How to Catch and Remove Hidden LaunchAgents on Mac Featured Image

How to Catch and Remove Hidden LaunchAgents on Mac

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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Hidden LaunchAgents can quietly affect the performance and security of your Mac. They can install malware, spyware, or adware on your Mac without your knowledge. It can lead to slow performance, pop-ups, and even data theft.

In this guide, I’ll explore the world of hidden LaunchAgents, their purpose, and how they can be concealed. Let’s learn effective methods to detect and remove hidden LaunchAgents on Mac, ensuring a clean and optimized system.

Before We Begin

LaunchAgents can be suspicious and become a gateway for malware and malicious software in your Mac. You should always scan and remove them regularly. Since it’s tricky to identify and remove LaunchAgents manually, you can download and install MacKeeper to identify and remove LaunchAgents without any hassle. 

What Are LaunchAgents?

LaunchAgents are a system resource macOS uses to automatically launch and manage background processes, services, and applications when you log into your account or at system startup.

LaunchAgent is installed on a Mac and added to a system-wide LaunchAgents directory or a user-specific LaunchAgents directory. These directories contain configuration files with instructions on how and when it’ll launch the associated process.

At login or system startup, macOS scans these directories and launches the processes as instructed. Once launched, the processes run in the background, performing various tasks such as checking for software updates, syncing data, or providing system services.

Why Are Hidden LaunchAgents a Problem?

Hidden LaunchAgents can pose a significant problem due to their potential for facilitating the operation of malware and malicious software without the user’s awareness.

If you don’t remove hidden LaunchAgents on Mac, their presence can lead to various detrimental consequences, such as the following:

  • 🐢 Slow Performance: Hidden LaunchAgents consume system resources, reducing performance and sluggishness on your Mac. The additional processes running in the background can strain the CPU and memory, causing delays and system freezes.
  • 🛡️ Malware Infections: Malicious software often utilizes hidden LaunchAgents to gain access to your Mac. These LaunchAgents can install malware or spyware, compromising your privacy, security, and overall system integrity.
  • 🚫 Unwanted Pop-ups: Some hidden LaunchAgents may trigger unwanted pop-ups or display intrusive ads on your Mac. These disruptive pop-ups can interfere with your work, hinder productivity, and create a frustrating browsing experience.
  • 🕵️‍♂️ Data Theft: Malware utilizing hidden LaunchAgents can stealthily extract sensitive information from your Mac. This includes stealing login credentials, credit card numbers, personal documents, and other valuable data stored on your system.

How to Catch and Remove Hidden LaunchAgents on Mac

Identifying hidden LaunchAgents can be tricky, but there are several methods you can use to find them. Below, I’ve shared a few methods to catch and remove hidden LaunchAgents on Mac.

1. Using Activity Monitor

Activity Monitor is a built-in utility and Mac Task Manager equivalent that shows all the processes running on your Mac. You can use it to view and manage processes running on your Mac, including identifying hidden LaunchAgents and terminating them.

Here’s how to use Activity Monitor to catch and remove hidden LaunchAgents on Mac:

  1. Open Activity Monitor from the Utilities folder in your Applications folder or by searching for it in Spotlight.
open activity monitor in utilities
  1. Click the CPU tab.
click the cpu tab in activity monitor
  1. Look for any suspicious processes that might be associated with hidden LaunchAgents.
  2. Select the process and click the X icon in the top toolbar.
click x in the top bar to close a program
  1. Click the Force Quit button to terminate the process.
choose force quit in dialouge box to quit the dock app

2. Using Terminal

Checking for hidden LaunchAgents using Terminal lets you better understand what’s running on your Mac and remove unwanted or potentially malicious items. However, it’s important to exercise caution and research before removing any LaunchAgents, as this can have unintended consequences.

Follow these steps to use Terminal to catch and remove hidden LaunchAgents on Mac:

  1. To open Terminal, go to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
launch terminal from utilities
  1. Once the Terminal is open, type the following command and press Enter:
launchctl list | grep -v apple
enter command in terminal
  1. After entering the command, the Terminal will display a list of LaunchAgents running on your Mac. Check the list for any unfamiliar names or items you need to recognize.
display list of hidden launchagents
  1. If you find any suspicious LaunchAgents, you can remove them using the launchctl remove command. Type this command and press Enter:
launchctl remove com.unknown.launchagent
command to remove any suspicious launchagents
  1. After removing the hidden LaunchAgents, it’s a good idea to restart your Mac to ensure all changes take effect. Click the Apple icon and select Restart.
click the apple icon and select restart

3. Via Finder

Finder is a built-in utility on your Mac that allows you to search for files and folders on your system. Using Finder involves manually deleting LaunchAgent files from your Mac. It’s a good option if you’re comfortable navigating the Mac file system and have identified the LaunchAgent files for removal.

However, it can be time-consuming and risky if you accidentally delete important system files. So, only use this method if you’re confident.

Here’s how you can use Finder to catch and remove hidden LaunchAgents on Mac:

  1. Click the Finder icon in your Dock or press Command ⌘ + Spacebar to open Spotlight search and type in Finder.
click finder in your dock
  1. In Finder, click Go in the top menu bar and select Go to Folder.
open finder click go menu and select go to folder
  1. In the Go to Folder dialog box, type the following path and press Enter:
/Library/LaunchAgents
type library launchagents
  1. It will take you to the LaunchAgents folder, where you can see all the LaunchAgents files installed on your Mac. Look through the list to see if there are any files you do not recognize or look suspicious.
  2. If you find a suspicious file, you can delete it or move it to a different folder on your Mac to disable it. To delete the file, drag it to the Bin or right-click it and select Move to Bin.
move suspicious files to bin
  1. Once you have checked the LaunchAgents folder, you can also catch and remove LaunchDaemons on your Mac by following the same steps above but typing the following path instead:
/Library/LaunchDaemons
type library launchdaemons
  1. After removing hidden LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons, don’t forget to empty the Bin. To do this, right-click the Bin icon and select Empty Bin to delete the LaunchAgent and LaunchDaemons files permanently.
right click the bin and select empty bin

4. Using MacKeeper

MacKeeper is a powerful Mac utility, but it doesn’t let you directly remove hidden LaunchAgents and other types of malware from your Mac. However, it has an Antivirus feature that you can use to scan your Mac for malware and other malicious agents.

Here’s how to use MacKeeper to keep your Mac protected against malware:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper.
  2. Launch MacKeeper and navigate to the Antivirus tab in the left sidebar.
click antivirus under the security section
  1. Initiate an instant virus scan by clicking the Start Scan button.
click start scan in mackeeper antivirus
  1. If viruses are detected during the scan, click the Fix Items button to resolve the issues.
  2. If your system is threat-free, you’ll see a No threats found message. 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

Keep Your Mac Protected Against Hidden LaunchAgents

Hidden LaunchAgents can be a serious threat to the security and performance of your Mac. By following the methods outlined in this article, you can identify and remove hidden LaunchAgents to protect your Mac from malware and unwanted software.

Here are some more tips to protect your system:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I prevent hidden LaunchAgents from appearing on my Mac? 

    You can prevent hidden LaunchAgents from appearing on your Mac by downloading and installing new software from trusted sources. Always check the source’s website to verify the software is legitimate. Also, keep your Mac’s operating system and software up-to-date to prevent vulnerabilities with security patches.

  2. Can I remove hidden LaunchAgents manually without using any tools? 

    Yes, you can remove hidden LaunchAgents manually without using any tools, but it requires technical knowledge of your Mac’s file system and command line interface. It’s also time-consuming and error-prone. If you choose to do it manually, be sure to back up your data on Mac before proceeding.

  3. How often should I scan for hidden LaunchAgents? 

    You should scan for hidden LaunchAgents regularly, preferably at least once a week. This will help you catch any new infections or malware that may have been introduced since your last scan. You should also scan for hidden LaunchAgents after downloading and installing new software.

  4. Can I recover any files that were affected by hidden LaunchAgents? 

    It depends on the type of infection and the extent of the damage. Some types of malware can encrypt or delete your files, making it impossible to recover them without a backup. However, it may be possible to recover your files using data recovery software.

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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