How do I make an error sound on my Mac?

Having an audible error sound on your Mac can be useful to alert you when something goes wrong. macOS comes with a default error sound effect that plays when you try to do something that can’t be done, like ejecting an unmountable disk. You can customize this sound effect to change it to something else if you prefer. Here’s how to make an error sound on your Mac.

What is the Default Error Sound on a Mac?

The default system error sound effect on a Mac is called “Basso.” It’s a short, deep bongo-like sound that is meant to get your attention when something goes wrong. This sound effect is located at /System/Library/Components/CoreAudio.component/Contents/SharedSupport/SystemSounds/alert.aiff on your Mac.

This sound effect plays any time an action results in an error, such as:

  • Trying to eject an unmountable disk
  • Emptying the Trash when it contains locked files
  • Attempting to drag a file to the Trash that you don’t have permission to delete
  • Attempting to quit an app that’s not responding

So that distinctive bongo sound is the Mac’s way of telling you “Hey, something went wrong here!”

How to Customize or Change the Error Sound

If you want to use a different sound effect for errors rather than the default Basso sound, you can easily customize it in System Preferences.

Here’s how to change the error sound on a Mac:

  1. Go to the Apple menu and open System Preferences
  2. Click on Sound
  3. Go to the Sound Effects tab
  4. Under Alerts, you will see the current error sound listed as “Basso”
  5. Click the dropdown menu next to it and you can select a different sound effect

macOS comes with a selection of other fun sound effects you can choose from like Frog, Funk, Glass, Hero, Morse, Ping, Pop, Purr, Sosumi (another bongo sound), Submarine, Tink, and Train. You can preview what each one sounds like before selecting it.

Once you’ve selected a new sound effect, you’ll immediately hear it instead of Basso whenever an error occurs on your Mac.

Use a Custom Sound File

If you want to use a sound effect not included in macOS, you can add your own custom audio file.

To use a custom sound for errors on a Mac:

  1. Convert the audio file to AIFF format if it’s not already an AIFF file
  2. Copy the AIFF file to /Library/Sounds on your Mac
  3. Go to System Preferences > Sound and click the Sound Effects tab
  4. Under Alerts, select Other Sound…
  5. Navigate to the audio file in /Library/Sounds and select it
  6. Click Open to set it as the new error sound effect

Now your custom sound will play any time an error occurs. You can follow the same steps to revert back to the default Basso sound or try a different sound effect.

Turn the Error Sound Off Completely

If you prefer to not have any error sound play at all, you can simply turn it off.

To mute error sounds on your Mac:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Sound
  2. Click the Sound Effects tab
  3. Deselect the “Play user interface sound effects” checkbox

This will silence all interface sound effects, including error sounds. The alert noise will be muted until you re-enable that checkbox.


Being able to customize the system error sound on your Mac is useful if you want a more pleasant or unobtrusive sound to alert you when something goes wrong. Just go to System Preferences > Sound > Sound Effects and choose a new sound effect under the Alerts section. You can even use your own custom audio files. And if you prefer no sound at all, just deselect “Play user interface sound effects” to mute error noises completely. With these simple steps, you can control what sounds play on your Mac.

Default Error Sound Basso
Location /System/Library/Components/CoreAudio.component/Contents/SharedSupport/SystemSounds/alert.aiff
Change Sound Effect System Preferences > Sound > Sound Effects
Use Custom File Convert to AIFF format and add to /Library/Sounds
Mute Error Sounds Deselect “Play user interface sound effects” in System Preferences

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I want to customize the error sound on my Mac?

You may want to use a custom error sound if you find the default Basso sound unpleasant or distracting. Changing it to a more subtle alert noise or one that fits your preferences can be less disruptive.

What file format does the error sound need to be?

The error sound must be in AIFF audio file format. If you want to use a non-AIFF file like MP3, you need to convert it to AIFF before using it as a custom error sound.

Can I turn off the error sound temporarily?

Yes, you can toggle “Play user interface sound effects” off and on in System Preferences > Sound whenever you want to mute or unmute interface sounds like the error sound.

Will changing the sound affect other system alert noises?

No, changing the error sound only affects sounds played for errors. Other interface sounds like new mail notifications will still play as normal.

How do I revert to the original Basso error sound?

If you want to go back to the default Basso error sound after customizing it, just open System Preferences > Sound > Sound Effects and choose “Basso” again under the Alerts section.

Other Useful Tips

Disable Error Sounds for Specific Applications

You can disable error sounds for just certain apps instead of system-wide if you only want to mute errors from some programs.

To do this:

  1. Go to the app’s info window
  2. Check “Disable all sound effects” under General

This will silence error noises only for that specific app.

Automatically Play a Sound When an Error Occurs

You can create an Automator workflow to automatically play a custom sound whenever an error happens.

To set this up:

  1. Open Automator and choose a Workflow
  2. Add a “Watch Me Do” action
  3. Perform an action that results in an error, like ejecting an unmountable disk
  4. Add a “Play Sound File” action and select your sound
  5. Save the workflow as an Application

Now whenever that specific error occurs, your sound will play automatically!

Customize Other System Alert Sounds

In addition to the error sound, you can also customize sounds for things like new mail notifications, calendar alerts, locking the screen, emptying the Trash, and more in System Preferences.

To change other interface sounds, go to the Sound Effects tab and choose different sound effects for each alert type.


Customizing your Mac’s error sound is a great way to make annoying system alert noises less disruptive. By choosing a more pleasant sound effect or using your own custom audio file, you can make errors less jarring. Just remember to go to System Preferences > Sound > Sound Effects to change the “Alert volume” sound. You can also mute error sounds entirely if preferred. Tweaking your Mac’s audio feedback can help optimize your experience.

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