How to tackle defaults not sticking in Mavericks

New preference-caching routines may interfere with manual settings adjustments in OS X Mavericks.

One of the new features in OS X Mavericks is its preferences-caching routines, which prevent programs from always writing to and reading from preference files stored on disk. This may help prevent preference file corruption and other problems that could arise from relying solely on the files, but also has the drawback of hindering manual preference adjustment on the system.

If you need to change settings manually, you will have to use the "defaults" Terminal command to read in the altered preferences file so it will be cached and used by the program when next launched. However, there are times when even this may not work. In these cases, changes you make -- either by using the "defaults" command or by manually altering the preferences .plist file -- will revert when you relaunch the program. In this way, any change you make will not take effect.

cfprefsd process in Activity Monitor
The "cfprefsd" process is the one that has your username next to it. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

If this happens, it could indicate a problem with the way the preferences management services are handling the storage and retrieval of cached preferences data. To fix this, or at least circumvent it, you can simply quit and relaunch the system's preferences handling daemon, which is a background task called "cfprefsd." This can be done using the following procedure:

  1. Open the Activity Monitor utility on your system
  2. Ensure "All Processes" is selected in the View menu
  3. Search for "cfprefsd" in the search field
  4. Locate the resulting process that has your username listed
  5. Select it and click the force-quit button in the toolbar

When this done, try manipulating your preferences again using the "defaults" command or a text editor, to see if they stick properly. If not, then you might see better success by reordering when you quit the "cfprefsd" process. First try using the "defaults" command to change the preferences or otherwise editing the file on disk. Then follow the above procedure to quit the "cfprefsd" process, and relaunch the relevant program to load the new settings you have saved.



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About the author

    Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.

     

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