How to Change the Default Downloads Folder on Your Mac

I’ve seen a lot of cluttered and disorganized Downloads folders on Mac. A lot. For me, at least, it’s much easier to keep my downloaded files cleaned up and organized if I download to my Desktop, which I’m constantly looking at, than to download to the downloads folder, which I don’t pay attention to until it gets too cluttered to find anything.

How to Change the Default Downloads Folder on Your Mac

If you’re the same way, it’s might be helpful to know that you can change where Safari, Firefox, and Chrome automatically put their downloads.

So let’s go over how to change the default download folder on the Mac!

Luckily, the process of changing the default download directory is pretty similar in the three main browsers.

Change the Default Download Location in Safari

  1. Open the Safari app and click on the Safari drop-down menu at the top left.
  2. Choose Preferences.
  3. Make sure the General tab is selected, and then change the File Download Location to wherever you want.

As you can see, I’ve got mine set to Desktop, but you can pick an alternate location with the Other… choice. Clicking Other… will bring you to the familiar macOS open/save dialog box, from which you can select any folder you want to use.

If you’re feeling really fancy, you could instead change that toggle shown in my second screenshot above to Ask for each download, which will mean that you can file away everything you download exactly where you want it to go, every time. While this is a nifty feature but it can get cumbersome to have to choose a download location for each and every download you do.

Change the Default Download Location in Firefox

Firefox Preferences
Save File to in Firefox

With the Firefox browser, you’ll start the same way as you did with Safari.

  1. Launch Firefox and click on its named menu(i.e., the Firefox pulldown menu) in the upper left-hand corner.
  2. Select Preferences.
  3. Under the General tab, at the label Save files to, click choose and select the folder you want your downloads to go to.

Again, the Always ask me where to save files radio button you see above will make Firefox ask you each time you initiate a download.

Change the Default Download Location in Chrome

Chrome Preferences
Show Advanced

Google made it just a teeny bit harder to change your default downloads folder in the Chrome browser, but the steps begin the same way as with the other two browsers.

  1. Launch Chrome and select the Chrome menu from the top of your screen.
  2. Select Preferences.
  3. Scroll down the settings on the side menu until you see Advanced. Click on it.
  4. Choose Downloads.
  5. Click on Change next to Location and select the folder you want your downloads to go to.

As with Safari and Firefox, there’s a choice to make the browser ask you where to put the file you’re downloading every time.

As Steve Jobs used to say, “Oh yeah, there’s one more thing.”

Mail also uses the Downloads folder to store attachments you save, so if you’d like to be really thorough, you could change that, too.

Mail Preferences

Click on the Mail pulldown menu at the top of Mail, then select Preferences. Next, under the General tab, you can change the download location just as you can with the web browsers:
So now that you’ve got all of your browsers (and Mail!) set to do exactly what you need them to, you can go forward knowing that your Downloads folder will never get too cluttered and disorganized again. Getting things done is so much easier when you stay organized.

If you’re a Mac user and enjoyed this article, you might want to check out this TechJunkie article: How To Flush the DNS in Mac Mojave.

Do you have any tips or tricks for managing downloads on your Mac? If so, we’d love to hear from you in a comment below!

2 thoughts on “How to Change the Default Downloads Folder on Your Mac”

Lia Elena says:
Thank you for this contribution.
I am trying to choose an external HD as a default. I hope it will work.

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