How to Add Startup Items to Your Mac

Automatically launch applications or items when you boot your Mac

Startup items are applications, documents, shared volumes, or other items that you want to open automatically when you log in to your Mac. For example, you may always launch Apple Mail, Safari, or Messages every time you use your computer. Instead of launching these items manually, designate them as startup items and let your Mac do the work for you.

Information in this article applies to Macs running OS X Lion and later OS X and macOS versions.

Add Startup Items to Your Mac in System Preferences

You have an extensive range of options when you add startup items using the Mac's System Preferences. Here's how:

  1. Log in to the Mac with your account information.

  2. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences. Alternatively, click the System Preferences icon in the Dock.

    Apple menu with System Preferences chosen in menu
  3. Click the User & Groups icon (or Accounts in older versions of OS X).

    Mac System Preferences opening screen
  4. Click your username in the list of accounts.

    Users & Groups preferences with account selected

  5. Select the Login Items tab.

    Login Items tab selected on Mac Users & Groups preference screen
  6. Click the plus sign (+) below the Login Items window to open a standard Finder browsing screen.

    User & groups with Plus sign highlighted
  7. Go to the item you want to add and click it to select it. Then, click the Add button.

    Mac Finder window with an app selected
  8. The item you select is added to the Login Items list. The next time you start your Mac or log in to your user account, the items in the list start up automatically.

Drag-and-Drop Method for Adding Startup or Login Items

Like most Mac applications, the Login Items list supports drag and drop. Click and hold an item, and then drag it to the list. This alternate method of adding an item is useful for adding shared volumes, servers, and other computer resources that may not be easy to access in a Finder window.

When you've finished adding items, close the System Preferences window. The next time you boot or log in to your Mac, the items in the list start up automatically.

Add Startup Items From the Dock

An even quicker way to add startup items is available if the application or item is already located on the Dock. Use Dock menus to add the item to the startup items list without ever opening System Preferences.

  1. Right-click the app's Dock icon.

  2. Select Options from the pop-up menu.

    Options selected in the Mac Dock pop-up menu
  3. Choose Open at Login from the submenu.

    Open at Login option chosen for a Dock app

Find out more about adding apps to the Dock.

Hide Startup Items

Each item in the Login Items list includes a checkbox labeled Hide. Placing a checkmark in the Hide box causes the app to start up but not display an open window.

Hiding an app is useful when you need to have it running but don't need to see the app window. For example, a user may want the Activity Monitor app to start automatically without needing the window to open. The app's Dock icon shows at a glance when CPU loads become excessive. Open a window at any time by clicking the app's Dock icon.

Startup Items Already Present

When you access your account's Login Items list, there are already a few entries present. Some applications that you install add themselves, a helper app, or both, to the list of items to start automatically when you log in.

Most of the time, apps ask your permission or provide a checkbox in the app's preferences or a menu item to set the app to start automatically at login.

Don't Get Carried Away With Startup Items

Startup items can make using your Mac easier and your everyday workflow a snap, but adding too many startup items may lead to unexpected performance consequences.

To improve performance, return to System Preferences or the Dock to remove startup items.

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