How to Catch and Remove Hidden LaunchDaemons on Mac Featured Image

How to Catch and Remove Hidden LaunchDaemons on Mac: 2 Top Ways

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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Hidden LaunchDaemons can hinder your Mac’s performance and compromise its security. These system-level tasks that initiate processes and services may go undetected and cause various issues.

I’ll share different methods to catch and remove hidden LaunchDaemons on Mac in this guide. From understanding their importance to employing manual and automated techniques, I’ll equip you with the knowledge to safeguard your Mac and optimize its functionality.

Before We Begin

LaunchDaemons can pose a risk by serving as a potential entry point for malware and malicious software on your Mac. So, you must remove them ASAP. However, manually identifying and removing LaunchDaemons can be challenging. To simplify this process, you can download and install MacKeeper and conveniently identify and remove LaunchDaemons.

What Are LaunchDaemons?

LaunchDaemons are background processes or services in macOS responsible for starting and managing various system-level tasks. They are typically executed with root privileges, meaning they have elevated access to the system and can run independently of user login.

LaunchDaemons are initiated during system startup and remain active throughout the operating system’s runtime. They lack the capability to present information through the graphical user interface and possess system-wide impact.

For instance, the locationd process is responsible for detecting the Mac’s geographical location, whereas the bluetoothd process oversees Bluetooth management. You’ll find the list of daemons in the following locations:

  • /System/Library/LaunchDaemons (for native macOS processes)
  • /Library/LaunchDaemons (for third-party applications)
launchdaemons folder in mac system library

There are two main types of LaunchDaemons in macOS:

  1. System LaunchDaemons: Apple installs these as part of the operating system and is responsible for running critical system processes and services. Examples include the Apache web server and the Time Machine backup service.
  2. User LaunchDaemons: Third-party applications or the user installs these and are responsible for running non-critical processes and services. Examples include backup utilities and other system monitoring tools.

Besides hidden LaunchDaemons, you must remove hidden LaunchAgents on Mac to improve your system’s performance and protect it against malware.

How to Catch LaunchDaemons on Mac

The LaunchDaemon folder, unlike those found in the System folder, are accessible to both legitimate and illegitimate applications. However, you have the ability to monitor these folders automatically using Folder Actions.

Here’s how to catch LaunchDaemons on your Mac:

  1. Open Spotlight and search for the Script Editor app.
search for script editor in spotlight search
  1. Click the app icon to open it.
click the script editor app in spotlight
  1. Go to Script Editor in the menu bar and click Settings.
click script editor in the menu bar and select settings
  1. In the Settings menu, navigate to General and enable the Show Script menu in menu bar option.
select general and check show script menu in menu bar
  1. Click the Script Editor icon in the menu bar. Hover your mouse over Folder Actions and select Enable Folder Actions.
click script editor icon hover mouse over folder actions and select enable folder actions
  1. From the same menu, select Attach Script to Folder.
select attach script to folder
  1. A dialog box will appear. Choose add – new item alert from the options and click OK to open a Finder window.
choose add new item alert from the options and click ok to open a finder window
  1. In the Finder window, select the user LaunchDaemon folder and click Choose.
select the user launchdaemon folder and click choose
  1. Next, open Finder, go to the Go menu in the menu bar and select Go to Folder.
click go in the menu bar and select go to folder
  1. In the navigation dialog box, type the following path and press Enter:
/Library/LaunchDaemons
type library launchdaemons
  1. Right-click the LaunchDaemons folder and choose Services followed by Folder Actions Setup.
choose services followed by folder actions setup
  1. In the dialog box that appears, you’ll see a list of folders in the left column and scripts in the right column.
list of folders in the left column and scripts in the right column
  1. If you don’t see any scripts, click the plus (+) button and add new item alert.scpt.
do not see any scripts click the plus button
  1. After completing these steps, macOS will display an alert popup whenever a new item is added to the monitored folders, helping you identify any illegitimate apps attempting to run in the background of your system.

How to Identify and Remove Hidden LaunchDaemons on Mac

Regularly scanning your Mac and using the following methods to remove hidden LaunchDaemons can help keep it running smoothly and protect it from potential security threats.

However, to use these methods effectively, you must have a basic understanding of LaunchDaemons and their role in macOS. Once you understand LaunchDaemons, you can use the Terminal to list or use Activity Monitor to identify and stop them.

1. Using Terminal

The Terminal is a powerful tool in macOS that allows you to perform various tasks, including removing LaunchDaemons. Using the Terminal can be intimidating for some users, but it provides a powerful way to remove LaunchDaemons and other system files causing problems on your Mac.

Here’s how to remove hidden LaunchDaemons on Mac using Terminal:

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal or use Spotlight search to locate Terminal.
launch terminal from utilities to remove Hidden LaunchDaemons on mac
  1. Enter the following command to view all LaunchDaemons:
sudo launchctl list
type sudo launchctl list in terminal
  1. Note the name of the LaunchDaemon you want to remove.
note the launchdaemon you want to remove
  1. Enter the following command to unload the LaunchDaemon
sudo launchctl unload -w /path/to/launchdaemon.plist
type the sudo launchctl unload command in terminal

Replace /path/to/launchdaemon.plist with the actual path to the LaunchDaemon you want to remove. 

  1. Once you’ve unloaded the LaunchDaemon, you can delete it from your Mac by entering the following command:
sudo rm /path/to/launchdaemon.plist

Again, replace /path/to/launchdaemon.plist with the actual path to the LaunchDaemon file.

  1. Finally, enter the following command to remove the LaunchDaemon from the LaunchDaemons directory:
sudo rm -rf /Library/LaunchDaemons/launchdaemon.plist

Replace launchdaemon.plist with the actual name of the LaunchDaemon you want to remove.

2. Using Activity Monitor

Activity Monitor is a built-in utility on macOS and Mac Task Manager equivalent that allows you to monitor your system’s processes, CPU usage, memory usage, and other system activities.

By using Activity Monitor, you can easily identify and stop suspicious processes, including hidden LaunchDaemons, and remove them from your system. Here are the steps to catch and remove hidden LaunchDaemons on Mac using Activity Monitor:

  1. Launch the Spotlight Search by pressing Command + Spacebar and type in Activity Monitor. Alternatively, go to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor and double-click the app icon to open it.
open activity monitor in utilities
  1. The Activity Monitor will display all the processes currently running on your Mac. Look for any process named launchd or LaunchDaemon.
look for any process named launchd
  1. Once you have identified the LaunchDaemon, select it and click the i button on the toolbar to display more information about the process.
once launchdaemon identified select it and click the i button
  1. To quit the process, click the X button in the top toolbar.
to quit the process click the x button in the top toolbar
  1. Click Force Quit on the pop-up.
choose force quit in dialouge box to quit the dock app

Remove LaunchDaemons Using MacKeeper

While MacKeeper is a robust utility for Mac systems, it does not provide a direct means to remove hidden LaunchDaemons or specific types of malware from your Mac. However, it does offer an Antivirus feature that enables you to scan your Mac for viruses and malicious entities.

To leverage MacKeeper for maintaining Mac security and defending against malware, follow these steps:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Launch MacKeeper and navigate to the Antivirus tab in the left sidebar.
click antivirus under the security section
  1. Start an instant virus scan by clicking the Start Scan button.
click start scan in mackeeper antivirus
  1. If the scan detects a virus, click the Fix Items button to resolve the issues.
  2. You’ll see a No threats found message if your system is threat-free. You can tap the Restart button to run the scan again.
click restart to finish the process
  1. Enable real-time antivirus protection to safeguard your Mac from future threats by clicking the Enable button.
click enable to allow real time protection

Once you have configured your security settings, MacKeeper will continue to operate in the background, diligently scanning for threats and actively blocking any malicious activity.

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides running a virus scan on your Mac, MacKeeper can delete junk files, remove duplicate files, and clear cache files on your Mac. Check out my detailed MacKeeper review to know more about its features.

Final Words

Catching and removing hidden LaunchDaemons is essential for maintaining the security and performance of your Mac. Here are some more tips to remember to protect your Mac:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How can I remove hidden LaunchDaemons from my Mac? 

    To remove hidden LaunchDaemons from your Mac, navigate to the relevant system folders where they are stored, such as /System/Library/LaunchDaemons and /Library/LaunchDaemons. Identify the LaunchDaemons you want to remove and delete them. Exercise caution to avoid removing essential system processes.

  2. Can I disable LaunchDaemons instead of removing them? 

    Yes, you can disable LaunchDaemons instead of removing them from your Mac. To disable a LaunchDaemon, navigate to the relevant LaunchDaemons folder (e.g., /System/Library/LaunchDaemons or /Library/LaunchDaemons), locate the specific LaunchDaemon you want to disable and rename its file extension from .plist to something else, such as .plist.disabled.

  3. Should I remove all LaunchDaemons from my Mac?

    No, you should not remove all LaunchDaemons from your Mac indiscriminately. LaunchDaemons are essential system processes that handle various tasks and functionalities. Removing critical LaunchDaemons can cause system instability or prevent certain functions from working properly.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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