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How to add, customize, or remove startup apps on your Mac 

If your Mac’s running slow and you feel like you could go for a walk around the block before it starts up, it could be because too many apps are opening automatically when you start your Mac — including ones you rarely use, sapping its performance and increasing its startup time. 

Read on to learn what macOS startup apps are, how to add, customize, or remove them, as well as how the all-in-one solution Avira Free Security (includes junk remover to free up storage space) can tune up your device’s performance.  


What are Mac startup apps? 

Mac startup applications are apps or services that open automatically when you start your Mac or log in to your user account.  

These apps may well cause your Mac to take ages to start — plus they sap your system resources. Removing startup apps is one of the simple steps you can take to clean up your Mac and improve its performance — just like clearing the cache and browser cache. 

Why do apps open automatically on my Mac? 

There are several reasons why apps and services do that:  

  • Your personal user preferences:
    Some apps give you the option to open automatically when you log in or start your Mac. You can turn on these options to ensure your favorite apps are available right away as soon as you start up your Mac.
  • System services and background processes:
    macOS and some Apple services open certain apps and processes on your Mac automatically so everything runs smoothly. These typically include Spotlight, iCloud, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi management.
  • Update and maintenance tasks:
    Some applications open automatically to perform updates or maintenance tasks. These can include security updates or virus protection checks.
  • Third-party apps and services:
    Some third-party applications and services also open automatically without you explicitly granting permission for them to do so.  

What are some of the most common startup apps on the Mac? 

In addition to system services, which you shouldn’t turn off as they’re there to ensure your Mac runs smoothly, there are some apps that many users have open automatically. 

  • iTunes and other media players probably start automatically for most Mac users.
  • Cloud storage services:
    Maybe you use Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive? You can set cloud storage services to open automatically when you start your Mac.
  • Email apps:
    Many users configure email apps like Mail or Outlook to open automatically when they start up their Mac so they can retrieve new mail straight away.
  • Skype:
    The pandemic introduced many to Zoom, Skype, Teams, and other software to video chat, so much so that these tools are an indispensable part of our lives. As such, these apps are often configured to open automatically when you log in to your Mac.
  • Antivirus apps:
    Many antivirus apps start automatically to check your Mac for threats — and that’s a good thing. 


How do I customize the startup apps on my Mac? 

Regardless of whether you want to allow applications to open automatically when your Mac starts up or want to remove any, it’s pretty easy to do just that via the System Settings menu or Dock. 

How to change startup apps on macOS via the System Settings 

You can remove and add apps from the Login Items menu via System Preferences on macOS (the example below is based on macOS Monterey (version 12)).  

  1. Step 1:
    Open System Preferences and click Users & Groups.
  2. Step 2:
    Select the relevant user on the left and click Login Items on the right to see all the apps that open when your Mac starts up.
  3. Step 3:
    Using the plus icon below the list, choose and include applications you want to have open automatically by clicking Add. Alternatively, simply drag & drop applications onto the list.  
  4. To remove startup applications again, select the application and click the minus icon below the list.

How to manage startup applications from the macOS Dock 

If you only want to have a few applications open automatically and have put them in the Dock anyway, you can quickly change the startup settings here:  

  • To add an application, simply control-click the relevant application in the Dock, go to Options, and click Open At Login in the context menu.
  • If you want to remove an application from the macOS Dock, simply select Remove from Dock. 

Here’s how to tell which apps are causing your Mac to take ages to start up 

You can easily see which startup applications on macOS are really straining the CPU (central processing unit or the main processor) and slamming the brakes on your Mac’s startup time. The best way to do this is to use Activity Monitor or System Preferences.  

macOS’s Activity Monitor shows which startup applications are causing sluggish startup times 

  1. To open Activity Monitor, select Applications, Utilities, and then Activity Monitor. 
  2. From there, click on the CPU or Energy tab. 
  3. In the All Processes view, you’ll see a list of all running processes and their CPU utilization or energy consumption. Click the CPU or Energy column heading to sort the list by highest usage. 
  4. Once you’ve identified an application you want to stop, select it in Activity Monitor and then click the X icon on the top left. 

Using System Preferences 

  1. Click the Apple logo on the top left corner of the screen and select System Preferences. 
  2. Click Users & Groups. 
  3. Select your user account in the left column. 
  4. Then click Login Items. Here you’ll see a list of the applications that open automatically when you log in. 
  5. You can remove applications that might consume a lot of processing power but which you don’t necessarily need to have open automatically when you log in by selecting them and clicking the minus icon (-) at the bottom of the window.
    selecting the application and clicking the minus icon (-) at the bottom of the window.

Tips to get your Mac starting quickly and efficiently 

Not all applications in your Mac’s Login Items list necessarily cause your Mac to start slowly. Some may be resource efficient while others may be resource hogs. As such, it’s worth considering carefully which applications you want to stop or remove to ensure that your Mac continues to function properly.  

As a general rule, don’t stop macOS maintenance apps as they ensure your Mac operates smoothly.  

For all other applications and services, it’s entirely up to you whether you want them to open when you start your Mac or log in. macOS’s Activity Monitor is a great help as it allows you to quickly see which applications and services are really straining your Mac, causing sluggish startup times.  

You should definitely keep allowing an antivirus app to open automatically even though Apple devices are generally less susceptible to malware and other nasties. 

Top tip: Avira Free Security is a lightweight all-in-one solution that includes all the key tools you need, including ones to free up storage space and improve your device performance. This solution adapts to your digital needs and can help you protect your data and devices from threats, optimizing your online privacy and device security.  


Apple and Mac are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the United States and other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. 

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