How to stop apps from running at startup

Macs start up much faster than they used to, thanks partly to the wonders of SSD storage. However, there are still things that can slow your Mac down when it boots. The number one cause of slow startup on a Mac is lots of applications and services launching. Some of these are important and necessary, while others aren’t. In this article, we’ll show you how to stop applications from opening at startup and speed up the time it takes for your Mac to boot.

Why do applications open at startup?

The simple answer is that your Mac is configured to allow them to do that. However, there are different reasons for applications launching at startup. Some do it because it makes sense, and they wouldn’t work very well if they didn’t. For example, an application for an online storage service. It makes sense for that to launch at a startup, especially if you use it a lot. For other apps, it’s a pure convenience. And the question is: is it for the app’s convenience to encourage you to use it more often, or yours? If the answer is that it’s for the app’s convenience, then that’s a good sign that you should prevent it.

Is there a problem with apps launching at startup?

There are a couple of things that could be problematic about applications launching at startup, aside from adding to the time it takes for your Mac to boot.

  • If applications launch at startup, they will be running all the time in the background and use resources like memory and CPU cycles.
  • If an application that launches at startup runs into problems, it could cause issues for other programs on your Mac, and it may be difficult to diagnose the issue if you didn’t realize the app had launched.

How to stop programs from running at startup

There are a few ways you can stop applications from launching at startup, including using Login Items in Systems Settings and using the application’s settings. But there’s an easier way. 

CleanMyMac X is a neat solution that will prevent any application you choose from launching at startup and allow you to control launch agents: these processes launch at startup but don’t appear in System Settings. The app has lots of different modules to help keep your Mac running smoothly and free from junk. You can download it for free here. Then, follow the steps below:

  1. Open CleanMyMac X.
  2. Choose Optimization and click View all items.
  3. Select the box next to Login Items and then select the applications you want to stop launching.
  4. Click Remove.
CleanMyMac X - Login items

To clear out launch agents, say for apps you no longer have on your Mac, choose Launch Agents, and repeat steps 3 and 4.

How to remove startup apps in System Settings

Applications that launch at startup are known in macOS as Login Items. Technically, they launch when you log in, not when you start up your Mac. So, if you switch users to a user not already logged in, they will launch then. Here’s how to stop them from doing that using System Settings:

  1. Click the Apple menu and choose System Settings.
  2. Select General > Login Items.
  3. Select the login items you don’t want to launch at startup, one at a time.
  4. Click the ‘-’ at the bottom of the window.
  5. Also, check apps under “Allow in the Background” and turn off the unneeded ones.
System Preferences - Login Items

How to turn off auto-run in app settings

This process varies from application to application. In most Mac apps, click the application name menu and choose Settings, then look for a setting called something like “allow to launch at startup.”

In online storage services, it’s slightly different. Here’s how to do it in Dropbox as an example.

  1. Click the Dropbox menubar item.
  2. Click your account (usually your initials, in the top right of the window).
  3. Choose Preferences.
  4. Deselect the box labelled “Start Dropbox on system startup.”

Some other apps make it even more difficult to prevent them from launching at startup. But it’s still possible to do that; here’s an example using Spotify:

  1. Click your account at the top of the Spotify window.
  2. Choose Settings.
  3. Scroll down to Advanced Settings and look for the Startup and Window Behaviour section.
  4. In that section, you’ll find “Open Spotify automatically after you login to your computer.”
  5. Choose No from the dropdown menu.

Some applications want to launch at startup because it makes sense for them to be running all the time on your Mac. Menu bar items and online storage services, for example. There’s good reason for those to launch at startup. Others do it because they want you to use the app more often. You can control which apps launch at startup and which don’t. Follow the steps above to use whichever method works best for you, and you’ll find that your Mac boots more quickly and runs low on resources less often.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.