Several users have said that they are unable to change the Desktop preferences on the Mac because the Desktop tab of Desktop & Screen Saver System Preferences is blank and nothing is displayed. Likewise, some users have reported that although the page is not fully blank, some of the settings are grayed out and inaccessible.
You can access this Desktop settings pane by going to System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop. If this option screen is blank, no settings options will show. You will not be able to change the picture or color shown on your desktop. A list of pictures, folders, or colors will not be displayed. You will not be able to add or remove images. Furthermore, setting light or dark appearances in System Preferences will not be possible. And lastly, if some settings are grayed out, you will not be able to change them.
If you are having this problem too, please try the steps below in order. After trying each step below, open System Preferences again to see if the options appear.
Please ensure that your Mac has the latest version of the macOS software. You can update your Mac by going to System Preferences > Software Update. Wait a few seconds and your Mac will check for updates. If there is an update available, click “Update Now” to install it.
2. Use Safe Mode
Restart your Mac in Safe Mode and test to see if you experience the same problem. Then exit Safe Mode and then test your problem again. How you enter in Safe Mode differs depending on the Mac you have:
Intel based Mac:
If your Mac has a Intel processor follow the steps below:
- Turn off your Mac and wait for it to completely power off.
- Turn on your Mac and immediately press and hold the Shift key.
- Release the Shift key when the login screen appears.
- Log in to your Mac (you may be asked to log in multiple times).
If your Mac has an Apple Silicon, follow the steps below:
- Turn off your Mac. Wait a few seconds so that your Mac shuts off completely.
- Press and hold the power button until the startup options screen appears.
- Select your startup disk (e.g., Macintosh HD) and press and hold the Shift key.
- Click Continue in Safe Mode (now you may release the Shift key).
- Now log in to your Mac.
Note: If you do not know your Mac’s processor, you can find out this by going to the Apple menu > About This Mac > Overview and check the Chip or Processor line, it will say Intel or Apple.
In Safe Mode, test to see if you have fixed your problem and then exit Safe Mode and again test. To exit Safe Mode, just restart your Mac normally.
3. Reset NVRAM or PRAM
You can reset NVRAM or PRAM if you have an Intel-based Mac. Here is how:
- Turn off your Mac.
- Locate these four keys: Option, Command, P, and R.
- Turn on your Mac and press and hold these keys for about 20 seconds.
- Then release the keys.
Test your issue again.
See also: How To Organize Your Mac Desktop
4. System-wide or user-specific issue
If you are still having this problem still, let’s try to find out if it’s a system wide or user specific problem. This will let us know if this is related to the files or settings in your account. Here is how:
- Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Users & Groups.
- If the section is locked, click the lock icon to unlock it (you will need to enter an administrator name and password).
- Click the Add (+) button below the list of users.
- Create a new admin account.
- Log out of your account and then log in with the new account.
Now try to reproduce this problem in the new account by going to System Preferences.
You can delete this new user later if you want.
5. Preference files
You may be having this problem because of corrupted preference files. Here is what you can do:
- Quit System Preferences if it is open.
- Go to Finder.
- Press and hold the Option key and while you press the key, click Go and Library.
- Click the Preferences folder.
- Find the com.apple.systempreferences.plist file.
- Drag it to your desktop.
- Restart your Mac.
And test your problem, if your issue is not fixed, put back the plist file.