How to Add Startup Sounds to Your Mac

Use Automator to create custom spoken text or use a sound file

One of the fun features of earlier Mac operating systems was the ability to assign sound files to play at startup, shutdown, or other times. While we can no longer assign sound effects to specific events in macOS (or OS X), it's easy to set up a custom sound to play when your Mac starts up.

To do this, we'll use Automator to create an application wrapper around a Terminal command to say a phrase or play a sound file. Once we create the application with Automator, we'll add it as a startup item.

Here's how to add startup sounds to your Mac.

These instructions apply to Macs running OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and later OS X and macOS versions.

Use Automator to play startup sounds
 Lifewire

Creating Startup Sounds for Your Mac

The shell script we use depends on whether we want the Mac to speak specific text using one of the available built-in voices, or play back an audio file that contains music, speech, or sound effects. We'll show you how to use both methods. The first step is to create an application wrapper from within Automator.

Use Automator to Create an Application Wrapper

Whether you want to use custom text with a built-in voice or play back an audio file, you'll first need to create an application wrapper using Automator.

  1. Go to Applications and launch Automator. Or, type Automator into Spotlight Search.

  2. Select Application as the template type to use, and then select Choose.

    Select Application in Automator
  3. Near the top-left corner of the window, make sure Actions is highlighted.

    Selecting Actions.
  4. From the Actions library, select Utilities.

    Select Utilities in Automator
  5. Select and drag Run Shell Script to the workflow pane.

    Select and drag run shell script

Speaking Text With the Mac's Built-In Voices

We'll use the say command to create our custom spoken text application. In this example, we'll instruct the Mac to say, "Hi, welcome back, I've missed you" at startup using the built-in Fred voice.

  1. Copy the command below and enter it into the Run Shell Script box:

    Say -v fred "Hi, welcome back, I've missed you"
    Paste script for spoken voice command

    We put the text in double-quotes because it contains punctuation marks, and anything in double-quotes is treated as text and not another command. Even if your text doesn't contain any punctuation, it's a good idea to surround it with double-quotes.

  2. Select Run from the top right of the screen to test the application.

    Selecting run to test script.
  3. You'll hear your message spoken in the Fred voice, and you'll see green checkmarks in the log below indicating that the script and workflow are completed.

    Run and test application in Automator
  4. When you've verified that your script is working properly, go to the File menu and select Save.

  5. Name the file and save it to your Mac. Make a note of where you saved the file.

    Saving new Mac startup sound file

Playing Back an Audio File

If you'd rather use an audio file that contains music, speech, or sound effects for your startup sound, you'll use the afplay command. The afplay command instructs Terminal to play back the sound file after the command.

The afplay command can play back most sound file formats, such as MP3, WAV, AIFF, or AAC files, but it won't play back protected iTunes files.

  1. Find the sound effect file you want to use and note its pathname.

  2. Use this command in the Run Shell Script box, changing "path to sound record" to the correct sound location on your computer:

    Afplay path to sound record
  3. In this example, we're using a free ZapSplat ocean sound effect recently downloaded:

    Afplay /Users/gretchen/Downloads/zapsplat_nature_ocean_wave_large_single_crash_on_beach_47861.mp3
    Select the sound file you want to add after the afplay command

    If you're having trouble figuring out your sound effect's exact pathname, open a Terminal window and drag the sound file into it. The pathname will display, and you can then copy and past it into your script.

  4. Select Run from the top right of the screen to test the application.

  5. You'll hear your sound effect, and you'll see green checkmarks in the log below indicating that the script and workflow are completed.

  6. When you've verified that your script is working properly, go to the File menu and select Save.

  7. Name the file and save it to your Mac. Make a note of where you saved the file.

    Saving new Mac startup sound file

Add the Application as a Startup Item

Now that you've created an application with spoken custom text or an audio file, it's time to add it as a startup item.

  1. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences. (Or type System Preferences into Spotlight Search).

    The System Preferences command under the Apple menu
  2. Select the User & Groups icon (or Accounts in older versions of OS X).

    Select Users & Groups in System Preferences
  3. Select your username and then select the Login Items tab.

    Select your usernamd and then Login Items
  4. Select the plus sign (+) below the Login Items window to open a standard Finder browsing screen.

    Selecting the plus sign.
  5. Go to your newly created sound application and select it.

    Selecting audio app.
  6. Select the Add button.

    Find your newly created sound application and select Add
  7. Your sound file is now part of the Login Items list. The next time you start your Mac, you'll hear your new startup sound.

    Application is now part of login items