How to make drive icons disappear from your Mac desktop

If you like your Mac desktop free of any encumbrances, you may find drive icons, whether internal or external, Time Machine or other, to be a bit distracting. Fortunately, it's something that's easy to change.

N.W. writes:

"I'm using a backup hard drive with Time Machine, but it's always on my desktop. Seeing the icon drives me crazy. I click on it compulsively whenever I pass my cursor over it. Can I make it go away?"

Yes, you can. And this tip will work for any external hard drive, not just for Time Machine volumes.

And in fairness, the default behavior for this is to have drive icons turned off, so I expect that if you're seeing them, you've changed things yourself — or used a utility to do so. You may have forgotten, but it's easy enough to change back.

Please note that this won't prevent the hard drive from being mounted, of course. If you open a Finder window and take a look in the sidebar, you should see the hard drive listed among the "Devices* connected to your Mac.

You can open it from there if you need to find its contents. It'll also be accessible from any Open command in any application. But at least this way, you can keep the hard drive from cluttering up your otherwise clean desktop space.

How to make hard drives disappear from the desktop

  1. Open the Finder.
  2. Click on the Finder menu.
  3. Select Preferences.
  4. Under Show these items on the desktop, uncheck Hard disks.

The hard disk icon corresponding to your Time Machine backup will no longer appear on the desktop. Nor will any other mounted hard drive. You can do the same for CDs, DVDs and servers too, or for other external disks.

Peter Cohen
  • I'd rather have the option to hide specific drives, if there is a way to do that. I want an external drive I plug in to show up on the desktop but not have my time machine drive show all he time.
  • I don't think there's a way to do this from the Finder but if you open up a Terminal window you can do it.

    chflags hidden "/Volumes/[volumename]" will hide it. "nohidden" will unhide it. You'll have to "killall Finder" to restart the Finder to get the volume to disappear.
  • This has been around for forever, and the default option has been to *NOT* have the drive icons appear on the desktop for several versions of OS X now. So the person with the problem is either using a very old installation of OS X, or actively enabled the feature in the first place.
  • I can never even see my desktop, since I always have a million windows open. I only get brief glimpses of my desktop every 1 or 2 months when I reboot my machine, right before I re-open my gazillion applications and windows. I honestly have no idea whether I have any drive icons on my desktop.
  • I started using a Mac with OS X Snow Leopard. The option to show volumes on the Desktop was enabled by default. Based on people's comments, I'm guessing the default changed to off in later versions of OS X.