Setting Custom Alert Sounds On Your Mac

You can change the alert sound on your Mac using System Preferences. There are a variety of built-in sounds to choose from. You can also import your own sound files by placing them into a special folder. These files must use a special format, or at least have the file extension set to that format.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Setting Custom Alert Sounds On Your Mac.

Hi, this is Gary with

On this episode let me show you how to set a custom alert sound on your Mac.

The system alert sound is something that sounds when you are trying to do something and the system needs to alert you; like the dialogue box pops up asking you for permission or perhaps you are trying to delete a file that can't be deleted. It wants to play a sound to alert you to that.

You can go to System Preferences, Sound Effects like I just did. You can see the different built-in system alert sounds. You can select one. Whichever one you have selected that will be the one that is your system alert sound.

You can also select to have the alert sound play through a different set of speakers. For instance Internal Speakers as opposed to Line Out where your music might go to. Set a volume for the alert sound as well.

Now it can be fun to actually have your own custom alert sound to make your Mac different from everybody else's Mac. There is a built-in way to allow you to do this. Unfortunately you can't just drag and drop but this is a supported way not kind of a hack.

If you go into the Finder and use the Go menu. I'm going to hold down the Option key so the Library appears. Then I'm going to go basically to my Library folder which is there alongside my Documents, Movies, Music, and Picture folder just that it is hidden which is why I have to use Go and click the Option key to get to it.

Here in my Library folder, this is my User Library folder not the System one, I have a folder called Sounds. It is probably empty on your Mac because this is where custom sounds go. So I'm going to add some custom sounds here and get them to appear in the Sounds system preference so I can use them as alert sounds.

I've got a folder here on my desktop called My Sounds and I've got two sounds in it. They are two different file formats. One is the aiff file format and the other is mp3. I'm going to drag these both into the Sounds folder. I'm going to hold down the Option key and make a copy of them. Now they are both in there.

Neither one is going to right away appear in Sound Effects. I find that the best way to get them to appear is to quit System Preferences, reopen System Preferences, and then go back to Sound Effects. We should see one of these here.

We've got Chimes and Knock. We look and sure enough there is Chimes. It even says Type is custom as opposed to built-in. But notice Knock is not there. The reason Knock is not there is that it is not the right file format. Or is it? Because I find that actually you can use a variety of file formats, like a mp3, but you simply change the file name to aiff. Drag that into the Sounds folder. Let's get rid of that mp3 version there.

Then when we restart System Preferences, go to Sound Effects, we'll find that Knock is there and it works as well.

So I think that if you really want to be safe and do everything the right proper way it is probably best to actually convert that from mp3 or Wave, or whatever it is into a real aiff file. You can use an app like Audacity to do that. I also found that you can use QuickTime Player and export as audio and when you do that it is a m4A file, change the file to aiff and that works. At least you know you are using a more modern file format than mp3. But if it works, then I guess it works and you can use it.

It is a quick easy way to add custom sounds here and then be able to go in and change it anytime you want or just to have a really neat custom built-in sound.

One good reason for doing this is that a lot of times people find these sounds kind of annoying. You hear them over and over and over again. So having something that is a non-annoying sound is kind of a nice thing to have on your Mac to make it a little more pleasant to use.

Comments: 3 Responses to “Setting Custom Alert Sounds On Your Mac”

    4 years ago

    Where can one find audio files to use as alerts sounds?

      4 years ago

      You can record sounds yourself using the QuickTime Player app, or GarageBand. You can also use GarageBand to make sounds using notes from different instruments. You can also look around online for sounds just like you would look for images.

    4 years ago

    Excellent info to customize my mac! Thank you.

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