Primary desktop background won't change

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Lion (10.7)' started by mongorama, Jul 29, 2011.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Feb 13, 2009
    Not sure if this is Lion specific or not, but the desktop background on my primary display has changed to solid gray and I can't change it. I can bring up the preference panel for it, and click on different backgrounds, but nothing changes. I can even change the background on my secondary display... Any thoughts?
  2. macrumors newbie

    Jun 29, 2007
    San Diego
    same here. my second screen changes, but my primary desktop seems to be a washed out solid gray.
  3. macrumors 6502

    Sep 29, 2006
    Brighton, UK
    Mine's the other way around: the primary has a background, the secondary doesn't - just solid grey.

    BTW I'm using an external monitor on a MBP which is the primary, i.e. the MacBook is the secondary.

    This happened the other day where a reboot (ooh, just like Windows) fixed it. I use the machine in different offices on different monitors. Seems to be related to changing monitors.

    Getting bored with all the Lion bugs and 'features'.
  4. macrumors G3


    Mar 20, 2007
    I'm having this problem where my desktop background won't change, and I too have an external display. It is stuck on the wallpaper I want to change.

    A restart fixes it, but a bit of nuisance.
  5. macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2011
    I'm having the exact same problem—The other day I added monitor to my Mac Pro through HDMI (a dongle from MiniDisplay), and then changed my desktops. Today, they've reset to the default Lion one. They won't change, even though the preview display in System Settings says the background is something else. :confused:
  6. macrumors newbie

    Aug 14, 2012
    I had the same problem and called Apple Support.

    This is how we fixed it:

    1: Click "Go" at the top of the finder.
    2: Hold down the "Option" key and click "Library"
    3: Open the "Preferences" folder.
    4: Find the file ""
    5: Rename it to ""
    6: Reboot your computer.

    If this fixed the problem for you, follow steps 1 - 4 again and delete the ".old" file
  7. macrumors newbie

    Oct 8, 2012
    Dude, you are my god. Thank you so much
  8. macrumors newbie

    Aug 17, 2012
    changing background on first or second monitor

    To change the background wallpaper on the screen of your choice, make sure the screen you are trying to change is set as the primary screen ie. the one with the menu bar across the top. I have a Macbook Air 11" and here's how I am able to set my primary screen.

    Go to Preferences>Displays>Arrangement

    One of the displayed screens will have a white horizontal strip along its top edge. You can drag the white strip to the other screen. Whichever screen has the white strip will be the primary screen.

    Hope that works for you!
  9. macrumors newbie

    Sep 27, 2013
    Cayman Islands
    Kill the Dock to fix

    I had this same problem today after disconnecting and reconnecting two chained Thunderbolt displays.

    The solution is to open a Terminal and run:

    killall Dock
    This will restart the Dock, which also controls the desktop background.

    Credit to Jay Thompson, per this Stack Exchange answer.
  10. macrumors newbie

    Oct 20, 2007
    Easiest fix I have found

    If you have the "Show fast user switching" turned on, click the menu bar icon and choose "Login Window".

    Login as the same user and the background is back. No need to logout or reboot!

    To enable fast user switching menu bar, go to System Preferences -> Users & Groups -> Login Options
  11. macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2015
    The file "" is not appearing in my preferences folder. Any clue why?
  12. macrumors 601

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    Yeah, you're in the wrong folder. Follow the path given above. There are several Library folders on your Mac.
  13. macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2015
    I double checked in the right folder but the file still doesn't appear. Any other suggestion?
  14. macrumors 68040


    Jul 30, 2003
    You are likely still in the wrong Library folder.

    The correct Preferences folder will usually have more than 500 files, often more than a thousand files. If yours has only about 50 or less, you are still in the wrong Library.
    Follow the directions to go to the Go menu, then press and release the Option key. You will see the correct Library folder appear in the list, then disappear when you release the Option key. Click on that Library while holding the Option key, and then open the Preferences folder that you find now.
    If you have restarted your Mac, and are in the correct ~/Library/Preferences folder, there WILL be a file (guaranteed :D )
  15. macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2015
    I'm starting to hate myself for how stubborn and maybe stupid I sound but I swear I am looking in the right folder(I checked again). I have a MacBook Pro 13. Does this make any difference?
  16. macrumors 68040


    Jul 30, 2003
    (One more attempt :D ) Just as a double-check, if you are in the preferences folder - right-click on the window name. It will show you a list with the folder path to that folder. You'll see the folder name at the top (Preferences), then Library, then your user name, then Users, then the name of your hard drive. The folder Users is probably the most important, as you would be inside the Users folder (and at least a couple of folders in :D ) If the right-click name says only Preferences, then Library, then your hard drive name, then, yes, you are still in the wrong Library folder.

    No, the Mac model makes no difference in the makeup of the folders in your system.
  17. macrumors 601

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    If you are not finding that file, you cannot be in the correct folder. The file has to exist. If it gets deleted, the next time you open the app (Finder), a new one gets created. That's how it "just works". Maybe, just maybe you need to Restart. If you deleted the file (no, it cannot delete itself) and have not restarted since, that might be an explanation for what you're not seeing. (??)

Share This Page