Boost Your Mac's Performance by Removing Login Items

Every startup item consumes CPU power or memory

Startup items, also known as login items, are applications, utilities, and helpers that run automatically during the startup or login process of a Mac. In many cases, application installers add login items that an app may need. In other cases, the installers add login items because they assume you want to run their app every time you start your Mac. You can also set folders and documents to open automatically when you log in to your Mac.

All the items in the Login Items system preferences are set to open automatically. If you're not using them, login items take up resources by eating CPU cycles, reserving memory for their use, or running background processes that you may not use.

Information is this article applies to the following operating systems: macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Lion (10.7).

Viewing Your Login Items

To see which items run automatically on your Mac at startup or login, view your user account settings.

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

    Apple menu with System Preferences highlighted
  2. In the System Preferences window, click the Users & Groups icon.

    Mac System Preferences with Users & Groups highlighted
  3. In the Users & Groups preference pane, select your account in the user accounts listed in the left panel.

    Users & Groups preferences with user account selected
  4. Click the Login Items tab to see the applications or other items currently set to start up when you log in.

    LogIn Items tab in Mac System Preferences

Some entries may be for applications that you no longer use or don't want to launch. They are easy to identify. The importance of other entries may not be as obvious, so you should be cautious when removing them.

Which Items to Remove?

The easiest login items to pick for elimination are those that belong to applications you no longer need. You can remove them or any helpers associated with them. If you spot an entry for a printer or another peripheral you no longer use, you can likewise feel comfortable removing it. For example, you may have used a Microsoft Mouse in the past but have since changed to an Apple Magic Mouse. If that's the case, you don't need the MicrosoftMouseHelper application that was installed when you first plugged in your Microsoft Mouse.

Removing an item from the list of Login Items doesn't remove the application from your Mac; it just prevents the application from launching automatically when you log in. This makes it easy to restore a login item should you find out you need it.

Before You Remove a Login Item

It's better to be safe than sorry. You'll recognize the name of an app, folder, or document with no trouble, but some of the helper files are tougher to identify. It's possible for you to remove something you later realize you need. Before you remove a login item, make a note of its name and its location on your Mac. For example:

  1. Write down the name of the app or item.

  2. Right-click the app or item in the list of login items.

  3. Select Show in Finder from the pop-up menu.

  4. Make a note of where the item is located in the Finder.

How to Remove an Item From the Login Items Tab

To remove an item from the Login Items tab in System Preferences:

  1. Click the lock in the lower-left corner of the Login Items window to unlock the screen for changes. Enter your administrator password when prompted to do so.

    Lock highlighted in Users & Groups system preferences
  2. Select an item by clicking its name in the Login Items pane.

    An item selected in the Users & Groups Login Items screen
  3. Click the minus sign ( - ) to remove the item.

    The Login Items window with the minus sign highlighted

Restoring a Login Item

In most cases, you can use a simple approach to restore a startup item to the Login Items tab. (You remembered to write down its name and location earlier, right?)

In the Login Items tab, click the plus sign (+), enter your administrator credentials, and navigate to the item. Click Add to put it back in the Login Items list.

That's it. Now that you know how to restore any login item, you can confidently prune your list of Login Items to create a better-performing Mac.

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