Setting Up a New Mac: Basic Settings

Daniel Weibel
Created 1 Dec 2013
Last updated 27 Dec 2023

This is a checklist for setting up and personalising a new Mac.

See Setting Up a New Mac: Tools and Apps for apps and tools to install on a new Mac.

Last used for macOS Sonoma 14.2.1 on a MacBook Air M1 (2020).

Install updates

  1. Go to System Settings > General > Software Update and install any system udpates
  2. Go to App Store > Updates and selecting Update All and install any app updates

Install Xcode Command Line Tools

Run the following command in a terminal and follow the dialog:

xcode-select --install

Disable iCloud Drive

Go to System Settings > Apple ID and under Apps Using iCloud, set iCloud Drive to Off.

This disables any confusing file dialogs and Finder entries.

Customise gestures

  1. Go to System Preferences > Trackpad
  2. Under Point & Click, enable Tap to click
  3. Under More Gestures, disable Notification Centre
  4. Enable three-finger dragging of windows as follows:
  5. Go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Trackpad Options…
  6. Enable Use trackpad for dragging
  7. Set Dragging style to Three-Finger Drag

Note: the Notification Centre can always be opened by clicking on the time and date in the menu bar.

Customise menu bar

  1. Go to System Preferences > Control Centre
  2. Select which items to display in the menu bar
  3. Enable displaying of battery percentage in menu bar by enabling Battery > Show Percentage
  4. Rearrange items in the menu bar by holding Command and dragging the items in the menu bar

Customise Dock

  1. Go to System Preferences > Desktop & Dock
  2. Enable Automatically hide and show the Dock
  3. Disable Show suggested and recent apps in Dock
  4. Select which items to include in the Dock by dragging unwanted items to the Bin and dragging wanted apps and directories into the dock

Disable unnecessary sounds

  1. Disable the startup sound by going to System Settings > Sound and disabling Play sound on startup.
  2. Disable the power chime by executing the following:
    defaults write ChimeOnNoHardware -bool true

    The power chime is a short sound that plays by default when connecting a charging cable.

  3. Log out of macOS and log in again

    This is necessary for the disabling of the power chime to take effect.

Disable unnecessary automatic settings

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Under Desktop & Dock, disable Automatically rearrange Spaces based on most recent use
  3. Under Displays, disable Automatically adjust brightness

Enable snap-to-grid for Desktop icons

Right-click anywhere on the Desktop, click on Show View Options and select Sort By > Snap to Grid.

Disable floating screenshot thumbnails

  1. Press Command-Shift-5
  2. In the appearing user interface, click on Options and disable Show Floating Thumbnail

This ensures that screenshots are immediately saved to disk instead of being presented as a floating thumbnail for a few seconds.

Customise Finder

  1. Go to Finder > Settings…
  2. Under Sidebar, select which items to display in the sidebar
  3. Under General, set New Finder windows show: to Desktop
  4. Under Advanced, do the following:
    1. Enable Show all filename extensions
    2. Disable Show warning before changing an extension
    3. Set When performing a search: to Search the Current Folder
  5. Go to Finder > View and enable Show Status Bar and Show Path Bar
  6. Include the $HOME/Library directory in Finder by executing the following:
    chflags nohidden ~/Library

Customise TextEdit

  1. Go to TextEdit > Settings…
  2. Under the New Document tab, do the following:
    1. Under Format, select Plain text
    2. Under Window Size_, set _Width_ to _80**
    3. Under Font, set Plain text font to Menlo Regular 12
    4. Under Options, uncheck all the check boxes
  3. Under the Open and Save tab, do the following:
    1. Under When Opening a File, do the following:
      1. Enable Display HTML files as HTMl code instead of formatted text
      2. Enable Display RTF files as RTF code instead of formatted text
    2. Under When Saving a File, disable Add “.txt” extension to plain text files

Customise keyboard

  1. Install the Logitech Swiss German keyboard layout by following the instructions here (GitHub).
  2. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts… > Modifier Keys…, and do the following:
    1. Set Caps Lock to Control
    2. Set Control to Caps Lock
    3. Set Option to Command
    4. Set Command to Option

      This swaps the functions of the Caps Lock and Control, and Option and Command keys, respectively.

  3. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard, and set Press 🌐 key to to Do Nothing

    This disables the globe functionality and makes the globe (🌐) key act like a normal fn key, which is necessary for Fluor (will be installed later). The input source can always be changed with Control-Space, even without the globe key.

Install Homebrew and default Homebrew formulas

  1. Install Homebrew by executing the following command (may also be copied from
    bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"
  2. Install the default Homebrew formulas from weibeld-personalisation/brewfile by executing the following commands:
    curl >Brewfile
    /opt/homebrew/bin/brew bundle install --file Brewfile

Note: on Macs with Intel chips, the path of the brew executable is /usr/local/bin instead of /opt/homebrew/bin (see documentation).

Set Bash as the default shell

To set the version of Bash installed by Homebrew as the default shell instead of the native Zsh, do the following (see more information in Upgrading Bash on macOS):

  1. Execute the following commands:
    echo /opt/homebrew/bin/bash | sudo tee -a /etc/shells >/dev/null
    chsh -s /opt/homebrew/bin/bash
    sudo chsh -s /opt/homebrew/bin/bash
  2. Close and reopen the terminal application and verify that the version of Bash installed by Homebrew is running:
    echo $SHELL

Note: on Macs with Intel chips, the Homebrew base directory is /usr/local instead of /opt/homebrew (see documentation), that is, the path to the Bash binary in that case is /usr/local/bin/bash instead of /opt/homebrew/bin/bash.

Install custom dotfiles

curl -Lks | bash

The weibeld/dotfiles repository hosts a set of dotfiles (~/.bashrc, ~/.bash_profile, etc.) with customisations for various tools. The above command downloads and installs these dotfiles. Detailed instructions can be found in this gist.

Customise iTerm2

TODO: use Git Credential Manager (GCM):

  1. Go to iTerm2 > Settings…> General > Preferences
  2. Check Load preferences from a custom folder or URL
  3. Enter the following URL into the text field:
  4. Quit iTerm2 and restart it to apply the customised settings

The weibeld/iterm2-settings repository hosts a complete customised iTerm2 configuration description.

Set Up GitHub Credentials

TODO: use Git Credential Manager (GCM):

  1. On GitHub, create a new personal access token
    • Settings > Developer settings > Personal access tokens > Tokens (classic)
  2. Push a commit to any GitHub repository
    • In the appearing prompt, enter your username and the personal access token created above

After this initial authentication, the git-credential-osxkeychain helper saves the credentials in Keychain Access and automatically retrieves them whenever they are needed.

Configure Fluor

Start Fluor, click its icon in the menu bar, and set Trigger to the rightmost option (key). This allows switching mode by simply pressing the fn key.

If you have a globe (🌐) key hosted together with the fn key, make sure to disable the globe key functionality, as explained in Setting Up a New Mac: Basic Settings. Otherwise, the globe functionality may interfer with Fluor.

Set Up Google Drive to Mirror Files

  1. Click on Google Drive in the menu bar, then Preferences > Google Drive > Mirror files
  2. Create and select a folder in which to mirror the Google Drive files
    • This folder will directly contain the content of Google Drive, i.e. no additional top-level folder will be created
    • For example, create and select the folder ~/Desktop/Google Drive

The above settings make sure that the entire content of Google Drive is downloaded to the local machine (in the specified folder) and kept in sync with the server side of Google Drive. By default, Google Drive uses the Streaming mode where files are only downloaded on demand, e.g. when they are opened on the local machine.

Install AdBlock in Chrome

Go to

Set Chrome Download Location to Desktop

Chrome > Settings > Downloads > Location > Change

Set Up eduroam

See instructions on Zoolz (TODO: move instructions here).