Your Mac comes with a unique set of sound effects that you can assign as the default system alert. Some of these sounds are actually fairly ancient and may elicit feelings of nostalgia. However, you can change your system alert to any other sound effects your Mac comes with, or you can add custom sounds yourself–as well as turn them off completely.

RELATED: How to Adjust Volume Settings for Individual Audio Devices and Sound Effects in OS X

How to Change or Disable System Sounds

Your system Sound preferences can can be accessed by opening the System Preferences and clicking on “Sound”.

If you read our article on how to adjust the volume for individual audio devices, then this panel will be familiar.

When you click on a sound effect, you can hear what it sounds like and it will be set as your system alert.

Below the list of sound effects, you can elect to play them through your computer’s internal speakers or some other sound source. You will also be able to change the volume of all sound alerts, turn them off completely (by unchecking “Play user interface sound effects”), and decide whether you want to hear feedback whenever you change the volume on your system.

This last option doesn’t play a sound when you actually click on the volume slider on the menubar and change the volume, rather when you change the volume using the special keyboard keys.

How to Add Your Own Custom Sound Effects

You can add custom sound effects to your Mac with little difficulty. Before you begin, you’ll either have to make some custom sound effects, or you can download something already made. For this demonstration, we already have some custom Mac OS sounds we found online (, so we’ll use those.

First open your ~/Library/Sounds folder. The easiest way to do this is to select the “Go” menu in Finder, hold the “Option” key until “Library” appears. then click it. From there, open the Sounds folder.

To use custom sound effects, they have to be in AIFF format. If they’re not in AIFF, then they’ll need to be converted first. Read the next section to learn how to do that using iTunes, otherwise drag your custom sound AIFF files to the ~/Library/Sounds folder.

Finally, open the Sound preferences once again and select the “Custom” sound effect you want to use as your system alert.

How to Convert Custom Sounds to AIFF

As we mentioned, if you have something you want to use as a system sound, it will need to be in .AIFF format. If it isn’t, you can convert it using iTunes.

Open iTunes and then the preferences using the iTunes menu or by pressing Command+, on your keyboard.

Now on the General preferences tab, click “Import Settings”.

In the Import Settings, select “AIFF Encoder” from the “Import Using” dropdown menu, then click “OK” and exit the preferences.

Now, in your media library (assuming you’ve added the MP3s you want to convert to your iTunes library), select the file or files you want to convert to AIFF. Click “File” then “Convert” and finally “Create AIFF Version”.

The conversion process should only take a few seconds at the most.

Right-click on the new sound file in the iTunes library and choose “Show in Finder”.

Now, you can just drag your new sound file to the ~/Library/Sounds folder as described in the previous section, and it will be automatically added as a new custom sound effect. Make sure you go back into the Sound preferences once again and select it as you new system alert sound.

Being able to use different sounds effects for your system alert not only distinguishes your Mac from everyone else’s, it gives you a break from the usual assortment of system alert sounds.

Now you can change things up every now and then to give yourself a break from the same old same old.

Profile Photo for Matt Klein Matt Klein
Matt Klein has nearly two decades of technical writing experience. He's covered Windows, Android, macOS, Microsoft Office, and everything in between. He's even written a book, The How-To Geek Guide to Windows 8.
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