How to make Yosemite look like System 7

system 7 conversion

Yes, OS X Yosemite is sexy, modern, and a far cry from what Apple desktops ran 20+ years ago, but that doesn't mean there's no value in nostalgia. Way back when Macs ran on CPUs with speeds of 33MHz (or even less), OS 7 -- also called System 7 -- was the best looking operating system most users had ever seen. Today, not so much, but if you long for the look of yesteryear anyway, here's how to tweak Yosemite and make it look it was released over two decades ago.

Note: These tweaks were inspired by a guide published on WonderHowTo, so a tip of the hat for the idea. We'll be taking the concept a couple steps further to make this the ultimate retro tweak.

For starters, there are a few system changes you need to make to lay the groundwork for the conversion, so take care of the following under your System Preferences menu first:

  • Under General, change the Appearance selection to "Graphite" and the Highlight color to "Graphite" as well.

  • Under Accessibility, toggle both "Reduce Transparency" and "Increase Contrast" on.

  • Under Desktop & Screensaver, select Solid Colors and then choose Solid Gray Medium (or Solid Gray Dark, depending on your taste, both are pretty close).

system 7 conversion

Now that your desktop is looking as bare and basic as it did when Nirvana was at the top of the charts, it's time to give your icons some much needed love. Depending on which versions of retro Mac you hold dear, you may want to find an icon pack from OS 8 or OS 9, but for the purposes of really throwing Yosemite back in time we'll go with System 7's low-res icon art.

Download a System 7 icon collection from wherever you can find it. (I found the icons I'm using on a MacWorld forum thread where a kind user has provided four folders worth of ripped retro icons - Thanks Macosnoob!)

Now you have the choice as to just how deep you want your retro conversion to go. If you feel like just replacing individual icons with the old school versions -- like the ones on your desktop specifically, while leave the rest of the system's icons alone -- you can do so by doing the following:

Select any item you want to change, like your main HD icon or a folder, and click "Get Info." Here you'll see the icon of your object in the top left corner of the new window. Now find the icon file you want to use as its replacement, and drag and drop it on top of the object's existing icon in the Get Info window. A green plus mark will pop up to let you know you're about to replace it, and dropping it there will automatically swap it in. You can do this for as many items as you want, and doing so will only alter the specific items you choose.

If you want to go all out with your retro devotion you can completely replace the icons your computer uses by default. Note: There is always a chance that when altering system resources you could mess something up, so be sure to do a system backup before doing this.

system 7 conversion

Your system's icons are tucked away within a resource file, so go ahead and copy and paste this path into the "Go To Folder" field under the "Go" menu:


Here you'll see the icon files OS X uses for virtually every file on your computer. In order to permanently replace the files with the retro versions you can rename the System 7 icon files so they match the ones you wish to replace, then swap them out.

Once you do this you should be able to restart your computer and see your new (old) icons in action. If any of them look odd or distorted you may need to tweak the a bit in an image resizing program like Skitch so they render correctly, but for the most part they should be plug-and-play.

To wrap up the entire conversion and give your Mac the old school feel it deserves, be sure to auto-hide the Dock, and hide the toolbar in folder windows by right clicking and selecting "Hide Toolbar" on the title bar your folders.

Ta-da! Now you can compute like it's 1993!