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How to stop apps from opening on startup on Windows and Mac

(Image credit: Future)

If you want to know how to stop apps from opening on startup, we understand why: it's one of the most annoying things about installing software on a Windows or Mac device. 

Yes, you may well want Spotify or Steam starting up with your computer, but if every app does this against your will, you’re just wasting memory and system resources for the sake of it, delaying boot-up times and reducing performance.

While each app will likely have a setting hidden away to prevent it starting up with MacOS or Windows, there are also ways of disabling everything globally. Here’s how to stop apps from opening on startup, in both Windows and MacOS.

How to stop apps from opening on startup in Windows 

Note: The steps are the same for both Windows 10 and 11, though the screenshots below are from the latter.

1. Select Settings from the Windows Start menu.

A screenshot from Windows 11 showing the Settings options

(Image credit: Microsoft)

2. Select Apps from the submenu that appears. 

A screenshot from Windows 11 showing the Settings > Apps options

(Image credit: Microsoft)

3. Click Startup from the available options. In Windows 11, it’s at the very bottom of the list.

A screenshot from Windows 11 showing the Apps > Startup menu

(Image credit: Microsoft)

4. You’ll be presented with a list of every optional app that’s asked to start with Windows, along with a toggle to turn it on or off.  

A screenshot from Windows 11 showing the Apps > Startup options

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Apply these as you like, but note the ‘impact’ text to the right of each one, as it will tell you the benefit you’ll get from disabling any given bit of software. “No impact” or “low impact” may not be worth doing, while “high impact” will significantly improve startup times — or that’s Windows’ assessment, anyway.

How to stop apps from opening on startup in MacOS 

1. Press the menu button on your Mac — it’s the one shaped like the Apple logo in the top left-hand corner of the screen. From there, select System preferences

A screen from macOS showing the Apple Menu

(Image credit: Apple)

2. From the menu that opens up, select Users & Groups

A screen from macOS showing the System Preferences

(Image credit: Apple)

3. Switch the view to show Login Items on the bar at the top. Click an item you don’t want to start with MacOS, and then press the minus button at the bottom of the window to remove it. 

A screen from macOS showing the Users & Groups

(Image credit: Apple)

4. There’s also an easier way to do this on an app-by-app basis. Just right click an item that’s open in the dock, select Options and then tick or untick Open at Login.  

A screen from macOS showing the Open at Login option

(Image credit: Apple)

Pretty simple either way, then — but the result will be a far faster boot-up process and no time wasted closing down unwanted apps.

For more time-saving tutorials, head to the Tom's Guide How To section.

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.