“Hacking” notification sounds in macOS

Sound IconSome users of operating system from Apple, macOS, are complaining about lack of customization. It’s true that macOS is not as customizable as Windows or Linux, but some of these restriction can be overriden by simple “hacks”. This applies on notification sounds too. Did you want to choose notification sound for your favourite app, but app does not allow to do this in its settings? Or just to change default calendar alert to your own alert sound? Here I will show you how to reach this. I described 3 different causes, starting with the easiest, ending with the hardest.

Cause 1: applications’ sounds:

This is easy, even for beginners. Some apps allow you to change alert sound, but only from built-in sounds in macOS. So we need to add some files to user’s sound folder. Prepare your sound – I recommend MP3 or AIFF file. If your sound file is in another format and you don’t have convert tool, use free service online-convert-com.

Ready? OK, now go to macOS’s top menu and click “Go”. Then click on “Go to Folder”. If you are not sure, look at this screenshot:

Go to Folder

After clicking, type this:


Usually you will see empty folder. Just copy here your sound files and that’s all. If new sounds do not appear in your app, restart that app.

Cause 2: system sounds:

This is little harder. If you are running OS X El Capitan or macOS Sierra or later, you will need to disable System Integrity Protection. Reboot your Mac into Recovery Mode by restarting your computer and holding down Command+R until the Apple logo appears on your screen. Click on Utilities and choose Terminal. Here type:

csrutil disable

Then press enter. Now is System Integrity Protection disabled. Restart your Mac.

Now go to macOS’s top menu and click “Go”. Then click on “Go to Folder”. Now type this:


Here are located system’s sound files. You need to replace file. As for me, I wanted to change system calendar sound. Calendar uses file “Basso.aiff”. To change Calendar’s default alert sound, you will need to replace this file with the exactly same name with the same extension. You can again use online-convert-com if you need to format your sound file to AIFF and you have no software to do it. Please note, that this will change all notifications which are using “Basso.aiff”, so take care when replacing files in this directory.

After this, re-enable System Integrity Protection. Repeat all steps as you did while disabling System Integrity Protection with one change – type this in Terminal:

csrutil enable

Press Enter and restart your Mac. System Integrity Protection is now re-enabled.

Cause 3: editing sound files directly in app folder:

The hardest one is about replacing sound files directly in the app package system. I personally wanted to change notification sound in e-mail client Spark by Readdle, but no option for custom sound was available – only Readdle’s sound or system’s default. I used sound “Aurora” which can be found in iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), so I wanted to change it. Go to folder Applications and choose your desired app – in my case, it was Spark by Readdle. Right-click it and choose “Show Package Contents”. Look here:

Show Package Contents

What is this???

I will explain this: in Windows, when you install app, it creates folder in location you have chosen during setup progress and inside that folder are “.exe” file and other source files. That “.exe” file is file, which will launch your app and shortcut to this file is usually added to Windows’s iconic Start Menu. On macOS it’s reversed – you will directly see “.app” file which launches app itself. If you want to tink with it, you will need to use “Show Package Contents” to show app’s file structure.

Ready? OK, now open folder “Contents” and then “Resources”. This should be same in all apps in macOS. Now, you will see this:


Click here for full-sized screenshot

In this case, you need to replace file called “spark_sound_newmail.aiff”. It must be same name and same extension. If you see more sounds and you are not sure which to replace, click on that sound file and press spacebar on your Mac keyboard – it will launch quick preview (QuickLook), so you can fastly check file without need to launch it.

Now, after replacing sound file, restart affected app and enjoy new notification sound. Just one note – it’s highly possible that you will have to replace notification sound file after each update of app, so keep your chosen sound file at safe location.

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