How to stop apps starting automatically on the Mac for extra speed

Some apps on the Mac automatically start when you log in. It can even happen after you have deleted an app! How do they do this and how do you stop them? Here’s the solution and it’s not obvious.

The Apple Mac and its operating system is a lot more complicated than many people think. It looks simple on the surface, but this is deceptive and there is more going on than meets the eye.

For example, I have been running Avast Passwords for Mac and it is a great password manager. However, I test a lot of software and I can’t keep everything, so I decided to remove it.

Uninstalling apps on the Mac is easy and everyone knows that all you need to do is to drag the app to the Trash. Unfortunately, it is a lot more complicated than that and this can result in partially uninstalled apps, leftover files, and startup items. This article shows the problems uninstalling apps.

Avast Passwords adds a menubar icon that is used to open the program. Even after deleting the Avast passwords app, this menubar icon continued to appear and show its menu when clicked on.

If you want to start apps automatically starting, here is the ultimate guide. First I will show the obvious place to look, then I will show alternative places where apps can hide startup settings.

Startup items

Go to the Apple menu and click System Preferences.

Click Users & Groups.

Select the Login Items tab.

This shows a list of the apps that automatically start when you log in. It does not show all of them, but it is the first place to look when you want to stop an auto-starting app.

Select an app in the list and click the minus button below to prevent it from running on startup.

Prevent apps from starting when you log in on the Apple Mac

Check the library

Open a Finder window and select the Mac’s disk in the sidebar. Select the Library folder and in it are three folders:

  • LaunchAgents
  • LaunchDaemons
  • StartupItems

Check the LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons folders on the Apple Mac for startup apps

Open each folder and check what it contains. The filenames are often complicated, but they usually contain the app name or the developer’s name. This helps you to identify them.

In this case there are three items in LaunchAgents and they are from Adobe, Google and Parallels. It is easy to match these with the apps - Adobe Reader, Google Chrome and Drive, and Parallels Desktop.

Check the LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons folders on the Apple Mac for startup apps

Delete a file if it refers to an app you have deleted or if you don’t want it to automatically start when you log in.

Repeat this with the LaunchDaemons folder and the StartupItems folder.

Do not delete anything you are unsure about and don’t delete any macOS system files.

Check the system library

There is another set of folders called LaunchAgents, LaunchDaemons and StartupItems. Select the Mac’s disk again and this time open System, Library. Open those three folders again and look for apps you don’t want or have deleted.

The system library is where macOS loads its startup items and you probably won’t find third party apps in here. However, you should still check. Only delete a file if you are absolutely sure it is for an app you don’t want.

Check your personal library

We aren’t done yet and there are another three folders called LaunchAgents, LaunchDaemons and StartupItems. These are your personal startup folders.

Click the Go menu, hold down the Option key and click Library.

There are a lot of system files here, so take care not to delete any. There may also be third party apps, so look at the filenames and see if you can spot anything that should not be there.

So that’s three folders in three different locations, all possibly containing startup items. Check them all!



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