If you have ever stumbled upon apps that open in your face as soon as you log into your Mac, you know how unwelcoming they can get. Such apps, also known as startup programs, are intentionally present to speed up your workflow by reducing loading times. While some startup programs are indispensable, most of them are not worth your system’s precious resources.

add remove change mac startup programs

On the bright side, setting up startup programs to your advantage will enhance and amplify your workflow. For that, you must alter and edit your Mac’s startup programs, which can be done using various methods according to your convenience and requirement. Read to the end for detailed instructions.

What Are Startup Programs?

Simply put, startup programs are applications that initiate the second your Mac is turned on. Such apps will appear on top and start functioning as soon as you sign into your Mac, thus reducing waiting times. Examples of startup programs above include auto-updaters like Microsoft AutoUpdate, game launchers, music streaming apps like Apple Music, and more.

How Beneficial or Harmful Are Startup Programs?

Startup programs can be best said to be necessary evils because of their ease of use and resource-intensive nature simultaneously. While it’s advantageous having apps open instantly and save valuable time of yours, it’s equally heavy on the Mac to tackle multiple things while turning itself on.

This may result in your Mac reporting slower boot times, additional battery consumption, increased RAM usage, and whatnot. Thus, having only the bare minimum and essential apps required in your workflow is recommended to ensure proper system stability.

How to View Already Existing Startup Programs

If you are unaware of your system’s existing startup programs, follow the following procedure.

  1. Click on the Apple logo () in the top left corner and select System Settings from the dropdown menu. Alternatively, you can perform a Spotlight search by using the shortcut Command + Space and searching for System Settings there instead.
    open mac's system settings
  2. Open the General tab from the left column.
    open general
  3. Select Login Items.
    open login items

You’ll be presented with a list of your Mac’s startup programs, which can also be edited. Furthermore, scrolling down will show apps with permission to run in the background to perform backend tasks like syncing, checking for software updates, and more.

mac startup programs

How to Add, Remove, or Edit Mac Startup Programs

There are many ways to alter your Mac’s startup programs, and here are the five best ways to perform the same.

Using System Settings

Perform a Spotlight search by pressing Command + Space and typing Open at Login. Otherwise, you can reach the same settings page by following the procedure mentioned under the previous heading.

open at login using spotlight search

To remove an app:

  1. Select the app you want to remove, which is Mission Control Plus in this case.
    select app to be removed
  2. Click the minus button (-) in the bottom-left corner to remove it.
    remove startup program from settings

To add an app:

  1. Select the plus button (+) in the bottom-left corner.
    plus button to add startup programs
  2. Choose the required app, which is Telegram in this case, from the Applications folder and select Open.
    select open to add a startup program

From the Dock

Apps in the dock can let you alter their login behavior directly. To do so —

  1. Right-click on the required app icon present in the dock.
    right click app icon
  2. Hover your cursor over Options.
    hover cursor over options to reveal it
  3. Select Open at Login. A checkmark (✔) will confirm your action.
    app added as a login item

Similarly, to remove an app, click on Open at Login again to uncheck it. The checkmark will be removed subsequently.

app removed from login items

Within App Settings

App settings allow you to change the app’s login behavior, but the process is time-consuming if you want to add or remove multiple apps this way. Still, this is the best way to add or remove a specific app to the login items without fiddling with the settings. The procedure can vary significantly as each app has its own settings page. Below is the procedure for Spotify.

  1. Open Spotify.
  2. Click on the option stating Spotify in the menu bar.
    click "spotify" in menu bar
  3. Select Settings… from the dropdown menu.
    select options from dropdown menu
  4. Scroll down till you find the Startup and window behavior section.
    change spotify startup behavior
  5. Open the dropdown menu beside Open Spotify automatically after you log into the computer, and choose between YesNo, or Minimized, as per your preference.
    set startup behavior as per your requirement

Related Read: 4 Ways to Stop Mac Startup Apps at Login

Using Finder

Sometimes unknown programs that are not located in the application folder are added as login objects out of the blue. Such programs are usually hidden and represent leftover files that come from uninstalled applications, random macOS programs, etc. Follow the steps below to remove them.

  1. Open Finder and select Go from the menu bar at the top.
    click on "go" in menu bar
  2. Click on Go to Folder… from the dropdown menu. Alternatively, you can directly enter Command + Shift + G.
    open "go to folder"
  3. Type /Library/LaunchAgents and /Library/LaunchDaemons one after another and check for suspicious programs.
    launch agents and launch daemons
  4. Once identified, select the program to remove it. Removal can be done by dragging the icon into the trash, right-clicking and selecting Move to Trash, or using the shortcut Command + delete.
    remove launch agent
  5. macOS will ask you to authenticate the action using Touch ID or your password.
    authenticate using password or touch id
Fair Warning:
Do not try your luck with unknown programs, as they might be essential for the functioning of macOS.

Using Cleaner Apps

Mac utility software like CleanMyMac X and MacKeeper helps keep your Mac free from unwanted malware, virus attacks, and junk files. A part of their feature set also includes a startup programs manager, which makes the process even more seamless and easy.

Speed Up Your Mac Without Removing Startup Apps

What if you don’t want to eliminate the existing startup programs while keeping your Mac as fast as before? Say no more, as apps like Delay Start let you set a custom time interval before which the apps of your choice won’t start. This way, the system will no longer consume additional resources to run startup programs during boot-up.

Another way is to temporarily turn off startup programs, which can be done by pressing the shift key while signing into your Mac from the lock screen.

Most Common Mac Startup Apps

Here are some of the most common Mac startup apps:

  • Cloud storage apps: These apps, like Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud, keep your files synced across all your devices.
  • Email and messaging apps: Apps like Mail, Messages, and Slack keep you connected with your friends, family, and colleagues. They open automatically when you start your Mac so that you can get your messages as quickly as possible.
  • News and weather apps: Apps such as The New York Times, BBC News, and Weather Channel keep you up to date on the latest news and weather. They open automatically when you turn on your Mac, so you’ll always be up to date as soon as you turn on your computer.
  • Anti-malware programs: These programs, such as Avast, Malwarebytes, and Norton, protect your Mac from malware and other threats. They open automatically when you turn on your Mac so they can start scanning for viruses and other malicious software as soon as possible.
  • Other productivity apps: These apps, like Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, Flux, and Evernote, help you get your work done. They open automatically when you start your Mac so that you can get started with your tasks right away.

Use Startup Programs Efficiently to Get More Out of Your Mac

Startup programs are often considered harmful, but sometimes you can’t afford to do without a few applications. Therefore, changing login items is essential to ensure a smooth startup and efficient workflow. The numerous methods in this guide will help you achieve this and simplify the use of your Mac.

FAQs about Mac Startup Apps

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Head to Settings > General > Login Items to view your Mac's startup programs. While there is no particular number, having the bare minimum is suggested for a fast boot-up. Heavy apps like games, emulators, or video editors shouldn't be allowed to open at login. In contrast, light apps like Spotify and WhatsApp are perfectly fine if set to open at login.

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when deciding which apps to remove from Autostart on your Mac:

  • Apps you rarely use: If there are apps that you rarely use or don't need immediately at startup, you may consider removing them from startup.
  • Resource-intensive apps: If you have applications that consume a significant amount of system resources, such as memory or CPU, you should remove them from the Startup. This can help free up system resources and improve your Mac's overall performance.
  • Non-essential background apps: Some apps run in the background and provide additional functionality or services. While some of these applications may be necessary, others aren't essential to your daily tasks. Consider removing non-essential background apps from the startup to reduce unnecessary background processes.
  • Menu bar apps: Apps that add icons or items to the menu bar can sometimes consume system resources and clutter the menu bar. Review the menu bar apps and remove any that you don't need at startup.

If you want to stop the Mac startup apps only temporarily, you can do so as follows:

  • When you see the login window, hold down the Shift key while clicking the Login button
  • Release the Shift key when you see the dock
  • 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 when the Desktop appears.

Spotify is notorious for persuading users to allow it to open at login. To remove it as a startup program, head to Settings > General > Login Items > select Spotify from the list > click on the minus sign (-). Alternatively, following the third step from the above guide lets you revoke the permissions within the app's settings page.

In that case, you can remove the app using Finder using the following steps -

  1. Use the shortcut Command + Shift + G to open Finder search.
  2. Type /Library/LaunchAgents and hit enter. If you don't find anything there, visit /Library/LaunchDaemons instead.

You'll be provided with all your Mac's startup processes, which you can delete by simply dragging the responsible file into the trash. Do not mess around with files that you cannot identify.

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