When you boot up your Mac, it automatically launches some programs (apps and services) in the background. These programs are called login items or startup apps, and they provide a convenient approach to your Mac usage by being readily available to use as soon as you log in to your system.

manage mac startup programs

A login item can be configured either by you: to launch essential apps (password manager, antivirus software, etc.); or the app you install itself: if it depends on its bundled core services.

Due to this, you’ll often notice your login items list populate in no time, with the listed programs contributing to the slowdown in your Mac’s performance and increase in its startup time.

To this end, it’s a good idea to keep your startup program list in check. Here’s a guide detailing all the different ways in which you can add, remove, or delay startup apps on Mac.

1. Manage Mac Startup Programs Through System Preferences

Mac’s System Preferences provides quick access to all the settings for different macOS features and services, including login items. Follow the steps below to use it to add or remove login items on your Mac:

Add an App to Login Items

  1. Open System Preferences. Open Spotlight Search and search for System Preferences. Alternatively, click on the Apple menu () and select System Preferences.
  2. Select Users & Groups.
  3. Click on your account name under Current User on the left pane and tap on the padlock icon at the bottom.
  4. Enter the administrator password to verify access.
  5. Tap on the Login Items tab on the right window.
  6. Click the plus (+) button to open Finder. Select Applications under Favorites, choose the app you want to add and click the Add button.

    manage mac startup programs from system preferences

  7. Click the lock icon again to prevent further changes.

Remove an App From Login Items

  1. Follow steps 1-5 from above.
  2. Select the item from the startup list you want to remove and hit the minus () button.
  3. Click the padlock button again to prevent further changes.

2. Manage Startup Programs on Mac From Dock

Dock offers the easiest way to manage startup options on Mac. If you want to add or remove an app to/from the list of login items, follow the steps below:

Set an App to Open at Login

  1. Right-click on the app’s icon in the Dock that you want to add to run at login.
  2. Select Options and click on Open at Login to select it.
    manage mac startup programs from dock

Disable an App from Opening at Login

  1. Right-click on the app you want to disable from opening at startup.
  2. Go to Options and tap on Open at Login to deselect it.

3. Manage Mac Startup Programs Using Finder

Finder is home to the entire macOS file system and allows you to view or make changes to all kinds of system and user files. It also helps in managing apps at startup, which you can do using the steps below:

Add an App to Login Item

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Click on Go in the menu bar and select Go to Folder. Alternatively, hit the Command-Shift-G shortcut to open it.
  3. In the search window, type ~/Library/Preferences and hit Return.
    manage mac startup programs using finder
  4. Fin the .plist file for the app/program you want to run at startup in the Preferences directory and copy it.
  5. Select Library under Favorites from the left menu.
  6. Scroll down in the right window to find the LaunchAgents directory.
    manage mac startup programs using finder
  7. Paste the copied .plist file here.

Remove an App from Login Item

  1. Follow steps 5-6 from above.
  2. Delete the .plist file for the app you want to remove from login items.

4. Manage Mac Startup Programs From App Settings

Some of the apps you install/have on your Mac, such as music apps, password managers, or other utilities, provide an option that lets you set them as a login item right inside the app.

When dealing with such apps, you can easily add/remove them from login items by going into settings/preferences and finding the option to enable/disable them from running at startup accordingly.

manage mac startup programs from apps itself

5. Delay Startup Programs on Mac

Besides adding or removing apps from login items, another option that can help you prevent your Mac from slowing down is to delay the launch of these apps so that not all of your startup items run at the login simultaneously.

Unfortunately, macOS doesn’t have a native way to delay the launch of login items, and therefore, we have to rely on using third-party apps.

Delay Start is one such app that makes it easier to delay the launch of startup apps on your Mac. It’s free to use and available on the Mac App Store.

Download: Delay Start

Once you’ve installed Delay Start on your Mac, follow the steps below to delay the launch of startup items:

  1. Open Delay Start.
  2. Click on the plus (+) button and add the app you want to start at login.
  3. Click on the text field next to Time Setting and set a delay time (in seconds).
    delay mac startup programs using delay start
  4. Close the app.

Speed Up Your Mac Boot Up By Removing Unnecessary Login Items

Using the methods above, you easily manage Mac startup apps—add new startup items, remove unwanted startup items, disable startup apps, and delay essential login items from your list of startup items—to take advantage of Mac’s startup functionality without adversely affecting its performance and boot times.

Plus, if you’ve accidentally infected your Mac with some malicious app that might be exploiting the startup functionality and automatically run in the background to take control/snoop on your activities, these methods should help you disable such apps from running at login.

FAQs About Managing Mac Startup Programs

1. How to Set Applications to Launch Automatically on Mac Startup?

There are a few ways to make an app auto-launch on a Mac startup, as we’ve mentioned earlier. Dock and in-app feature methods are the easiest to add a login item to the login items list. However, if you’d like to have more control over the items in your startup programs list, you can use the System Preferences or Finder method to do the same.

2. How to Clean Startup Items with Third-Party Apps?

While the native methods we’ve listed in this guide will help you manage your startup programs, you also have the option to use third-party programs like CleanMyMac X, MacKeeper, Lingon X, etc., to manage your login items.

3. How Do I Change Which Programs Open on Startup?

Deciding which programs open at startup on your Mac can be done by adding or removing the startup programs from the list of login items. Follow the methods mentioned earlier in the post to learn how to do this.

4. How Do I Clean Up My Mac Startup?

Cleaning up Mac startup essentially means removing unwanted programs from the list of startup programs to reduce your Mac’s startup time and prevent slowdown.

5. How to Stop Spotify From Opening on Mac Startup?

Spotify is one of the many apps that offer the option to enable/disable its launch at system startup right within its settings. To do this, go to Spotify > Preferences. Tap on Show Advanced Settings and choose No from the dropdown menu for Startup and Window Behavior.

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