Macbook Pro with HTG open
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek
Head to System Settings > General > Login Items to see a list of your Mac's startup applications. You can disable programs that start when macOS boots and add your own startup applications from here.

The more startup items you have enabled, the slower your Mac will start up. Don’t need these apps to open at login on your Mac? You’re better off getting rid of them and launching them only when you need them. Here’s how to see which apps open at login on your Mac and how to make changes.

How to See What Apps Open at Startup on a Mac

To see which apps launch when you sign in on your Mac, head to System Settings > General > Login Items. You can open the System Settings window by clicking the Apple menu icon on the menu bar and selecting “System Settings.” (These options were moved to this screen in macOS 13 Ventura.)

You’ll see two sections under this menu. The first is “Open at Login,” and it refers to apps that autostart with macOS (potentially launching an application window at the same time).

macOS 13 Ventura Login Items menu

The second is “Allow in the Background” which are helper apps that run services in the background at login. These won’t necessarily launch a window to show you that they’re open, but they still take up system resources and potentially slow down your Mac’s startup time.

Background items are likely to include program updaters and menu bar items, like Microsoft AutoUpdate for the Office suite or the Mac window manager Magnet. Some have no evidence of being open at all. Some startup programs on your Mac can be hard to identify since they’re labeled only with the developer’s name and may lack an app icon.

Note: If you’re running macOS 12 Mojave or earlier you’ll find these options under System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items > Login Items. (Everything will be listed under the same section).

How to Manage Startup Programs on a Mac

To stop programs from running at startup on your Mac, first head to System Settings > General > Login Items to see what’s starting up. (Click the Apple menu and select “System Settings” to open this window.)

To remove an application from the “Open at Login” section, first click on the app in question and then click on the minus “-” button below. The app will be removed from the list.

"Open at Login" applications in the Login Items menu

Removing background items is even easier. These items can easily be toggled on or off using the button next to the app label. You may need to authenticate with a password or Touch ID to change what background programs and helpers open on startup on a Mac.

Toggle background items on or off in the Login Items menu

For example, if you rarely play games on your Mac you probably don’t want Steam starting at launch.

How to Add a Startup Program on a Mac

To manually add a startup program, first head to System Settings > General > Login Items. Click the “+” icon and choose the application you want your Mac to launch at login.

Simply select an app that you want to launch and nominate it by clicking “Open” to add it to the list of startup items.

Add macOS application to startup list

What Startup Programs Should You Disable on a Mac?

Generally speaking, only frequently used or mission-critical apps should be included in your startup items. Anything that provides genuine utility like a clipboard manager or a helper application for your chosen note-taking solution is a good candidate.

Apps that you rarely use, or simply don’t need running at startup should be disabled. You’ll need to make your own call about which apps fit into these two categories for you.

Disable individual login items to speed up startup

Consider disabling auto-updaters for apps you rarely use (they’ll probably check for updates when you eventually start them anyway), game launchers like Steam if you rarely play games, or helpers for applications you only open occasionally.

If in doubt make a note of any changes so you can revert. You’ll need to manually add “Open at Login” apps or toggle background apps back on from the same menu.

Other Ways to Speed Up Your Mac

Removing startup items is just one of the many ways to make your Mac boot faster. If your Mac is slow in general, you can try some other tips for speeding up macOS or fixing a slow and unresponsive Mac.

Sometimes, poor performance means it’s time to upgrade your Mac. Take a look at our best MacBooks and top desktop Mac models for some recommendations.

Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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