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How to prevent desktop spaces from rearranging on macOS

Virtual desktops on macOS have remained unchanged for a long time. The feature was unmatched on Windows, until Windows 10 came around. Virtual desktops on these two major operating systems are almost the same with some exceptions. On macOS, you have the freedom to add as many desktop spaces as you want and you can assign apps to a particular desktop space. Unfortunately, they do not maintain their order. If you switch to an app that is on a different space, the space will move so that it is right next to the one you just came from. This is a feature but not one that you have to live with if you don’t like it. Here’s how you can prevent desktop spaces from rearranging on macOS.

Disable desktop spaces rearranging

The desktop space rearranging feature is really easy to turn off. It’s a feature that’s part of Mission Control. To disable it, open the System Preferences app and go to the Mission Control preference.

There are four options here that you can enable or disable. For our purpose, you need to disable/uncheck the ‘Automatically rearrange Spaces based on most recent use’ option. Once you do, desktop spaces will stop rearranging themselves.

The benefit of having desktop spaces rearrange themselves based on use is that it makes it easy to quickly switch back to the previous task. It’s assumed that you’re mostly switching between the same few desktop spaces even though you can create as many as you like.

As for disabling the rearranging feature, that has to do with training yourself to remember which app is open on which desktop space. Let’s say you have Chrome open on Desktop Space 2, and a document on Desktop Space 3. You’re working mainly on Desktop Space 1 but anytime you need to go to your document, you won’t have to shuffle through all the spaces to get to it. You will know that the document is on Desktop Space 3. The auto rearranging disrupts the numbering that’s assigned to desktop spaces making the above scenario impossible.

It’s clear that the feature can be useful, but it can also be annoying which is why Apple has had the foresight to allow users to disable it. It’s not exactly the most publicized feature on macOS though so, it’s possible not everyone knows about it. Most users might just think that it can’t be disabled since Apple rarely gives users a lot of choice, or as much choice as they’d like.


  1. Indeed, this feature is super annoying and should be disabled by default… Thank god it’s possible to switch off.

  2. Thank you! Genuinely baffling who thought this feature was helpful as a default setting, but thankful that I’ve finally been able to find a fix for it.

  3. Thank you this feature has annoyed me for so long as I work on multiple desktop. Can’t wait to enjoy more stability now that I have disabled it thanks to your tip.

  4. Thanks for this! I thought it was a bug. I would put an editor between two documents to synthesize between them but if I clicked a link it would shuffle everything around. Very annoying and glad that stops it!

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