still see be able to see the “edit” option, and you can actually still drag and drop any image you want onto that spot. (This happened to me in Monterey.)



Len Epp

Startup cofounder. I like to write about tech, publishing, the interwebs, politics, and such.