Everyone loves a nice screen saver – they give you something to stare at when you’re bored, and an eye-popping screen saver is a great way to impress your friends and colleagues when they amble past your Mac!
Here, in no particular order, are 10 free Mac screen savers that I love. Installation hints are at the end, if you need them.
One of my favourite screen savers, written by the very talented Terry Welsh over at Really Slick Screensavers. Take a trip down a wormhole with this psychedelic extravaganza, reminiscent of many a game and sci-fi movie. This one’s pretty CPU-hungry, so if it’s a bit jerky try reducing the Resolution of geometry setting.
A lovely screen saver from Martin Thorne. Beautiful, ever-changing strands of light move across the screen. Strangely hypnotic in a darkened room!
Another saver from Martin Thorne, in a similar vein to Strands. This one features glowing snakes of light darting around the screen.
A psychedelic marvel with the right settings, Euphoria features lots of twisting, flowing, multicoloured wisps. For a nice effect, set Number of wisps to 10, Number of background layers to 5, and Texture to Plasma. Another classic from Terry Welsh.
Terry does it again! This is one of the nicest fireworks screen savers out there, with flying camera, sound effects and smoke. (To turn the smoke on, bring the Amount of smoke in explosions slider up from zero.) Even better, you can control the camera with the mouse, and set off the fireworks yourself with various keys on the keyboard. See the Read Me inside the .dmg file for the keys to use.
Simulates swarms of fireflies zooming around the screen with ever-changing colours. Really rather pretty! To make the experience really psychedelic, try setting Tail length to 50.
Another Terry Welsh special. Swirling patches of colour mix and match continuously. This one is really relaxing to watch. To make it even more relaxing, bring the Speed setting down to around 5 or so. Chill out and check the colours, man.
Another “swirling strands of colour” saver along the lines of Flurry and Fireflies. Lots of little particles blow in the breeze. For a really full-on effect, try moving the Wind speed setting up to 100! This is another saver from the jolly clever Terry Walsh. You can tell I’m a fan, can’t you.
Always nice to have a spinning globe. This one’s fairly realistic and uses NASA’s Blue Marble imagery. Also available with a clock (shame this isn’t available as an option in the one screen saver).
This is another of my favourites. It simulates rain falling on a puddle on top of your desktop (or any other image of your choosing). It’s a real eye-catcher when people walk past your Mac. I like it with Water depth set to Shallow. (Note that the rainfall takes a while to get up to speed.)
Finally, a special mention should go to the XScreenSaver collection, the legendary bunch of over 200 screen savers that feature on UNIX and Linux systems across the planet. Also available for your Mac! Some of my personal favourites include BSOD, which shows over 20 types of computer crashing (very geeky), and Flying Toasters, which depicts… well… you guess.
Installing screen savers on the Mac
To install a downloaded Mac screen saver, you usually just unzip it then double-click the .saver file. You can then select it from the list in System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Screen Saver. (You might need to restart System Preferences for it to appear.) However, some screen savers come as Quartz Composer (.qtz) files; to install these, you need to manually drag them into ~/Library/Screen Savers.
Do you have a favourite screen saver that’s not on the list? Feel free to post it in the comments!