How to Change Mac Startup Programs
Mac Tips

How to Change Mac Startup Programs

Unwanted apps starting automatically whenever you turn on or restart your Mac? Follow these 7 steps to manually remove Mac startup programs.

  1. Click on the Apple logoSystem Preferences. Or look for System Preferences in your Dock
  2. Go to Users & Groups (left bottom corner)
  3. Click on your account name in the left sidebar
  4. Choose the Login Items tab (next to the Password tab)
  5. Highlight those startup apps you wish to remove
  6. Press the minus (–) sign below
  7. Restart your Mac to see the changes

Your Mac booting up for quite a long time might be a good excuse to take a break and make some coffee. However, taking better control of what apps launch at Mac startup is an enticing idea. Let’s find out how to do it.


What are startup items

When you press the power button and hear a musical chime, a big Apple logo appears on the screen. There’s a progress bar below that indicates launching startup items—the system processes required to start up your Mac. Once you log in to your user account, your Mac will launch login items—apps set to open automatically before you see your desktop.


Basically, both startup and login items mean the same—the more apps launch automatically, the slower the startup of your Mac. Even worse, some apps may covertly install as startup items, burdening your Mac’s processor, and reducing its memory capacity. Such items increase your Mac's startup time and decrease its performance.


Besides, startup programs might be one of the reasons for a slow Mac. Find out 12 most common reasons why your Mac is running slow.

Types of startup programs

Let’s cut to the chase and tell you more about types of macOS startup items.

  1. Application login items. The apps inside of them have little particles—modules. They help to auto-launch the programs when you log in
  2. User login items are modules as well. They help to automatically run apps on  a Mac startup or user login. The good news is that you can turn on or turn off such startup apps on your Mac
  3. Launch agents are text files that launch background processes for a specific user
  4. Launch daemons are system background processes that launch as soon as your Mac starts

The good news is that you can both turn on and off or delete such startup apps on your Mac.

Disable startup programs

Remove startup items using MacKeeper

One of the easiest ways is to use MacKeeper. Its Login Items feature displays each app that opens automatically, even if you didn’t select it to launch at startup.

mackeeper login items tab with scan results

Open MacKeeper—go to Login Items—start a scan. When you get the scan results, tick the startup items you want to remove from the startup list. After that, your Mac will boot up painlessly and quickly.

Remove startup items manually

Let’s say you don’t want Skype to open automatically when you start up your Mac. There are two ways of doing that.

  1. Open the Apple menu—go to System PreferencesUsers & Groups
  2. Click your account name and open the Login Items pane
  3. Highlight Skype and click the minus (–) sign at the bottom to remove Skype from your startup list
Mac system preferences users & groups login items tab

Alternatively, you can stop programs from opening at startup from the Dock. Launch Skype—right-click its icon in the Dock—choose Options—uncheck Open at Login. This will remove Skype from your startup list.

dock with safari menu options with open at login highlighted ticked

Add and enable apps at Mac startup

Conversely, you might want to have some apps launch when you start your Mac. For example, an antivirus or a VPN tool. To avoid the routine of starting such useful apps, go with this instruction. It’s almost the same, but with some slight changes added.

  1. Open the Apple menuSystem PreferencesUsers & Groups
  2. Choose your account name and open the Login Items pane
  3. Press the plus (+) button and look for the app you’d like to add in the list you’ll see on your screen
  4. Restart your Mac to see the changes

Also, use the Dock to do the same. Launch an app you want to run at Mac startup—right-click its icon in the Dock—choose Options—check Open at Login.

dock mackeeper menu options with open at login highlighted ticked

Delay Mac startup apps with the delay start app

Why use Delay Start? This basic utility works to delay an app on startup. It lets you edit startup programs and decide when each app opens. You’ll need to download this free app from the App Store and add it manually to the Login Items in System Preferences.

  1. Click on Apple logoApp Store—look for Delay Start app
  2. Open the Apple menuSystem PreferencesUsers & Groups
  3. Choose your account name and go to Login Items
  4. Remove the already added launch items. Choose all the apps and click on the minus (–) icon
  5. Click on the plus (+) button and add the Delay Start app to the list
  6. Launch Delay Start. Click on the plus (+) icon to add apps you wish to start automatically
  7. Type in the time (in seconds) in the Time Setting box. Your Mac will delay the launch of the app you’ve added by the time set in this box
app store search results delay start app get

Prevent spontaneously reopening apps at startup

Apps popping up unexpectedly once you reboot your Mac make your eyes roll, don’t they? And it’s so tiresome to wait till all of them load. Let’s find out what’s behind the curtains and how to turn off a spontaneous launch of macOS app at startup.


Starting from OS X 10.7 Lion and on the newest macOS, whenever you restart your Mac all the documents and apps that were open for the moment you decided to restart, are launched automatically.


Stopping these startup apps from opening is really simple. Before choosing Restart or Shut Down, look for a small checkbox at the bottom of the window. You’ve seen this window plenty of times, but we do tend to hit Restart or Shut Down as fast as possible.


Next time, before restarting or shutting down your Mac, untick the box Reopen windows when logging back in.

shut down window with reopen windows when logging back in highlighted ticked

Remove daemons and agents from startup

Daemons and agents make up a complete login items overview. Open Finder, click Go at the top menu bar, and choose Go to Folder. You'll see this window:

finder go to the folder with library launch daemons option

Next, paste the following commands:


  • /Library/StartUpItems – shows the full list of application files launched at startup
  • /Library/LaunchDaemons – displays preference files that define how a system application should work when being launched
  • /Library/LaunchAgents – shows preference files for applications that launch after you log in to your Mac

The folders above display app-related files. If you want to check which system files launch at startup, check your system folders:

  • /System/Library/LaunchDaemons – displays all system files that run at startup for every user
  • /System/Library/LaunchAgents – shows system files that launch for a specific user

The system folders mentioned above contain important Apple files. Avoid deleting them if you don’t want to damage your system.  


Removing daemons and agents manually is time-consuming, and it’s much faster to use MacKeeper. Open the Login Items feature and run a scan. MacKeeper quickly scans for different types of startup items. This is the safest way to remove startup programs and broken agents and daemons.

mackeeper login items with launch item highlighted

Fix broken startup items

Sometimes uninstalling an application leaves a login item with a broken link. If you don’t delete it, a broken login item will keep referring to the removed app and simply waste your Mac’s memory.


This is a result of application leftovers—unneeded system files left after uninstalling an app. With MacKeeper, it takes a few clicks to clean application leftovers and broken startup items. Simply open MacKeeper—navigate to Smart Uninstaller—scan your Mac—go to the Leftovers tab—check if any apps leftovers were detected—tick the ones you want to delete.


What is running in the background?

Use the Dock


The quickest way to check the apps running in the background is to use the Dock. Look for a small gray dot under an app. If it’s there—the app is running in the background. Close the apps you don’t want to run, by simply right-clicking on them and choosing Quit or Force Quit if the app is not responding.


Use Activity Monitor


You can also use macOS built-in app Activity Monitor. What’s great about it is that it not only shows all apps running in the background, but how much memory each one of them is eating up.

  1. Go to FinderApplicationsUtilitiesActivity Monitor. Or open Spotlight (hold Command + Spacebar)—type Activity Monitor
  2. Choose a background app or process and hit the (i) icon at the top corner side of the Activity Monitor window. This allows you to view detailed information about the selected background app or process. If you click the cross (X) icon you can Quit or Force Quit the app

How to temporarily prevent startup items from launching at login 

Another way to get a similar result, yet manually, do this:

  1. When you see the login window, hold the Shift key while you click the Log In button, then release the Shift key when you see the Dock.
  2. If you don’t see the login window—restart your Mac—hold down the Shift key when you see the progress bar in the startup window—release the Shift key after the desktop appears.

How to hide login items on Mac startup

Some apps can still launch silently at Mac startup without popping up on the screen. By hiding itself at startup, the item runs in the background and is quick to respond whenever you need it.

  1. Go to the Apple menuSystem PreferencesUsers & Groups
  2. Click on your account name and go to the Login Items tab
  3. Tick the Hide box of an app you wish to hide at Mac startup
  4. Restart

Try these steps and start up your Mac in seconds, not in minutes. Give your Mac a clean startup and enjoy your Mac experience!

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