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MacOS locations for programs that start on boot – Daemons and Launchctl

MacOS has a few locations that start programs up on boot (called agents and daemons in macOS). If your Mac seems slower, this might be a cause, a bunch of background services running for programs you don’t use often enough. There are also programs that install themselves everywhere and just deleting the application will not remove them. We will walk through all the directories that an application can hide in.

If you want more control on when programs install something on boot, install a program called BlockBlock. It will alert when a program is inserting something into the startup process and let you block it. There are so many programs that run boot agents that don’t need to.

The first place to check is:  System Preferences > Users & Groups. Here is a list of the programs that start up for me.

bootup items

Access this menu:

  1. Open System Preferences (from the apple icon)
  2. Click Users & Groups
  3. Click your name on the left
  4. Click the Login items tab
  5. Check which startup programs you want to remove
  6. Click the “–” sign and repeat for each item
  7. Close the window when you’re done

If you need to add an item back, press “+” and choose the app you’d like add, most likely anything you remove won’t effect the application.

To see this in action you have to reboot your Mac.

 

Advanced Level – Remove daemons and agents from the startup process

Many programs use a Daemon or Agent to start on boot. There are two methods, first using the program “launchctl” and second removing the actual daemon files. First we will walk through where all the directories are and then the two methods to remove processes.

Quick note beforehand, DO NOT DELETE anything with com.apple.X, these are systems processes and essential. You will break your mac and need to do a system restore, don’t blame me!

The directories are:

  • /Library/StartUpItems
  • /Library/LaunchDaemons
  • /Library/LaunchAgents
  • /Users/YOURUSERNAME/Library/LaunchAgents  (alternate method is to use the ~,  so ~/Library/LaunchAgents)
  • /System/Library/LaunchDaemons  (not recommended to touch)
  • /System/Library/LaunchAgents (not recommended to touch)
  • /Library/PrivilegedHelperTools (these are programs that can access data as a privileged user)

The best way to work on these is to open a command prompt and run the commands since the GUI will hide these directories:

Those are the directories where you can find just about every program that is ran on startup.

The next step is to see what’s running on your system currently. MacOS uses a program called “launchctl” to list and control the running processes. The easiest way to see what non-apple programs are running is to grep them away!

Method 2 – remove the files manually (make sure to back them up first)

I believe that covers the most of it. Any mistakes or issues please comment below!

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