Enable a hidden iMac screen saver on any Mac or MacBook

Apple’s new 24in M1-powered iMac has a unique screen saver that is not on older Intel iMacs and MacBooks. Or is it? Actually, it is on other Macs, but it is hidden. Here is how to enable it.

The 2021 iMac is a bit special because it is a complete break from previous designs and it is the first of a new line of M1-powered Macs. To make this new iMac stand out from all the others that came before it, it has a number of new features, like new colors, new desktop wallpaper and new screen saver. It looks fantastic.

Here I will focus on the screen saver and show how to install it on any Mac, whether it is an M1 or Intel-powered computer, desktop or laptop. Creating a custom version of macOS just so that the new iMac can have a different screen saver is not a good idea. It is just too much work, so Apple simply bundles everything in macOS and selects what to show based on the model.

If you have a new iMac, you can see the new screensaver, but if you have any other Mac, you can’t. The screen saver is there and it works, if only you could see it and select it. However, there is a very simple way to add it to the other screensavers in System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Screen Saver. After adding it, it can be selected and enjoyed like any other screen saver on the Mac.

What is the new iMac screen saver?

The screen saver displays the word ‘hello’ in different languages and different colors on the screen whenever the Mac is idle for a certain period of time.

Hello screen saver on the Apple Mac
Hello screen saver with optional clock display

Years ago, screen savers were used to prevent image burn-in on old CRT monitors. These days they are partly for fun and partly for security. Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and tick the checkbox Require password after sleep or the screen saver begins.

When you walk away from your Mac and it becomes idle, the screen saver starts. If anyone tries to access your Mac, they are prompted to enter a password. It is a useful security feature.

Here’s how to enable the hidden Hello screen saver and I use an old Intel Mac for this. You do need macOS Big Sur though.

Find screen savers with Finder

Screen savers in macOS shown in Finder
Screen savers in macOS

Open a Finder window and select the Mac’s disk under Locations in the sidebar. Go to Macintosh HD > System > Library > Screen Savers. In that folder is a list of different screen saver apps. Ctrl+click the Hello.saver and select Copy on the menu or press Cmd+C.

Copy and rename Hello.saver

Rename a file on the desktop on the Mac

Go to the desktop, Ctrl+click and select Paste Item, or simply press the keyboard shortcut Cmd+V.

Ctrl+click the Hello.saver file and select Rename on the menu. It does not matter what you call it and I called mine iMac.saver (it has to be a .saver file).

Install the screen saver

Install a screen saver in macOS on the Apple Mac
Install a Mac screen saver

Files of type .saver are recognized as screen savers by macOS and double clicking the screen saver you copied and renamed automatically opens System Preferences and triggers the installation. Just click the Install button to continue.

Screen saver install completed

Screen savers in System Preferences in macOS on the Apple Mac
Screen savers in Mac System Preferences

System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Screen Saver automatically opens, but you can manually visit this at any time to select the screen saver you want. Hello is at the bottom of the screen saver thumbnails in the sidebar. Click the button Screen Saver Options and configure it.

Set screen saver options

Screen saver options in System Preferences on the Apple Mac
Screen saver options

There are a few interesting options and at the top are some theme options in a menu. There is a choice of Soft Tones, Spectral and Minimal. Try each one and see which you prefer. There is also an option to Show “hello” in all languages and to Match system appearance. See which looks best to you.

Set screen saver timer

Set the screen saver timeout in System Preferences on the Apple Mac
Set the screen saver timeout

At the top of Desktop & Screen Savers is Show screen saver after and then an option to choose the length of time before the screen saver appears. Look at the screenshot and you’ll see a small yellow triangle to the right of this. It is because in System Preferences > Battery the screen is set to turn off to save power on this MacBook before the screen saver is activated.

You need to set screen saver activation timer that is shorter than the timer to turn off the display. You can see I am changing it from 1 Hour to 10 Minutes in the screenshot. That will do it and the yellow warning triangle disappears.

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