Mac Apple store screensavers - Which are the differences from a Mac screen saver?

Since you like Mac screensavers, why not installing our Mac screensaver, StarMessage for free?

Mac screen saver

With StarMessage, you can:

  • write your messages in the stars of the night sky
  • see the moon in today's moon phase
  • read inspiring quotes
  • hear calming sounds
  • keep your Mac awake for the next hour(s)
  • and much more

Mac App store screensavers are different from the native MacOS screensavers.

Quick answer:

Always prefer the native editions of Mac screensavers, downloaded from the developer's website (outside the Mac app store). The Mac app store screensavers are actually applications that emulate the functions of the native screensavers.

Longer answer:

With the example of our StarMessage, moon phase screen saver, we will explain the differences and what you can expect from each type of screen saver.

The Mac App store can host only programs that are installed under the "/Applications" folder. This means that it is not possible to host screen savers(1) because they are installed under the system preferences. Due to this limitation, StarMessage is published on the Mac Apple store as an "Application"(2) that tries to behave as a screensaver would.

The StarMessage application on the Apple store contains the same functionality as the "normal"(1) screen saver, but it does not start on its own when you leave the Mac idle. For this reason, StarMessage users prefer the "native" screen saver version that you can download from this site.

One benefit of the Mac Apple store version is that the screensaver can run as an animated wallpaper, showing the moon and the sky behind your desktop icons.

  Native Mac screensaver edition
( .saver )
Apple store edition
( .app )
Main functionalities and features Generally, the same in both versions
Starting up Starts automatically, after the idle time of your Mac has passed. The idle time is configured in the System Preferences. You have to manually start the Apple store screensavers from the Applications menu.
Ending The screensaver stops when you move the mouse or press a key You have to manually stop it from its menu bar icon
Configuration From Mac's System Preferences
Mac osx system preferences for screen saver settings
From the screensaver's menu bar icon
Moon icon on the MacOS menu bar
File type .saver
Mac Screen saver (1)
Mac Application (2)
Folder where the screen saver is stored

The .saver file is stored in the folder

  • /Library/Screen Savers
    for screensavers that are available to all users
  • ~/Library/Screen Savers
    for screensavers of the current (logged in) user
The .app file is typically stored in the folder
  • /Applications
Works as an animated wallpaper No Yes, the screensaver can run behind your desktop icons while you continue working normally
Notifies you about new versions No Yes,
via the Apple store
Compatibility between the two types Yes,
you can install and keep them both
so that the Apple store will notify you when a new version comes out.
You can download the screensaver from Screensaver free edition from the official website Screensaver lite (free) edition on the Mac Apple store



(1) MacOS screen saver
A MacOS compatible software with a filename extension of ".saver". Screen savers are installed under the system preferences and start automatically when the computer is left idle.
To install a screen saver the user simply clicks on the ".saver" file and the system will ask if it should be installed for the current user only (no administrator password is required) or for all users (the administrator's password is needed).
(2) MacOS Application
A MacOS compatible software that is typically installed under the "/Applications" folder.
Its filename extension is ".app"
FAQ category: 


Quite complex decision for some users. Personally I always prefer the standard .saver versions for the screen savers I chose for my macbook.
You will also notice that the best Apple screen savers (for Macs, not for iPad, iPhone) always have a .saver edition, while they only sometimes provide an Apple store edition.

Average: 3.5 (85 votes)

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