Chapter 8. System Preferences

The hub of Mac customization is System Preferences, the modern-day successor to the old Control Panel (Windows) or Control Panels (previous Mac systems). Some of its panels are extremely important, as their settings determine whether or not you can connect to a network or go online to exchange email. Others handle the more cosmetic aspects of customizing Mac OS X. This chapter guides you through the entire System Preferences program, panel by panel. (Reading it will be an especially worthwhile exercise if you’re used to previous versions of Mac OS X. Apple had a field day rearranging things in this system-software toolbox.)


Only a system administrator (see Section 11.2) can change settings that affect everyone who shares a certain machine: its Internet settings, Energy Saver settings, and so on. If you see a bunch of controls that are dimmed and unavailable, now you know why.

The tiny padlock in the lower-left corner of a panel (see Figure 8-4 for an example) is the other telltale sign. If you, a nonadministrator, would like to edit some settings, call an administrator over to your Mac and ask him to click the lock, input his password, and supervise your tweaks.

The System Preferences Window

You can open System Preferences in dozens of ways, but the quickest is to choose its name from the The System Preferences Window menu or click its icon in the Dock. At first, the rows of icons ...

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