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How can I export my system preferences? [Resolved]

Is there a way for me to export my system preferences on my Mac for quick install on another machine?

An example of what I am trying to accomplish is, when I start a new job, I would like to import my settings and have my system preference work without having to manually configure all of my custom settings.

I am most interested in exporting settings for :

  • Trackpad / Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Dock
  • dashboard (I like to disable it)

Question Credit: Betsy Dupuis
Question Reference
Asked June 10, 2019
Posted Under: Apple
5 Answers

I wrote some scripts to backup and restore Mac preferences. It does both System and Application preferences.

You can grab them here:

They're pretty simple. I just loop over the domains from running defaults domains and then call default export [domain] [plist file path].

Then to restore I just loop over all the plist files in the dir and run default import [plist file path]

You can modify the file if you want to backup to a different dir. The default dir is ~/Dropbox/MacPrefsBackup.

credit: ClintM
Answered June 10, 2019

If you cannot find an app/applet that does this, you might need to hack it yourself through Terminal. Take Bluetooth Trackpad for example:


defaults read

I get:

    Clicking = 0;
    DragLock = 0;
    Dragging = 0;
    TrackpadCornerSecondaryClick = 0;
    TrackpadFiveFingerPinchGesture = 2;
    TrackpadFourFingerHorizSwipeGesture = 2;
    TrackpadFourFingerPinchGesture = 2;
    TrackpadFourFingerVertSwipeGesture = 2;
    TrackpadHandResting = 1;
    TrackpadHorizScroll = 1;
    TrackpadMomentumScroll = 1;
    TrackpadPinch = 1;
    TrackpadRightClick = 1;
    TrackpadRotate = 1;
    TrackpadScroll = 1;
    TrackpadThreeFingerDrag = 0;
    TrackpadThreeFingerHorizSwipeGesture = 2;
    TrackpadThreeFingerTapGesture = 2;
    TrackpadThreeFingerVertSwipeGesture = 2;
    TrackpadTwoFingerDoubleTapGesture = 1;
    TrackpadTwoFingerFromRightEdgeSwipeGesture = 3;
    USBMouseStopsTrackpad = 0;
    UserPreferences = 1;
    version = 5;

These are my settings for external trackpad. You get find the same results by opening


but simply copying and pasting the .plist file to a new computer doesn't change the settings. You have to use import (and export) options.

defaults export ~/Desktop/Test.plist

Move Test.plist to the new computer, and:

defaults import ~/Desktop/Test.plist

credit: fartheraway
Answered June 10, 2019

There's not exactly an export function. You can find (most) preferences in the library. If you hold alt/option and select "Go To" in the Finder menu bar, you can open the user library. There's a folder named preferences which contains the corresponding files. Named like, where xy is 'dock' for example.

credit: Kevin Grabher
Answered June 10, 2019

There is no specific way of doing this, but this is how I do it. My setup is redundant but it works the best for me and nothing is ever lost.

TL;DR: Make sure you have homebrew installed. Then run the following.

brew install mackup
mackup backup
brew install clintmod/formulas/macprefs
macprefs backup

But I recommend you read the docs of these two tools

Peace! ??

credit: Ahmad Awais
Answered June 10, 2019
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