the "standard" login screen background on OSC (Leopard and Snow Leopard) can be modified using these command line incantations:

cd /System/Library/CoreServices
sudo mv DefaultDesktop.jpg DefaultDesktop_org.jpg
sudo cp /path/of/image.jpg DefaultDesktop.jpg

I learned that here

QUESTION: is there a GUI based utility for people like my wife and daughter?

.. they DO want to customize (worse: they want me to do it ),
but they DON'T want to learn the terminal ( since I know how).
They DO know how to enter an admin's credentials when prompted.


There's this that will match the login screen to the current wallpaper.

And this to set it to the image you like.

I haven't tried any of those, I did with the CLI, too.

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You should be able to set something up using Automator I would have thought...

This article should guide you through setting one up to run terminal shell scripts from automator. The advantage you'll get is that you can set it up for drag and drop support very easily, so you could drag the file you wish to use and it'll set it.

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Here is an easy way to change the login background on Mac OS X 10.5 and later in three steps:

  1. Choose a picture you like and save it as DefaultDesktop_Org in your Pictures Folder

  2. Press Command + Shift + G and type in: /System/Library/CoreServices

  3. Drag the picture you saved into the "Core Services" folder you just opened and replace.

It really is that simple - a drag and drop.

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  • I disagree. For a 'GUI' focused person your method is scary! – lexu May 20 '10 at 5:39

I haven’t tried it, but I did a quick Google search and found Visage Login, a $5 app that lets you customize the login screen, including the background image, logo, title and text. It’s free for 3 days; I guess it’s worth a shot.

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For Snow Leopard you can do this without modifying any system files. In terminal type:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow DesktopPicture “path to image file”

Make sure that the folder the image is in has execute permissions for all users. You can use PNG files, not just JPG. No need to restart, just log out to confirm that it worked.

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  • Thanks Ross, alas this is NOT 'Wife or Daughter' compatible (thus misses my request entirely) but interesting never the less ..(might want to mark this 'wiki' or you could get down-voted, but not by me!) – lexu Oct 5 '10 at 6:59

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