Mac tips: Download desktop wallpaper or store it online

Choose whether desktop wallpaper images are online or offline

Did you know that the Apple Mac can store desktop wallpaper online? Free up storage on the Mac by moving images online or download desktop wallpaper images and apply them to the desktop.

Apple provides a lot of desktop images for MacBook and iMacs and they make the screen display interesting. There are some great photos and fascinating illustrations and more. Many of the images are provided in light and dark versions, which you can select as you prefer or have them automatically change according to the time of day and daylight and darkness hours.

What you may not have noticed if you have not looked recently is that not all desktop wallpaper images are stored on the Mac’s drive. Some images are online and are only downloaded if you want to apply them to the desktop.

If you have downloaded a lot of wallpaper images, you can remove the local copy of the ones you are not currently using on the Mac to free up storage space. They are not deleted and are stored online, ready to be downloaded again and used. The images are not huge, but when space is tight, every little bit helps.

Let’s see how to manage the online/offline status of Apple Mac desktop wallpaper images.

1 Open System Preferences

System Preferences on the Apple Mac
Mac System Preferences

Click the Apple logo at the left side of the menu bar and then click System Preferences on the menu that is displayed. Click the Desktop & Screen Saver icon on the top row of icons.

2 Find and download desktop wallpaper

Apple Mac desktop wallpaper selection in System Preferences
Download desktop wallpaper

Select the Desktop tab and thumbnail images of all the desktop wallpaper are displayed. They are organized into several different sections. Scroll through them and notice that some wallpaper thumbnails have a cloud icon in the top right corner. This means that the image is stored online and it is not actually on the computer taking up space.

Select a thumbnail image without a cloud icon and the image is applied to the desktop because it can be loaded off disk. Select a thumbnail with a could icon and it is not applied because it is not on the Mac. Click the cloud icon on the thumbnail or at the top next to its name and it is downloaded to the Mac. Once it is stored locally, it can then be selected and applied to the desktop.

You will probably find that there is a mixture of online and offline wallpaper. Just remember that you must click the cloud icon and download any online image if you want to use it.

3 Free up space by removing downloaded wallpaper

Desktop wallpaper selection on the Apple Mac
Remove downloaded desktop wallpaper in macOS

If there are wallpaper images that you never use on the desktop, they can be removed from the Mac to free up disk space. Notice that the download cloud icon is gone from a couple of wallpaper images in the screenshot. They are currently stored on the Mac.

Ctrl+click any image that does not have a cloud icon and select Remove Download from the mini-menu that appears. After a second or two, the cloud icon appears on the thumbnail to show that it is online, but not on the Mac’s drive and more importantly, is not taking up space.

You cannot remove the desktop wallpaper that is currently in use, so select another image first if you want to remove the current one. Move several wallpaper images online and you will free up several megabytes of storage space. It is not a huge amount, but why keep files on the Mac that you do not use?

4 Cannot remove wallpaper images?

Desktop wallpaper on the Apple Mac
Some wallpaper images cannot be removed

For some reason that is not clear, a few of the desktop wallpaper images cannot be removed. They are fixed and you must have them on the Mac. Ctrl+click certain images and you will see that Remove Download is disabled. This is only true of a small number of images and most of them can be removed to clear disk space. The currently used wallpaper cannot be removed, of course. Select a different wallpaper image first.


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