I love my MacBook Pro. I hate iTunes. I don’t think I’m alone. Yet every time I hit the “Play” button on my keyboard, or connect a Bluetooth speaker, iTunes shows up, mocking me.

Ideally, I’d never see iTunes again. I use Vox to listen to music, and I don’t need Apple’s music player/music store/TV and movie store/iPhone and iPad backup tool/desktop App Store browser/subscription streaming service/podcast directory/resource hog. Is there some way to stop this from happening?

As it turns out, yes. There have been many tricks for this over the years, as different methods keep breaking with new versions of macOS, but here’s what works now. I tested it on macOS Sierra, but it may work on earlier versions as well.

How to Stop iTunes From Hijacking the Play Key

First, head to Applications > Utilities and open the Terminal. Alternatively, you can search for Terminal with Spotlight.

Once you’ve got the Terminal open, run this command:

launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.rcd.plist

Here’s a quick breakdown of what this all means, so it feels a little bit less like a magic spell:

  • launchctl is a simple application on your Mac for controlling agents that run in the background.
  • The word unload tells launchctl you want to disable a particular agent.
  • /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.rcd.plist is the location of the agent you are disabling. Agents run in the background; this one launches iTunes when the “Play” key is pressed.

Once you’ve run the command, try pressing Play on your keyboard. Nothing happens!

If you want to avoid iTunes even more, I’d also suggest you change the default application for music files, otherwise opening those might launch iTunes.

How to Undo This Setting (and Restore the Default Behavior)

To undo this magical change, you just need to run this command:

launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.rcd.plist

As you can see, this is nearly identical to the previous command, just with the word load instead of unload.

Press Play, and iTunes will reappear as it used to.

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Justin Pot has been writing about technology for over a decade, with work appearing in Digital Trends, The Next Web, Lifehacker, MakeUseOf, and the Zapier Blog. He also runs the Hillsboro Signal, a volunteer-driven local news outlet he founded.
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