How I Set Up A New Mac

Much like people who spend their time tricking out and polishing their cars a true Mac nerd will spend just as much energy customizing their machines to work just the way they like. I find that one of the fastest ways to get to know a Mac nerd is to bring up the subject of how they set up and use OS X.

Given that my main personal machine also has to be ready to do full fledged video editing, color grading, and post-production at a moment’s notice my set up process will be different than an average user’s. But I’m sure there’s something in this list anyone could find interesting or useful. Here goes!

As soon as I finish the setup and hit the Desktop, here’s the settings I have to change to even get off the ground. (Note: This list was made on OS X 10.10.4)


  • View > Show Status Bar or ⌘+/
  • Preferences > General
    • ☑ Check box: Hard Disks
    • ☑ Check box: Connected Servers
    • New Finder Window: Home directory
  • Preferences > Sidebar
    • ☐ Uncheck box: All My Files [1]
    • ☑ Check box: Home folder
    • ☑ Check box: Computer
    • ☑ Check box: Hard Disks
    • ☐ Uncheck box: Recent Tags
  • Preferences > Advanced
    • When Performing a Search: Search the Current Folder [2]
  • ⌘+Drag Tags button to remove from Toolbar
  • ⌘+3 for Column View
  • Sort Finder Sidebar by most used:
    • Home folder, Desktop, Downloads, Applications, Documents, AirDrop (optional), iCloud Drive (optional)

System Preferences

  • General
    • Appearance: Graphite
    • Highlight Color: Orange
    • Show Scroll Bars: Always
    • Click in the scroll bar to: Jump to the spot that’s clicked
  • Dock
    • Size: Largest
    • Position on screen: Left [3]
    • ☑ Check box: Automatically hide and show the Dock
  • Mission Control
    • Hot Corners… [4]
      • Top Left: Mission Control
      • Top Right: Notification Center
      • Bottom Right: Show Desktop
  • Language & Region
    • Time Format: 24-Hour Time [5]
  • Security & Privacy
    • Allow apps downloaded from: Anywhere
  • Energy Saver
    • Computer sleep: Never [6]
    • Display sleep: 10 minutes
    • ☐ Uncheck box: Put hard disks to sleep when possible
  • Mouse
    • ☑ Check box: Secondary Click [7]
  • Sound
    • ☑ Check box: Show volume in menu bar

On the Desktop

  • Right Click > Sort By > Snap to Grid
  • Right Click > Clean Up

In the Dock

  • Add Applications folder above Downloads
  • Set both Applications and Downloads folders to: Display as Folder


Still with me? Obviously many of these are subjective, but they work for me and feel like what a ‘standard’ OS X install should be. Below are the applications I install on any personal machine I use. The list would be smaller for a work machine.


Looking at that long list and trying to reconcile it against the ideals of Patrick Rhone’s Minimal Mac makes me want to cut it down dramatically. And I could, of course. But really I do use each of the applications listed and most all of them allow me to do more work faster.

Say hi on Twitter (@_mchristensen) if you’ve got something to add or take off this list, I’d love to hear it!

  1. All My Files only makes sense in an OS X demo video. Anyone working in post-production will have more files than they’d want to see at one time.  ↩

  2. This saves a lot of madness when using the Search bar in the Finder’s toolbar. How many times have you said “No, please don’t search ‘This Mac’.”?  ↩

  3. Yes, I fall hard into the camp that says there is no logic that allows for a Dock on the bottom.  ↩

  4. I understand some people consider Hot Corners a blasphemy. I find them useful, and I also find joy watching others trigger them when trying to use my machine.  ↩

  5. To the rest of the world, I apologize for American ignorance.  ↩

  6. This assumes you have an SSD to which sleep is of little benefit. You do have an SSD, right?  ↩

  7. My frustration at having to set this for each new account knows no bounds.  ↩

  8. I’m looking at you, Adobe cache files.  ↩

  9. Just Final Cut Pro, Compressor, and DVD Studio Pro (if the machine has a DVD drive). Believe me I’m looking forward to removing this from the list but I still come across .fcp files :(  ↩

  10. While I don’t use FCP X on a regular basis it seems silly not to install it on my Macs since I have a license from being an Apple employee.  ↩

  11. Don’t let Juan Salvo steer you wrong. Obviously you shouldn’t color grade or edit with f.lux on. But for everything else it’s wonderful.  ↩

  12. I’m a Safari man through and through, but I’m also an anti-Flash man. Having this handy lets me not install Flash and just hop onto Chrome when I hit a Flash-only site.  ↩

  13. Assuming a disc drive.  ↩

  14. Working in resource heavy apps like Premiere and Resolve and not having iStat Menus feels like driving a car without a dashboard.  ↩

  15. Only if you have an NVIDIA GPU.  ↩