A Beginner’s Guide to System Preferences

System Preferences is a small app that you can easily access where you can change some basic settings on your Mac. System Preferences is broken into categories, and then each category can be further broken down into subcategories with the names at the top. In macOS, unlike Settings in iOS, System Preferences is where you can find system settings, but not app preferences. Those are found in each individual app.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: A Beginner’s Guide to System Preferences.

So if you're new to Mac you may be wondering where the system controls are. They are in a place called System Preferences. You'll hear this referred to all the time to go to System Preferences to change something or how something works on your Mac.

You can get to System Preferences in many different ways. It's basically just an app so you can access it like any other app. But you can go to the Apple menu here at the top left and there's always an item there called System Preferences. That's just a quick way to get into it.

Once you're in System Preferences you'll see these icons that represent different types of settings. You can go into any one of the them to see the settings in there. So let's start by clicking on General.

Under General you find a few different system settings and you can change them by selecting the drop down menus or the radio buttons or check boxes. So you can adjust how things work. For instance, if you wanted to change the default web browser you can click here and switch from Safari to something else that you have currently installed. If you want to get back to the main area where it lists all the different system preferences click on the button here at the top, that's the Show All button.

Now you can go into something else. For instance, the Dock and change things like size, magnification, different options here with the check boxes. You can always go back here.

Sometimes System Preferences have a whole set of levels or categories inside them. So, for instance, let's go to Keyboard. In Keyboard here you'll see this list at the top. It's like a list of tabs here at the top and you can switch from Keyboard preferences to Text preferences, to Shortcuts, Input Sources, and Dictation. So it's kind of like five different sets of system preferences inside of Keyboard. You can go back to the top, always, like that.

Now if you're not sure where something is you can always use the Search at the top. That will tell you where something is. So, for instance, say if you wanted to change the speakers, what set of speakers you're using on your Mac if you have multiple ones. You can start searching for speaker. You can see it highlights Sound and also gives you some various things you could jump right to like sound output and sound volume.

Now it's important to realize that System Preferences is just that. It's preferences for the entire system. If you're looking to change how something works in a specific app then you want to go to the preferences for that app. For instance in Safari when I'm running Safari I go to the Safari menu and there's Preferences there and here is where I view preferences specifically for that app. This can be a little confusing if you're used to iOS where in the Settings app you can access settings for different apps you've got.

That's not the same on the Mac. On the Mac System Preferences is just for the system. The preferences for each app are found inside the app.

Comments: 2 Responses to “A Beginner’s Guide to System Preferences”

    Reinhold Linnartz
    2 years ago

    No, did not know! Thank you for sharing!
    Keep going!


    Roberta Jacobowski
    2 years ago

    This was much needed encouragement for making the Mac work for me!

Comments Closed.