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How to Change Startup Programs on Your Mac: 4 Best Ways

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Last updated: October 10, 2023

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You can change startup programs through various methods, including System Settings, the Dock, the Library folder, and within the app settings. Additionally, tools like MacKeeper offer a streamlined solution to manage startup apps with just a few clicks.

Changing startup programs on your Mac can enhance its boot speed and performance. It ensures a smoother startup experience and prevents unnecessary apps from slowing down your Mac.

Key Points

  • Startup programs run automatically on Macs for user convenience, system requirements, software updates, background services, user settings, and sometimes due to malicious software.
  • To see which apps open at startup, you can check under System Settings for macOS Ventura and later or under System Preferences for macOS Mojave and earlier.
  • The Library folder offers detailed control over startup programs, especially for apps not visible in standard settings.
  • Some apps have in-app settings that allow you to manage your startup preferences.

Tired of the unnecessary apps slowing down your Mac at startup? Whether you want to speed up your slow Mac or simply declutter the apps that launch upon startup, managing your startup programs is crucial.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the best ways to change startup programs on your Mac, ensuring a smoother and more efficient startup experience. Let’s dive in!

Before We Begin

If you suspect startup items are causing your Mac to lag, start by clearing out login items. With MacKeeper, it’s a breeze in just a few clicks. It can help identify and remove unnecessary login items from the list of items that launch at startup.

Why Do Startup Programs Run Automatically on Your Mac?

Startup programs run automatically on your Mac for several reasons. Some common reasons for startup programs running on your Mac are as follows:

  1. 🖥️ User Convenience: Many applications are set to run at startup to provide immediate access. For instance, if you use a specific app daily, having it launch at startup can save you time.
  2. ⚙️ System Requirements: Some essential system applications and processes are designed to start automatically to ensure the smooth functioning of your Mac. These might include core services, drivers, or utilities.
  3. 🔄 Software Updates: Some apps check for updates during startup to ensure you’re using the latest version, enhancing security and functionality.
  4. ☁️ Background Services: Apps like cloud storage solutions (e.g., Dropbox) or communication tools (e.g., Skype) run in the background to keep data synchronized or to keep you connected.
  5. 🔧 User Settings: Sometimes, you may unknowingly set applications to launch at startup, during the app’s initial setup, or through its settings.
  6. 🛡️ Persistence Mechanisms: Malicious software might set itself to run at startup to maintain its presence on the system. It’s always a good idea to monitor unfamiliar startup items.

How to See What Apps Open at Startup on Your Mac

Before changing startup programs on your Mac, you need to check which apps are opening at startup. The steps to see what apps open at startup on your Mac vary for different macOS versions. Below, I’ve shared the steps for different macOS versions.

For macOS Ventura and Later

  1. Click the Apple logo at the top menu bar and choose System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Go to General and select Login Items.
click general and select the login items tab
  1. Under the Open at Login section, you’ll find apps that automatically start and may open a window.
open at login section in login items
  1. In the Allow in the Background section, you’ll see helper apps that run background services upon login. These might not visibly open a window but can consume system resources.
allow in the background section in login items

Some apps might be discreet, displaying only the developer’s name or lacking a distinct app icon.

For macOS Mojave and Earlier

  1. Click the Apple logo at the top menu bar and choose System Preferences.
  2. Select Users & Groups.
  3. Click the Login Items tab.
  4. Here, all startup apps, both foreground and background, are listed together.

Change or Remove Startup Programs in One Click With MacKeeper

While macOS offers ways to manage startup programs, there’s an even more streamlined solution: MacKeeper. This powerful utility helps optimize your Mac’s performance and provides a one-click solution to manage those pesky startup apps.

Here’s how you can change or remove startup programs swiftly using MacKeeper’s Login Items feature:

  1. Download MacKeeper and install it on your Mac.
  2. Open Login Items under Performance in MacKeeper.
tap login items under performance
  1. Click Start Scan.
tap start scan
  1. Select unnecessary items from the list and click Remove Selected Items.
select the files you want to delete and tap remove selected items
  1. Tap the Remove button on the pop-up.
tap remove on the pop up
  1. It will remove your selected items from the system startup list. You can click Rescan to repeat the process.
tap rescan

How to Change Startup Programs on Your Mac

If you don’t want to use a third-party app to remove login items on your Mac, you can always use the built-in methods. There are four quick and easy ways to modify startup programs on your Mac. Below, I’ve shared the steps for all these methods.

1. Via System Settings

One of the most straightforward methods to manage startup programs is Mac’s System Settings. This native approach ensures compatibility and stability and offers a user-friendly interface familiar to most Mac users.

Here’s how to change startup programs on your Mac via System Settings and control which apps greet you upon startup:

  1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Select General in the left sidebar and click Login Items in the right menu.
click general and select the login items tab
  1. Here, you’ll see the items that launch when you start up your Mac.
  2. Select the login item you want to remove and click the button at the bottom of the list to remove the login item.
select an item and click the minus icon to delete it

Now, the particular item won’t launch at startup.

2. From the Dock

Your Mac’s Dock isn’t just a place to launch and switch between your favorite apps, it can also help you manage startup apps directly from the Dock. This incredibly intuitive method makes it perfect for those who prefer a more visual approach.

Here’s how to change startup programs on your Mac from the Dock:

  1. Find the app icon for the startup item you want to remove in the Dock.
  2. Right-click the app icon, and a context menu will appear.
right click the app icon
  1. Hover your mouse over Options in the menu. In the Options menu, uncheck Open at Login.
hover your mouse over options and uncheck open at login
  1. Now, the app will no longer launch automatically when you start your Mac.
  2. Repeat this process for any other startup items you want to remove from the Dock.

3. In the Library Folder

Diving into the Mac’s file system, the Library folder is a hub of settings that shape your system’s actions. Though it may appear complex, the Library folder provides detailed control over startup programs. This approach is particularly handy for pinpointing apps that aren’t visible in standard settings.

Follow these steps to change startup programs on your Mac via the Library folder:

  1. Open Finder, click Go in the menu bar, and select Go to Folder.
click go in the menu bar and select go to folder
  1. Type the following paths one by one in the box to access these folders:
type library launchagents in the pop up window
  1. Look for the file or folder associated with the startup item you want to remove.
  2. Right-click the file or folder and select Move to Bin.
right click the file and select move to bin

4. Within the App Settings

You can find some apps that offer in-app settings to prevent them from launching at startup. While the exact steps can differ among apps, the general approach is as follows:

  1. Launch the app you wish to modify.
  2. Click the app’s name in the top menu.
  3. Select Preferences or Settings, depending on the app.
  4. Search for options related to auto-starting upon Mac login and deactivate them.

For instance, you’ll find the Open Spotify automatically after you log into the computer option in Spotify’s advanced settings. You get three options: Minimized, Yes, and No.

What Are the Different Types of Startup Programs on Mac?

Startup programs can be categorized based on purpose, origin, and functionality. Here are the different types of startup programs on Mac:

  1. 🖥️ System Services: These are built-in macOS services and processes that provide basic system functions. Examples include iCloud, Notification Center, Bluetooth, Time Machine, and more.
  2. 📱 Custom Apps: Programs like Mail, Messages, Calendar, Notes, and others you frequently use for work or personal purposes. They can be set to launch at startup to provide quick access.
  3. 🌐 Network Services: Programs that require or provide network functionalities, such as VPN clients or apps that check for updates online.
  4. ☁️ Cloud and Synchronization Services: Applications like Dropbox, Google Backup and Sync, and OneDrive automatically sync files between your Mac and the cloud, ensuring up-to-date data across all devices.
  5. 🛡️ Background Utilities: This includes antivirus software, firewall apps, and system maintenance tools. These programs run in the background to protect the system, optimize performance, and more.
  6. 💬 Apps for Messaging and Communication: Programs like Slack and Skype allow you to stay connected with colleagues, relatives, or friends.
  7. 📋 Productivity Tools: Software like Todoist, Microsoft Office, and Google Workspace that help manage tasks, projects, and documents, enhancing workflow organization and productivity.
  8. 🎵 Media and Entertainment Apps: Applications like iTunes, Spotify, VLC, and Steam that, when auto-launched, provide you immediate access to your favorite media and entertainment content.
  9. 🕵️ Spyware or Malware: Unwanted software that might set itself to run at startup to cause disruptions or spy on your activities.

Which Mac Startup Programs Should You Remove?

Deciding which startup programs to remove from your Mac largely depends on your personal usage and needs. However, there are some general guidelines to help you make an informed decision:

  1. 📅 Rarely Used Apps: If there’s an app you seldom use, it’s a good candidate for removal from the startup list.
  2. 🔄 Duplicate Functions: If multiple apps serve the same purpose, consider choosing one to run at startup and disabling the other.
  3. 🎵 Non-Essential Media Apps: While apps like Spotify or iTunes might be convenient at startup, remove them to speed up boot time if you don’t use them daily.
  4. ⏳ Temporary Apps: Ensure software installed for a one-time task isn’t set to launch at startup once you’re done with it.
  5. ❓ Unknown or Suspicious Apps: If an app seems unfamiliar or suspicious, disable it and investigate further.
  6. 🔄 Redundant Updaters: Some apps have dedicated updaters that might be unnecessary if you update your apps manually or through the App Store.
  7. 🔍 Heavy Resource Users: Use the Activity Monitor to identify resource-heavy apps and consider disabling them if they aren’t immediately needed at startup.
  8. 🔔 Notification Overload: If an app overwhelms you with notifications from the get-go that aren’t essential, consider removing it from the startup list.

How to Enable New User Login Items on Mac

You might also be interested in adding a new startup program to launch automatically when you start your Mac. Setting up new user login items on a Mac allows specific apps or files to automatically launch when a user logs in.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to enable new startup programs on your Mac:

  1. Click the Apple logo and select System Settings from the dropdown menu.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Go to General and select Login Items.
click general and select the login items tab
  1. Click the + button below the app list in the Open at Login section.
click the plus button under open at login section
  1. Navigate to the app you want to add, select it, and click Open. It will now be added to the list of login items.
select an app and click open
  1. While changes usually take effect immediately, you can restart your Mac to ensure the new startup items launch as expected.

Remove Startup Programs From Your Mac

Whether you’re adding or removing apps from the startup list, it’s crucial to regularly review these settings to tailor your Mac’s behavior to your needs. By taking control of the apps that launch at boot, you enhance your Mac’s speed and create a more personalized computing experience.

Here are a few more tips to improve your Mac experience:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are Mac startup items?

    Mac startup items are applications, scripts, or services set to automatically launch when a Mac boots up. They ensure essential processes run or provide quick access to frequently used apps, but too many can slow down the system’s startup time. Managing these items optimizes Mac performance.

  2. Is it safe to delete Mac startup items?

    It’s generally safe to delete Mac startup items, but caution is advised. Ensure you recognize and understand the purpose of each item before removal. Disabling essential system services can impact functionality. Always research unfamiliar items and back up your system before making any changes.

  3. Can I temporarily prevent startup items from launching at login?

    Yes, you can temporarily prevent startup items from launching at login. One quick method is to hold down the Shift ⇧ key right after you hear the startup chime or after clicking the login button. This initiates a Safe Boot, which prevents login items and non-essential kernel extensions from loading.

Hashir Ibrahim


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.



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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