How to Choose the Auto-Start Apps on Mac

macOS can automatically launch applications when you start your Mac. A handy feature that saves you from having to open your favorite software by hand every time you turn on your computer…

Chances are you use the same applications on your Mac very often – even daily. For example, Mail for your emails, Safari for browsing websites, Messages for reading and writing your text messages, or Reminders for keeping track of your to-dos. And it’s a safe bet that you launch them "by hand" every time you turn on your computer. However, there is something much more practical since macOS can automatically open applications each time you start your Mac! An excellent way to avoid repetitive tasks and save time.

In fact, like other operating systems, macOS already automatically launches several programs at startup without your knowledge, including "services" :programs without an interface – and therefore "invisible" – that manage system functions. They can be independent functions, but linked to a particular application, such as the module in charge of synchronizing files between your Mac and your Dropbox or Google Drive online space. Or a small software module that is called resident because it is designed to reside in memory, and in charge of detecting a particular event such as the launch of a scan on the scanner connected to your Mac. In the Mac world, these software services are called Agents or Daemons.

macOS, of course, lets you select the applications that launch automatically when the Mac starts up from a special list. You can add the ones you always use and remove the ones you don’t want to customize your Mac. By delving into the bowels of the system, you can also manage the famous "invisible" services. But you have to be careful because this kind of setting can lead to malfunctions… On a recent Mac, this customization doesn’t really affect the startup time. But, on an older Mac, a little optimization can change everything. And in any case, it is interesting to know precisely all the actions performed by a Mac when it turns on!

In macOS, there are several ways to do this, which we will detail. They will also make you discover that some applications and services are launched at startup without you knowing it.

How to Check Auto-Start Apps on Mac

It’s very easy to see the list of applications that launch when your Mac starts up by going through macOS System Preferences.

  • Scroll down the Apple menu(the Apple logo), at the top left of the screen in the menu bar and click on System Preferences
  • In the window that appears, click on Users and Groups.
  • Then click on the Opening tab at the top to display the list of applications that automatically launch when your Mac is opened. Note the Hide column on the right: by checking the box corresponding to an application, it will launch at startup, but without displaying its window.

How to Choose the Apps that Launch at Startup on Mac

macOS allows you to select very easily the applications that launch automatically when the Mac starts.

  • Go to the Opening list, as explained above.
  • To remove an application from the list, click on the application to select it, then click on the – button (the minus sign) below the left side of the list.
  • To add an application to the list, you have several options.
  • Click the + button below the list at the bottom left, then select an application in the window that automatically displays your Mac’s Applications folder. Click the Addbutton.
  • You can also go directly to the Applications folder in the Finder and drag an application’s icon to the list in the Open tab of System Preferences.
  • Finally, if the application’s icon is present in the Dock at the bottom of the macOS screen, right-click on it, click Options in the pop-up menu that appears, and then click Open with Session. The application will be automatically added to the opening list.
  • Some applications offer an autostart option directly in their settings. To access it, launch the application, then pull down the menu bearing its name, just to the right of the Apple menu. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Cmd+, (the comma). Other applications (such as Mosaic here) add an icon to the menu bar. In this case, click on this icon, then choose Preferences from the menu that opens.
  • In the settings window that appears, find the corresponding option, like here Launch Mosaic when connected, which is in the first tab (General) and deactivate it by checking the appropriate box. In this context, it should be understood that Connected means Started.

How Can I Manage the Services when the Mac Starts?

It is possible to see which services (Agents and Daemons) are active on your Mac and to disable those that do not interest you.However, you should be careful, because if you do something wrong, you may have to reinstall the application linked to a Daemon or an Agent or, worse, lock up the system if you make a mistake. But by acting carefully, you can optimize your Mac’s startup.

  • To see the complete list of services that start when the Mac starts, you have to explore two folders called Libraries that are hidden in the bowels of macOS. – You’ll sometimes see them displayed under their English name, Library.
  • The first Library folder is located inside the folder of the current user of the Mac (Fabrice in our captures). To access it, first go to the Mac’s Finder, for example by clicking on the icon with the smiling logo on the far left of the Dock. The name Finder should appear in the top left corner of the screen, next to the Apple menu.
  • Click on the Go menu while holding down the Alt key on your keyboard.
  • Then click on the Library option that appears – this line only appears when the Alt key is held down.
  • In the Finder window that appears, find the LaunchAgents folder – in English, the verb to launch means to launch. You will see that it contains different items than those listed in the Opening tab of the System Preferences (see above). Here, for example, we see two entries that include the word Google, which refers to the update service for Google applications you have installed on your Mac – for example, the Chrome browser. It’s best not to touch the latter to ensure that Google’s software continues to update.
  • The second Library folder is in the root of your Mac’s startup disk, which is often called Macintosh HD. To get there, open a new Finder window.
  • If necessary, bring up the items in the Locations section located in the left-hand column of the Finder window. If this column does not appear, pull down the Finder’s Overview menu and choose Show Sidebar.
  • In the Library folder you will find two subfolders: LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons. Each contains different services. Here, for example, the modules for managing the printer and scanner connected to the Mac, and also the OneDrive update service, in charge of synchronizing files between the Mac and the Microsoft online storage service. And also other agents and Daemons in charge of the proper functioning of the Java environment or the TeamViewer application. Your list will be different, depending on what you have installed on your Mac.
  • If you find in these LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons folders services you don’t use anymore and that obviously launch themselves when your Mac starts, start by uninstalling the application(s) linked to these services. To find out how best to do this, consult our macOS practical sheet: uninstalling apps on the Mac properly. You will be sure that the uninstalled application will no longer launch at startup!
  • If you don’t want to uninstall the application but simply disable the launch of these linked services (Agents and Daemons), don’t delete them from the various Libraries folders. Instead, disable them.
  • You can move the affected files from the LaunchAgents or LaunchDaemons folders to a temporary folder, on the Finder Desktop, for example, making sure to note where they came from. Then restart your Mac.
  • If you ever detect a problem, you can then replace the files you removed so that everything is back in order.
  • Compare boot times. On a newer machine, it’s unlikely you’ll notice much difference. But on an older Mac, you’ll probably feel an improvement. Either way, you’ll have learned a little more about what goes on behind the scenes when your Mac boots up!

How to Manage Auto-Start Apps and Services with CleanMyMac X?

To easily choose which applications and services start up when your Mac starts up, you can also use a specialized optimization application like CleanMyMac X – not to be confused with MacCleaner, which you should avoid.

  • Download and install the application. It’s not free, but you can use it for free for a week, which is enough to clean up.
  • Then launch the application, and in the Performance section of the left column, click on Optimization.
  • You will then be able to see two lists: the Opening Items, first, which correspond to the applications that can be seen in the Opening tab of the System Preferences (see above); and the Opening Agents, second, which gather in a single list all the services (Agents and Daemons) of the two Library folders.
  • To disable a service, click on the Enabled label to the right of its name to change it to Disabled.
  • When you have finished your settings, close the application and restart your Mac to see the difference.