Startup programs are apps or utilities that launch automatically as soon the operating system boots up. On macOS, startup programs are called login items, and they save you the time and effort you’d otherwise have to put in to find and launch programs manually after you log in to your Mac.

stop mac startup apps at login

While this is useful in various scenarios, there are times when even if you don’t want them to start automatically, certain Mac apps may run at startup anyway. Not only does this increase the boot-up time, but it also slows down your Mac and affects its performance.

Fortunately, Apple allows you to manage startup programs on Mac based on your preference. Here’s a quick guide showing you all the different ways to stop Mac startup apps at login.

Method 1: Stop Mac Apps from Running at Startup From the Dock

If the app you want to prevent from running at startup is currently running on your Mac or pinned to the Dock, you can disable it easily with a few simple steps:

  1. Right-click the app icon.
  2. Select Options and untick the Open at Login option.
    disable open at login

Method 2: Disable Mac Startup Programs Through System Preferences

Although Apple allows you to disable Mac apps from running at startup from the Dock, it isn’t a practical approach when you have too many login items on your Mac.

For such scenarios, you can disable login items from the Mac System Preferences like this:

  1. Open System Preferences on your Mac.
  2. Click on Users & Groups.
    users & groups option inside system preferences
  3. Hit the padlock icon and enter your admin password to authenticate access.
    authenticating access in users & groups settings
  4. Click on the Login Items tab.
  5. Click the Mac program you want to prevent running at startup and hit the minus () button at the bottom to remove it from the login items list.
    removing apps from login items
If you want a Mac app to run at startup but don’t want it to show on the Desktop, tick the checkbox next to that app’s name in the Login Items tab, and it won’t show up anymore.

Related Read: Top 5 Ways to Add, Remove, or Change Mac Startup Programs

Method 3: Stop Mac Apps from Launching at Startup Using Finder

Using System Preferences, you can easily view a list of all login items on your Mac and disable them from launching at startup. However, startup items don’t always constitute apps; there are certain Mac services and processes that run at startup but don’t show up under System Preferences.

These processes are called LaunchDaemons and LaunchAgents, and they both fall under the launchd process, which takes care of other processes on Mac. Compared to login items, these processes don’t have a GUI app. Instead, they link with installed apps and perform their intended operations in the background.

And so, to disable such Mac processes, you have to remove the associated PLIST (.plist) files that comprise various app-related properties and configurations. Here’s how to do this:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Click on Finder in the menu bar and select Go > Go to Folder. Alternatively, open Finder and hit the Command + Shift + G keyboard shortcut.
  3. Depending on the process you want to disable, enter a path in the text window accordingly:
    • LaunchAgents: /Library/LaunchAgents and ~/Library/LaunchAgents
    • LaunchDaemons: /Library/LaunchDaemons and ~/Library/LaunchDaemons
  4. Inside this folder, you’ll see a bunch of items ending with the .plist extension. Right-click on the startup item—with the same name as the program that continues to run at startup on your Mac—and select Move to Bin to delete it from the folder and prevent it from running at system boot up.
    deleting plist files using finder
If you’re confused about what a PLIST file is for/does, look it up online to learn more about it before proceeding.

Method 4: Disable Mac Startup Apps Using a Mac Utility Software

If the methods listed so far sound complicated to you, you can use a Mac utility software to manage startup programs on your Mac. Two of these popular utilities include MacKeeper and CleanMyMac X, both of which give you the ability to find and delete daemons and agents as well.

Related Read: How to Disable Startup Programs in Windows 11

Keep a Check on Your Mac Login Items

If you install many apps on your Mac—especially those that help you with system operations and management—you’ll eventually end up with a long list of startup items that may hog up your Mac’s resources and bring it to a crawl. To avoid this, you can use any of the methods listed above to keep a check on your Mac’s startup programs list and ensure it doesn’t contain any programs you didn’t authorize to run at login.

FAQs About Stopping Mac Startup Apps at Login

Like any other Mac app, you can stop Spotify from opening at startup on MacBook using any of the methods listed in the guide above. Additionally, Spotify also includes settings for startup behavior, which you can change based on your preference to prevent it from launching after you log in, like this:

  1. Launch Spotify
  2. Select Spotify from the menu bar and choose Preferences.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
  4. Click the dropdown button next to Open Spotify automatically after you log into the computer and select No from the available options.

Hidden startup programs on Mac can be found under the following directories:

  • ~/Library/LaunchAgents
  • /Library/LaunchAgents
  • ~/Library/LaunchDaemons
  • /Library/LaunchDaemons

Open Finder, hit the Command + Shift + G keyboard shortcut, and paste the path of these directories to access them. Once inside, right-click on the PLIST file for the program you want to remove from the startup items list and select Move to Bin.

Some Mac apps come with a setting that lets you automatically launch them when your Mac boots up. This eliminates the need for you to manually find and launch the programs you frequently use or need to run after the system boots up. You may want to do this if you've got a bunch of apps that you need as soon as you log in to your system. Or, if you've got a bunch of automation scripts that need to run in the background for you to be able to carry out tasks dependent on them.

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