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How to Enable or Disable Startup Programs on macOS

How to Enable or Disable Startup Programs on macOS.

Your Mac allows you to set up both native and third-party programs to boot with macOS. So add any frequently used apps to your list of login items and you can start using them as soon as they load into your desktop area.

But, on the other hand, running a lot of programs at startup can have a negative impact on your Mac’s performance. This can result in longer macOS boot times, and increased system resource usage can also result in slowdowns and lags during normal use.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to manage startup programs on macOS. You’ll start by figuring out how to enable or disable auto-start apps on your Mac. Then, you’ll learn a few ways to disable programs and processes that run at startup even though they don’t appear in the login item list.

Enable or Disable Startup Programs in macOS

Any program can be configured to run with macOS by adding it to the list of sign-in items on your Mac. To do this, you can use the System Preferences app or the Dock. Optionally, various applications may have built-in options that can be activated so that they are loaded at startup.

If you want programs to not load when your Mac boots up, all you have to do is remove them from your list of login items using the same set of instructions.

Access the Login Items List in the System Preferences App

The System Preferences app on your Mac lets you add apps to the list of startup items associated with your user account. You can also use it to disable loading programs on startup.

1. Open System Preferences via the Apple menu or the Dock.

2. Select Users & Groups.

3. Select your account and go to the Login Items tab.

4. Click the “Add” (+) button below the list of login items.

5. Select Applications from the Finder sidebar. Then select the application you want your Mac to load on startup, such as Mail.

6. Select Add.

You will then see that the program appears as a Mac launcher application in the Login Items list. Check the box in the “Hide” column if you want your Mac to hide the program once it’s loaded on startup.

If you want to disable the launcher in the list of login items, just highlight it and press the minus button.

Use the Mac Dock to Add & Remove Startup Programs

A faster way to add an app to your Mac’s list of startup programs is to interact with it through the Mac Dock. You can also use the same steps to remove apps from the list.

1. Control-click or right-click the program’s icon in the Dock. If it’s not there, launch it via the launcher first.

2. Select Options.

3. Activate the sub-option labeled Open at login.

If you want to prevent the program from launching at startup, select “Open at login” again to deactivate the menu item.

Look for Startup Option in the Application Preferences

Various applications, such as programs located in the menu bar, may have built-in options that allow you to enable or disable their automatic loading when you start your Mac.

1. Launch the program on your Mac.

2. Load the settings panel or app settings via the menu bar.

3. Find and activate the setting that allows the application to run on startup. If you want to disable it as a launcher, disable this option. For example, Unclutter has a “Run Unclutter at Startup” option under the General tab that you can enable or disable.

Additional Ways to Disable Startup Programs

Some programs and third-party services (such as automatic app update tools) start automatically at startup even though they aren’t included in your Mac’s sign-in items list. If they are preventing your Mac from starting, remove them using the methods below.

Check Your Mac for Launch Agents and Daemons

Installed Mac programs can use launch agents and daemons (via PLIST files) to launch themselves on startup. These files are located in several places and deleting them can lead to system instability. But it’s generally safe to delete PLIST files from the LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons libraries folders inside your Mac’s user account. However, it’s best to create a Time Machine backup of your Mac before proceeding.

1. Control-click the Finder icon in the Dock and choose Go > Go To Folder.

2. Type the following path and press Enter:


3. Identify all PLIST files associated with programs. Then Control-click each file, or right-click and select Move to Trash.

4. Next, change to the following directory:


5. Remove any additional PLIST files associated with the launcher.

Disable Startup Programs Using Third-Party Utility

If you find it difficult to remove the program’s launch agents and daemons using the Finder, try using a free version of a third-party Mac optimization tool like MacKeeper, CleanMyMac X, or Nektony instead. For example, MacKeeper in action.

1. Download and install MacKeeper. When prompted, give the program access to your Mac’s user account folders.

2. Go to the Login Items tab in the sidebar. Then select “Start Scan”.

3. View the list of applications and services that are loaded at startup.

4. Check the box next to each program you want to uninstall.

5. Select Delete selected items.

Perform a Thorough Scan for Malicious Software

Let’s say that an unusual program or process continues to load with macOS at startup. In this case, it is generally recommended to rule out a possible malware infection by performing a thorough malware scan. Malwarebytes is a great malware removal tool to help you with this.

1. Download and install the free version of Malwarebytes on your Mac.

2. Open Malwarebytes and grant full disk permissions to the utility.

2. Click the Scan button.

3. Wait for Malwarebytes to finish scanning your Mac for malware. Then follow the instructions on the screen to remove malware and running processes.

Repeat Above Instructions in Safe Mode

If you’re still facing issues with a particular launcher, it’s best to repeat the instructions above by entering Safe Mode on your Mac. It’s an environment that downloads only the essentials to keep your Mac running, and makes it easy to troubleshoot and remove undownloadable apps on macOS. Apple Silicon and Intel Mac require different processes to enter Safe Mode.

Entering Safe Mode on Apple Silicon Mac

1. Turn off your Mac.

2. Press and hold the power button until the launch options screen appears.

3. Hold down the Shift key and select Macintosh HD > Continue in Safe Mode.

Entering Safe Mode on Intel Macs

1. Turn off your Mac.

2. Hold down the Shift key and press the power button.

3. Release the Shift key as soon as the Mac login screen appears. After booting your Mac in safe mode

In safe mode, repeat this guide to disable startup programs. Start by checking the list of login items, looking for built-in launch options, and looking for launch agents in the library’s system folders. Then try using a third party startup manager or run a malware scan. For more information, see our guide to entering and using safe mode on Mac.

How to Enable or Disable Startup Programs on macOS

How to Enable or Disable Startup Programs on macOS

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