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How to Change the Default Downloads Folder on Your Mac

Posted by Melissa Holt on July 5, 2019
mac web browsers

I’ve seen a lot of cluttered and disorganized Downloads folders on Mac. A lot. For me, at least, it’s much easier to keep my downloaded files cleaned up and organized if I download to my Desktop which I’m constantly looking at then to download to the downloads folder which I don’t pay attention to until it gets too cluttered to find anything.

So if you’re the same way, it’s good to know that you can change where Safari, Firefox, and Chrome automatically put their downloads.

So for today’s article, let’s go over how to change the default download folder on the Mac!

Luckily, the process of changing the default download directory pretty similar in the three main Mac browsers.

Change the Default Download Location in Safari

For Apple’s built-in Safari browser, the first step is to ope the Safari app and then select the Safari pull-down menu in the top-left corner of your screen. From the drop-down list, choose Preferences.
Safari Preferences
After the Preferences window opens, make sure you’ve got the General tab selected, then you can change the “File download location” toggle to whatever location you want.
General Preferences
As you can see, I’ve got mine set to “Desktop,” but you can pick an alternate location with that “Other” choice. Clicking “Other” will bring you to the familiar macOS open/save dialog box, from which you can select any folder you want to use.
Choose Folder
If you’re feeling really fancy, you could instead change that toggle shown in my second screenshot above to “Ask for each download,” which will mean that you can file away everything you download exactly where you want it to go, every time. While this is a nifty feature but it can get cumbersome to have to choose a download location for each and every download you do.

Change the Default Download Location in Firefox

With the Firefox browser, you’ll start the same way as you did with Safari. That is, first launch the Firefox application and then click on its named menu (i.e., the Firefox pulldown menu) in the upper left. Then select Preferences from the Firefox pull-down menu
Firefox Preferences
Under the General tab, the option for this is front and center—it’s even labeled “Save files to.”
Save File to in Firefox
Use that “Choose” button on the right which will enable you to switch your download location to a different folder, or again, the “Always ask me where to save files” radio button you see above will make Firefox ask you each time you initiate a download.

Change the Default Download Location in Chrome

Google made it just a teeny bit harder to change your default downloads folder in the Chrome browser, but the steps begin the same way as the other two browsers. First launch the Chrome application and then click on the Chrome menu at the top of your screen and select Preferences from the Chrome pull-down menu.
Chrome Preferences
Scroll down on the “Settings” tab until you see “Show advanced settings,” and then click that.
Show Advanced
When those advanced settings appear, you’ll need to scroll a bit more to get to the “Download location” option.

You can use the “Change” button there to switch yours from whatever it’s set to, or as with Safari and Firefox, there’s a choice to make the browser ask you where to put the file you’re downloading every time.
Chrome Downloads
As Steve Jobs used to say, “Oh yeah, there’s one more thing.”

Mail also uses the Downloads folder to store attachments you save, so if you’d like to be really thorough, you could change that, too.

Click on the Mail pulldown menu at the top of Mail then select Preferences. Next, under the General tab, you can change the download location just as you can with the web browsers:Mail Preferences
So now that you’ve got all of your browsers (and Mail!) set to do exactly what you need them to, you can go forward knowing that your Downloads folder will never get too cluttered and disorganized again. Getting things done is so much easier when you stay organized.

If you’re a Mac user and enjoyed this article, you might want to check out this TechJunkie article: How To Flush the DNS in Mac Mojave.

Do you have any tips or tricks for managing downloads on your Mac? If so, we’d love to hear from you in a comment below!

One thought on “How to Change the Default Downloads Folder on Your Mac”

Lia Elena says:
Thank you for this contribution.
I am trying to choose an external HD as a default. I hope it will work.
Reply

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