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How to configure apps to start up on login with MacOS

Here's how to make the MacOS desktop experience even more efficient by adding apps as login Items for faster access, so they automatically start when you log in.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on
MacBook Air M2 with ZDNET homepage on a table
Cliff Joseph/ZDNET

MacOS is one of the more efficient and effective operating systems on the market. But even with all that simplicity, it still gives users some extra power to make the experience specific to their needs. 

One feature that does a great job with that very thing is called Login Items. When you add an app as a Login Item, that app will always automatically start as soon as you log in to the desktop.

To some, that may not sound like much. After all, it only takes a couple of clicks to launch an app, right? 

But what if you're constantly on the go and, for whatever reason, have to regularly power off your laptop? When you log back in, you have to restart all the apps you use. That's not terribly efficient.

Also: What is MacOS Stage Manager and how do you enable it?   

I want to show you how easy it is to add apps such that they'll start upon login. Although this isn't a game-changer, it might also help you to know how to remove apps from startup, if you happen to have pesky apps that you don't need to open right away. 

How to configure apps to start upon login with MacOS 

Let's get into it.

Requirements

The only thing you'll need is a device running MacOS, so a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or iMac will do just fine. One thing to keep in mind is the version of MacOS you use might not be the same as mine. I'll be demonstrating on MacOS Ventura v13.0. If you're using a version of the operating system that is older, the location of the Login Items will be different. The good thing is that MacOS makes it pretty easy to find these things.

With that said, it's time to add an application or two to the login.

1. Open System Settings

The first thing to do is log in to your MacOS device. Once you've logged in, click the Apple menu button in the top left corner of the desktop and click System Settings.

2. Locate Login Items

Within the System Settings app, type login items in the search, which should reveal the Login Items entry. Click that entry to open it.

MacOS System Preferences window showing Login Items.

Locating Login Items in System Preferences.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Add your first app

At the top of the resulting window's right pane, you'll see a list of current Login Items. Along with that, you'll see a + button. Click + to open the Finder window, where you'll need to click Applications in the left pane. 

Also: How to force-quit a stubborn app in MacOS

The Login Items section of System Settings.

I have both Google Drive and mInstaller running at log in.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Locate the app in question

From there, you can select any installed application you want to add and then click Open. This will add the new application to the Login Items list. You can then click + to add another. Keep doing this until you have all the apps you want added.

The MacOS Finder window.

All of your installed apps should appear here.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Removing apps from the Login Items list

If either you find you no longer want that app to start at login, or you've found somehow that rogue apps managed to get configured to do so, to remove them all you have to do is go back to Login Items, select the app you want to remove, and click - (the minus sign).

And that's all there is to adding apps such that they automatically start as soon as you log in to your MacOS device.

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