Control the Volume of Your Mac's Startup Chime

Try this trick for turning down the volume of the Startup chime

The Mac's startup chime can be noisy, especially in an otherwise quiet environment. Apple didn't mean to wake the entire house; it just wanted to be sure that you could hear the startup sound and with good reason.

The chime, which usually means your Mac passed the startup diagnostic test, can be replaced by a sequence of audible tones that signal various hardware failures, including bad RAM or EFI ROM (Extensible Firmware Interface Read Only Memory).

The Chimes of Death

Over the years, the tones the Mac generates when the startup test fails became collectively known as the chimes of death. As scary as that sounds, Apple sometimes added a bit of humor to the chimes of death, as it did with the old Performa series of Macs, which used a car crash sound. There were also one or two PowerBook models that used a rendition of the Twilight Zone theme.

Adjust the Startup Chime Volume

Because the startup chime can provide troubleshooting clues, it's not a good idea to disable it by muting the chime volume. However, there's no reason for the chimes to be set so loud.

The way to turn down the volume of the startup chime isn't readily apparent, especially if you have external speakers, headphones, or other sound devices connected to your Mac. Nevertheless, the process is easy, if a bit convoluted. Before you start, do the following:

  • Remove any speakers or headphones connected to your Mac's headphone/line-out jack.
  • Disconnect any USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt-based audio devices connected to your Mac.
  • Disconnect any Bluetooth audio devices you may be using.

With all external audio devices disconnected from your Mac, you're ready to adjust the startup chime's volume level.

  1. Launch System Preferences by clicking on its Dock icon, or selecting the System Preferences item in the Apple menu.

    Apple menu with System Preferences selected
  2. Select the Sound preference pane.

    Mac System Preferences with Sound icon highlighted
  3. In the Sound preference pane that opens, click the Output tab.

    Because you removed the externally connected audio devices, you should see only a few output options, including Internal Speakers.

  4. Select Internal Speakers in the list of Output Devices.

    Sound preferences Output tab with Internal Speakers selected
  5. Move the Output volume slider at the bottom of the Sound window to adjust the Internal Speakers volume level.

    Sound Output volume slider in preferences

That's it. You've adjusted the startup chime volume, as well as any alert chimes that use the internal speakers.

Reconnect any external audio devices that you connected to your Mac.

Use Terminal to Mute the Startup Chime

There's another method for controlling the startup chime volume. Using the Terminal app, you can mute any sound played through the internal speakers.

This isn't the best option; lowering the volume using the Sound preference pane is a better course of action. The advantage of the Terminal method is that it works with any version of macOS or OS X, while the simpler Sound preference pane option is a bit iffy in early versions of the OS.

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities.

  2. Enter sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%80.

    Triple-click a word in the command to select the entire line, and then copy and paste the command into Terminal.

  3. Enter your administrator password when requested to mute the Startup Chime.

Unmute the Startup Chime in Terminal

Should you ever want to unmute the startup chime and return it to its default volume, return to Terminal and enter the following command:

sudo nvram –d SystemAudioVolume

You'll need to provide your administrator password to complete the process.

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