An M2 MacBook Air on a table.
Marcus Mears III / How-To Geek
To disable the Mac startup sound, first open your Mac's System Settings window from the Apple menu. Select "Sound" and disable "Play sound on startup." You can also disable or enable the startup sound from the Terminal on older Macs without the graphical option.

When you boot up or restart your MacBook or desktop Mac, it will play the traditional startup sound, also known as the startup chime. This lets you know the Mac is starting up properly, but you can disable it to make your Mac boot silently.

How to Disable the Startup Sound on a Mac (or Enable It)

You can easily disable your Mac’s startup sound from System Settings. Click the Apple menu at the top of your Mac’s screen and select “System Settings” to get started.

Note: If you’re using an older version of macOS like macOS Monterey or macOS Big Sur, click “System Preferences” here instead. Apple renamed this screen “System Settings” in macOS Ventura.

Select "System Settings."

Click “Sound” in the sidebar. (On older versions of macOS, click the “Sound” icon instead.)

Toggle the “Play Sound at Startup” option to disable the startup sound.

If you’ve previously disabled the startup chime, you can re-enable it by turning on the “Play Sound at Startup” option here.

On macOS Monterey and macOS Big Sur, the option will look a little different, but it’s named the same thing.

If you don’t see a “Play Sound at Startup” option here, that means you’re using an older version of macOS—specifically, macOS Catalina or an older version of Mac OS X. The option is not present in this versions of macOS, as it was added in macOS Big Sur.

You can still silence the startup sound, but you’ll need to use a Terminal command that changes a hidden setting.

How to Change the Volume of the Mac Startup Sound

Your Mac’s startup sound depends on the volume level your Mac was set to when it was shut down. If your Mac was set to maximum volume level, the boot chime will be played at maximum volume. If your Mac was muted, the startup chime will be silenced.

Specifically, it depends on the volume of your Mac’s built-in speakers. If you don’t have any speakers or headphones plugged into your Mac, you can just change your Mac’s volume slider to control the volume level.

You can control the volume level of your Mac’s built-in speakers from the Sound pane in System Settings. Select the built-in speakers under Output and then choose your desired Output Volume.

Changing the "Output volume" for an iMac's built-in speakers.

How to Enable the Startup Sound on Macs From 2016 to 2020

Between 2016 and 2020, Apple released Macs with the startup sound disabled by default. (Before 2016 and since 2020, however, the startup sound has been enabled by default.)

If you are using one of these Macs and have a modern version of macOS installed, you can enable the startup chime from System Settings. If you are still using an older version of macOS and don’t have the graphical option, you will have to enable the chime using a Terminal command.

To turn the chime on, we have to modify a setting in your Mac’s NVRAM (short for Non-Volatile Random Access Memory) using a terminal command. It’s not as scary as it sounds, but here’s some background on what’s going on.

In a Mac, NVRAM is a small amount of memory that stores computer-wide settings. It remembers these settings without power, so they’re accessible at startup and available between system restarts.

With the commands below, we are changing a setting in NVRAM called “StartupMute” that tells the computer whether or not to emit the chime at startup. The ‘sudo’ command is necessary because ‘nvram’ is a powerful command that requires superuser permissions to use.

First, launch Spotlight Search by hitting Command + Space on your keyboard. You’ll see a large search bar pop up in the middle of your screen.

Apple Spotlight Search Bar

Type terminal and then hit the Return key.

Launching through Spotlight

This will launch the Terminal app. With its default settings, Terminal appears as a window with a black background.

In the Terminal window, type sudo nvram StartupMute=%00and then hit the Return button.

Mac OS X Terminal Window - Turn on Startup Chime

It will ask you for your password. Type in your password and hit Return again.

Now restart your Mac and see if it works. The chime should be there.

If you’re tired of hearing your startup chime and would like to disable it again, here’s how to do it.

Launch Spotlight Search by hitting Command + Space on the keyboard. You will see a large search bar pop up in the middle of your screen.

Apple Spotlight Search Bar

Type terminal and hit Return.

Launching through Spotlight

This will launch the Terminal app. With its default settings, Terminal appears as a window with a black background.

In the Terminal window, type sudo nvram StartupMute=%01and hit the Return key.

Mac OS X Terminal Window - Turn off Startup Chime

If it asks you for your password, type it in and hit Return.

Now restart your Mac and see if it works. The chime should be turned off.

How to Disable the Startup Sound on Older Versions of macOS

The following instructions apply to macOS 10.15 Catalina as well as earlier versions of macOS and Mac OS X. On modern version of macOS, you can simply use the checkbox in System Settings instead.

To permanently disable the startup sound so it isn’t played at startup on older versions of macOS, even if you have your volume level set to maximum volume when you shut down, you need to use a Terminal command.

To do this, open a Terminal window. Press Command + Space to open Spotlight search, type Terminal, and press Enter. Or, you can open a Finder window and head to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.

Launch the Terminal from Mac Spotlight.

Run the following command in the terminal window:

sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%80

Enter your password when prompted, and press “Enter.” Restart your Mac, and you won’t hear the sound.

Run the sudo nvram command that will mute the Mac startup sound.

If you’d like to undo your change later and have the startup chime play normally when you boot your Mac, run the following command:

sudo nvram -d SystemAudioVolume

Help, the Command Didn’t Silence the Startup Chime!

Some people report that the above command doesn’t work on their Macs. If it didn’t silence the startup chime on your system, you may want to try running one of these other commands instead. These reportedly work for some people. This may be hardware-dependent, and certain commands may only work on certain hardware.

sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%01
sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%00
sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=" "

(In the above command, that’s a single space character between the quotation marks.)

Startup sounds can also inform you of problems with your Mac’s boot process. Apple has more info on startup tones and what they mean on its website.

Many websites say you can silence your Mac at boot by pressing the “Mute” button on your keyboard and holding it down right after you boot the Mac up. However, this didn’t work for us. Perhaps it only works on older versions of the Mac operating system, or with older MacBooks or desktop Macs.

Bear in mind that you won’t hear the startup chime when resuming from sleep or standby mode. That’s another good reason to just put your Mac to sleep rather than completely shutting it down, although everyone needs to perform a full shutdown occasionally—if only for a system update.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
Read Full Bio »