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Disable the desktop Desktop
I don't like having icons on my desktop almost all the time (I must admit that there are times that it is more useful, but...). While using apps like DesktopConsole or AquaMon or any other similar app, my icons have a habit of ending up under or over these apps' windows. This is a pain.

All my files are categorized in OSX's home subfolders (Documents, Pictures, Music, etc.), so I decided to disable the desktop. I moved all my files out of my Desktop folder, but soon realized that most of my internet apps drop my downloads onto the desktop. Then I decided to make the Desktop unusable, not just not used.

First moved all your files off the desktop. Make sure that you check for hidden files in the terminal; I noticed that KDE had a few on my desktop. Then in the terminal delete (with rm -r) the Desktop folder. Then make a zero length file named Desktop by typing touch Desktop). Now no application can save to the Desktop folder because it's not a folder!

To make it not appear as a folder in the Finder, type this in the terminal:
/Developer/Tools/SetFile -a V ~/Desktop
You must have the Developer Tools installed for this to work. This sets the invisibility bit for your pseudo-folder. Enjoy!

The Finder plays nice on my system, and the worst that any other app will do is give you an error and ask you to select another folder. You should probably also open the Internet preferences panel and select a new downloads folder.

The quick version:
 % MvMac Desktop/* misc/
% rm -r Desktop
% touch Desktop
% SetFile -a V Desktop
[Editor's note: I haven't tested this one and there's probably no downside, but any time you're deleting an included portion of the system, there's the potential for trouble -- for example, if an Apple installer is looking to put something on the Desktop, it may fail (this is conjecture, but merely an example to consider). Still, if you'd rather never see anything on the desktop, this will do it...]
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Disable the desktop | 21 comments | Create New Account
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Try DeskShade Plus
Authored by: dggraphics on Jan 09, '03 01:46:20PM

You can easily achive a similar result with the menubar app, DeskShade Plus. DeskShade Plus makes copy of your desktop and draws it on a layer just above the icons effectively giving you a pristine desktop. In additon, items that are dragged to the desktop can be sent to any folder you choose. It also give you an option to play movies fullscreen as a desktop background, and password protection with keylogging. You can check it out at

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Try DeskShade Plus
Authored by: GaelicWizard on Jan 09, '03 11:55:22PM

This will use up the resources to re-draw the desk top and effectively double those resources used to draw your desktop.

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quit finder
Authored by: whoadoggy on Jan 09, '03 03:26:02PM

Not directly relevant to this but I recently noticed on my powerbook, there is a quit finder command (under file of course). This allows you to temporarily clear off all the junk that is accumulated while doing something else. Strange thing is, on my desktop machine, this doesn't exist. Both are running 10.2.3 Any one else seen this? Is there a preference for this somewhere?

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quit finder
Authored by: D-Tech on Jan 09, '03 03:40:39PM

It's a preference in TinkerTool if you have it installed. Under the Finder tab there's a check box to add a quit option for the Finder. If you don't have TinkerTool then I'm not sure what added it.

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quit finder
Authored by: nmhansen on Jan 09, '03 03:51:36PM

A lot of app can add this feature (previously mentioned TinkerTool is one of them) and it can also be enabled from the command line (though I can't remember the exact syntax).

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Set a default folder for downloads...
Authored by: milhouse on Jan 09, '03 05:27:09PM

Why not use a Download folder for your downloads? Create the folder and set the path via the prefs in the internet preference pane and/or in each of your \'net apps.

Seems easier than disabling the desktop altogether but I missed something in your post.

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Set a default folder for downloads...
Authored by: ClarkGoble on Jan 09, '03 06:12:59PM

Everyone should use a download folder. In it I find it helpful to have a "Tested" directory as well, for mp3s and downloads from Version Tracker that I've tested but haven't moved (or deleted) yet.

An other problem with the desktop is mounted volumes. It is now becoming fairly standard to ship software distributions in .dmg files. While that is convenient, it means that you have to hide most of your windows to see it. The simple way to fix this is to create a Alias to /Volumes or better yet a link. Note that I believe this is invisible to the Finder. You can use Path Finder or, easier just use ln. Type ln /Volumes ~/MyVolumes. Then drag that to the Dock and you can just right click on it to open your mounted .dmg files.

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Set a default folder for downloads...
Authored by: DavidRavenMoon on Jan 09, '03 10:04:50PM

While that is convenient, it means that you have to hide most of your windows to see it.

What I do is click on the Finder icon in the Dock to open a new Finder window set in Computer view. Quick access to all your mounted drives!

And just click on the Desktop icon and you can access your desktop, right in front of all your open applications.

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Desktop folder icon!
Authored by: muji_boy on Jan 10, '03 12:32:43AM

wow didn't think/notice that the desktop folder had that nice icon. thought it was just to distinguish it from the OS9 desktop. But that is a cool thing, put it in the dock, you can see it is your desktop! I will put it in the folder toolbar also! very cool don't have to move windows, or hide apps to get at the desktop!
thanks Davidraven!

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Set a default folder for downloads...
Authored by: GaelicWizard on Jan 09, '03 11:59:25PM

You can disable all volumes on the desktop in the finder prefs.

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There's a better way to do this.
Authored by: jolinwarren on Jan 09, '03 05:34:13PM
I have to say that this hint seems like a bad idea to me. Firstly there are possible problems with something that might require the desktop (cmd-shift-3 for a screen capture comes to mind -- it won't work at all if there's no desktop folder). More importantly though, if you ever want to use the desktop temporarily, you can't without a major hassle.

It's much better to simply specify an alternative download folder for your applications (something like HD:Users:Me:Downloads). I also don't like files littering my desktop, but I've configured all of my web browsers and other applications that download (including the Internet settings) to use my dedicated download folder. I never have any files placed on my desktop. I think this is a safer and more flexible way to solve this problem.

That's just my opinion -- as always, feel free to ignore me!


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There's a better way to do this.
Authored by: GaelicWizard on Jan 10, '03 12:01:53AM

The downloads folder specified in the internet prefs isn't used by all apps.

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Don't replace folders with files!
Authored by: _merlin on Jan 09, '03 09:40:54PM

There are certain Cocoa apps that I know of which depend on the desktop folder existing. Replacing it with a file is a bad idea. A better way to keep it clean is to disable write access to it. Use the command:

chmod a-w ~/Desktop

In a terminal. This will prevent anything being placed on the desktop, while maintaining the folder's presence. I know a number of people doing this, and I haven't seen any negative side effects yet.

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Don't replace folders with files!
Authored by: GaelicWizard on Jan 10, '03 12:04:53AM

I LIKE IT!!! I'll try this myself. I think this actually may be better than my way. Thanx for the tip :)

One concern is that if an app depends on the desktop existing this may have the same effect as my method.


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Use Applescript to keep the desktop clear
Authored by: darndog on Jan 10, '03 10:00:37AM

Rather than disabling write access or removing/replacing the Desktop with a file, you could use Applescript Folder Actions to add a 'On Add Items' script to the Desktop folder which will wait untill files have downloaded and then shift them to another directory, you could even sort the files by type and have folders for downloaded Pics, Apps, Text and .sit files.

OSX needs to be told that Folder actions are OK before this will work, see the Applescript pages at: for the Authorisation script and some examples (one of which is an 'On Add Items' script).

No chances of some part of the System, Installer or App failing because the desktop did not act as expected.

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You are all are a bunch of freaks!!
Authored by: serversurfer on Jan 10, '03 11:32:04PM

Just teasing, but c'mon.

If you have too much stuff on your Desktop, just stop putting things there. If an app puts it's stuff there without you asking it to, tell it to stop. If there's no way to make it stop, delete it and send a nasty letter to the developer.

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Re: You are all are a bunch of freaks!!
Authored by: pheenix441 on Mar 20, '03 09:24:36PM

Bunch of freaks huh???

I fully agree with you. I hate new programs that are set to default to
save things to your desktop..... It is really annoying.

I do have to say however I have yet to run into a program that i have
not been able to change the saved\downloaded files somewhere else
besides the desktop.

Good comment though. I like it...

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Re: You are all are a bunch of freaks!!
Authored by: theRegent on Mar 23, '03 09:07:43PM

Let me second the notion that using a non-Desktop destination for downloads would seem to be step one for anyone wanting to eliminate desktop clutter. And further, that any application that performs downloads and doesn't allow you to specify a different default location seriously needs to be brought up to standard practice by its developer.

Another option is DockDisks ( which puts drives (the internal and two firewire externals) on the dock. Caveat: It does have the disadvantage of relaunching your dock everytime a disk is mounted

It's a little more starry eyed than thin-lipped.

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Re: You are all are a bunch of freaks!!
Authored by: kfaulhaber on Jun 12, '03 10:32:28PM

How about one of the Biggest Offenders? Software update and save to desktop!

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Disable the desktop
Authored by: thebackwash on Mar 20, '03 06:36:38PM
Unfortunately SetFile doesn't work on symbolic links. I have /home symlinked to /Users, but I can't make /home invisible in the Finder, at least from the terminal. It follows the symlink like a good li'l program. Time to pester Apple for another flag for this program.

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Disable the desktop
Authored by: Accura on Jun 12, '03 12:32:03AM

well, what u do is edit the /.hidden file and ass home to it

this works at the root level (/) but im not sure if it works elsewhere


"The time has come," the walrus said. "To talk of many things..."

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