Create your own system sounds for the Apple Mac

Where are system sounds stored on the Mac? If your knew that you could then edit them, replace them or create new ones. That would be useful and many users want to customise their Mac in various ways. Let's see how to do this and along the way we'll discover the location of the system sounds folder.

There is not just one folder containing system sounds and there are several places where sounds that the Mac plays are stored. In addition to this, there are different types of sounds. There are system sounds, ring tones, alert tones and perhaps more.

Related article: Take control of your Apple Mac’s sounds

In this article we will look at just system sounds and perhaps unsurprisingly, they are are stored in a folder called Sounds. It sounds obvious, but there are actually three of them. What’s more, they are all stored in the Library folder and there are three of those too.


If you open a Finder window and navigate to the first two folders you will see some sounds. System sounds used by applications like Mail are stored in /System/Library/Sounds (in El Capitan anyway, other versons of OS X nay store them elsewhere). Unfortunately, this folder is protected by OS X. You can look at the contents of the folder, but you cannot add any files, delete any or change any. All actions are blocked and you don't have permission.

this folder is protected by OS X

It is easy to confirm that this collection of .aiff files is indeed the system sounds by starting Mail, going to Mail, Preferences, General and clicking the New messages sound. The list of sounds available is exactly the same as the list of files in the folder.

Although the contents of the /System/Library/Sounds folder cannot be changed, the Sounds folder in the Library folder of your user account home folder has no restrictions, assuming you are logged on as an administrator of course. This means that you can add your own sound files to it and then they can be used in applications.

You could search the web for suitable sounds and download them, but let’s create our own sounds instead. Go to and download the Audacity audio app for the Apple Mac. It is a free open source sound editor that is perfect for creating the sort of sounds we need.

Run Audacity, go to the File menu and find and load an audio file. I have some MP3 music in iTunes, so I loaded a favourite music track from /Users /Roland /Music /iTunes /iTunes Media /Music. Audacity supports many common file formats and you don’t have to use MP3.

Audacity audio app for Apple Mac

It would not be a good idea to play a whole three or four minute music track as a new email sound for example, and system sounds are short, usually just a couple of seconds long. Click and drag over the audio wave to select sections  of audio you don't want and press the delete key to delete them.

The best way to do this is to find a few seconds of music you would like to use by clicking in the audio wave and clicking the play button, then click and drag from that position to the beginning and press Delete. Click just after the sound you want and drag to the end of the track and press Delete. What’s left is the bit you want to use as your system sound.

The zoom buttons in the toolbar are useful for zooming in to select small sections and the play button can be used to listen to the audio snippet and check that it is the one you want.

After editing the sound, go to File and select Export audio. Set the file format to AIFF (Apple) signed 16-bit PCM.

Audacity audio app for Apple Mac

The sound can be saved to the Sounds folder in your Library, or the desktop and then moved to it. Click the desktop so Finder is selected, click the Go menu, hold down Option and select Library. Open the Sounds folder and drag the new system sound to it that you created.

System sounds folder location on the Mac

Now open Mail, go to Mail, Preferences, General and click New messages sounds. At the bottom of the list of system sounds is a new section with the sound you just added to your Library/Sounds folder.

New mail sound in the Mail app

Don’t forget to turn up the volume to hear the new mail sounds. System sounds may be muted or set too low so go to System Preferences on the Apple menu and select Sound. On the Sound Effects tab is a list of sounds and it includes your new sound. Drag the Alert volume slider to set the volume.

System sounds volume on the Apple Mac

Repeat this process and add more sounds to your Library/Sounds folder. They can be selected in other applications that use system sounds.



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