Changing Macintosh HD icon

Some time ago I changed the desktop icon for my main drive. I just made a new icon png and dragged it onto the old icon in the Get Info pane and it changed easy enough. Now it won’t let me change it any further. I cannot go back to the default original or to a new custom icon. Is there some trick to this in Catalina that I am missing? I can change icons on other drives and volumes, but not the main drive.

I’ve already tried disabling Gatekeeper

sudo spctl --master-disable

and mounting the system partition read only

sudo mount -uw

but those did not help.

Lastly, I also tried manually replacing .VolumeIcon.icns in the root folder, but the icon there wasn’t even the current icon, so something is weird there. Also, when I try to delete it, I get an error stating the file cannot be modified or deleted because it is needed by macOS. This is after those terminal commands above.

Something has the icon locked down and I can’t figure out what it is.

Did you select the drive, Get Info, click the lock icon, then unlock and authenticate with your password?


I always thought the lock was just for changing file permissions. Either way, unfortunately it did not work. Thanks, though.

I also tried Path Finder’s Get Info which has a toggle for “custom icon,” but when I try to deselect it, I get an error about a read-only file system. (That’s even after “sudo mount -uw”, which should make it read-write.)

I just did this successfully on my 2012 Mac Mini and 2020 MacBook Air, both running Catalina. I found what I wanted to use as the icons as png files (one was originally a different format so I had to convert it first). I opened the png in Preview, copied the graphic to the clipboard, did Get Info on the drive icon I wanted to change, clicked on the little icon at top-left of the info window, then pressed Cmd-V for paste. I think I was prompted for my password, entered it, and I had the icon(s) I wanted. (I did this because I use a 27" monitor at times for both computers, and having the drive icon displaying on the desktops, and looking like the actual computers, helps avoid confusion about which computer I’m seeing. Yeah, I could use different wallpaper, but, well, I just like the wallpaper I’m using on both of them.)

Hope this is helpful!

Thanks, Andy. Welcome to the party. Yes, that’s pretty much the way I do it, although I save the png so I have it for later, too. Unfortunately, it does not work for me right now.

I get the wallpaper thing. I’m running a windows VM and I remote (Jump) into a couple of other macs and PCs. Sometimes all at the same time. It can get confusing swiping between desktops. For a while I had tried placing the dock in different locations to be my visual clue. That just got too messy. (Working on an i9-9900 w/ 64GB RAM makes all of that run smoooooth as butter, I tried 32GB, but it just wasn’t enough.)