Tracking Down System and Hidden Login Items 2


Tracking Down System and Hidden Login Items


This post is going to be a continuation of a couple of old posts I wrote a while ago, How To Use Login Items and Speeding Up Login. They featured some basic and simple ways to remove login items. This post is based off one by OS X Daily, that found some of the other areas on your disk that contain the applications and preferences. I’m going to add a little bit of background to each of the folders (the preference files folder in particular), new users may end up deleting an important files located in the folders, and we don’t want that.

The first port of call is to check your System Preferences for login items. Before you go fiddling through all of these folders go to System Preferences > Accounts > [name] > Login Items. Check through that list and delete any applications you don’t want to run on start up. It may be basic but it is always worth checking.

System Folders

There are two locations where start up items can be located, the first is within the System files located on your hard drive, the second being in your User folder. The first set of files is located in /Library/StartUpItems, these files are used on start up when your computer is in boot. If you know there is a file or folder you want to remove since it is causing your trouble, delete it. Better still move it to a safe location and then restart to make sure the changes don’t do anything damaging. File located in this folder will more than likely be an application in one form or another.

The next step to check is /Library/LaunchDaemons, these are plist or preference files. They are essentially links to other preference files and applications. These files run on start up. To remove them from start up either delete them or move them to a different folder. If you don’t know what they do leave them be. Most of the time it is better to delete a file and then test it with a restart to make sure you haven’t broken anything. Preference files can be slightly difficult to understand however they tend to be formatted in the following way:


If you want to find out more, either google the program name and the developer to see which application it belongs to. More often than not it will be a defunct file which has been left, and it can be pretty safe to delete it. All of these files will be third party apps and not ones supplied by Apple.

Within the Library folder there is a second folder which contains a list of plist files. This is located in /Library/LaunchAgents, similar to the LaunchDaemons, these are plist files. Instead of running at startup, these run during login. These files apply to all users when they login.

We can now move on, this time into the System folder. First go to /System/Library/LaunchDaemons. This is another folder that contains preference files, however this folder contains a lot of system files. These launch daemons run at start up, so its probably not a good idea to delete any of them, as you may find your computer may not work on start up. Only go into this folder if you know there is an application which is causing you trouble.

Similar to the Library folder there is also a LaunchAgents folder. This is under /System/Library/LaunchAgents, these are system items that run on login. Similar to the the System LaunchAgents there probably wont be anything in this folder worth checking out, however if you have a problematic application that messes about on login you can probably trace it back from this folder.

User Folders

The majority of launch items are in the Library and System folder as mentioned, however these is one in a User folder. Go to /Users/[name]/Library/LaunchAgents. There shouldn’t be many items in this folder, these are login items specific to that user when they login. So if one problem occurs when only one user logs in an not another, the problem may be found in this folder.


Hopefully you have understood all of the specific folders that contain login and start up item. If you are confused there is a simple rule to remember. LaunchAgents are when a user logs in, file can be global (for all users) or specific users. LaunchDaemons are when your Mac starts up as a result there is no specific folder for users. Within these type types there is also system and application folders. Third party applications are found in the Library folder, and System items are found under System/Library. Most of the time third part files are found in the library folder only.

It can be quite complicated to find the correct location for a file. However look through all of the folders and see if you can find the required folder. Then either delete the file or move it, before testing the result.

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