Dirkjan Ochtman: writing

Changing your OS X Mavericks user icon without iPhoto

Published on 2013-10-24 by Dirkjan Ochtman in tech

I wanted to update the user icon/picture for my OS X user (which may include the iCloud/Apple ID picture as well), but it turned out to be harder than I thought. Here's to hoping this post may help others who run into the same problem. tl;dr: use iCloud's web app to upload the new picture for your own Contacts entry.

Update (2013-11-02): on Twitter, both Christopher Lenz and Justin Mayer pointed out that you can just drag and drop an image onto the System Preferences panel. I thought I'd tried that, but apparently not! Still, I wonder if that UI is sufficiently ingrained that discoverability is not important.

Update (2013-11-25): Hugh Hosman, via email, points out that you can also drop an image into /Library/User Images if you have super user privileges.

Like any person who values 0-day upgrades more than their system's stability, I recently upgraded to OS X Mavericks. Going into the Users & Groups preferences panel, double-clicking my current picture provided me with 6 possible options:

  • Defaults: a sample of pictures provided by Apple
  • Recents: contains the current picture, but no others
  • iCloud: is apparently connected to my iCloud Photo Stream
  • Faces: a selection based on the iCloud Photo Stream
  • Camera: take a new picture from my laptop camera
  • Linked: appears to have something to do with my Contacts

In other words, there was no way here to simply link in a JPEG. Apparently, the way to get pictures into the Photo Stream is either through an iOS device (probably through the Camera app) or via Apple's iPhoto or Aperture photo software, neither of which I own (though iPhoto is apparently free for everyone who buys a new machine from now on). I did some Googling, which yielded precisely zero useful results; apparently, using a JPEG was still supported under Mountain Lion, and no one had documented this problem yet. (One of the more promising venues appeared to be the Apple StackExchange site Ask Different.)

But, I figured it out:

  • Go to the web interface for iCloud
  • Go to the Contacts interface
  • Find your own Contacts entry
  • Click "Edit"
  • Click the picture
  • Click "Choose Photo..."

You can now upload the picture. Now, you should be able to go back to the Users & Groups panel and select the uploaded picture from the Linked list of pictures.

Not a great user experience, but at least it works.