Troubleshooting Startup and Login Items
This FAQ, derived from our book Troubleshooting Mac® OS X, provides a procedure for determining if Startup Items or Login Items may be the cause of a problem.
Corrupted or incompatible Startup or Login Items can cause a variety of problems, including:
- Kernel panics.
- Finder crashes on startup or login, either once or repeatedly.
- Slow startup or login.
- Failed startup or login
Third-party interface modifications hacks or "haxies " and menu extras the icons on the right side of the Apple menu bar under Mac OS X 10.3 and later are often launched as Startup or Login Items.
The use of the terms Startup Items and Login Items has varied between versions of Mac OS X:
- The term Startup Items has been used consistently in Mac OS X for system-wide applications or processes launched at startup and before any users log in to their accounts.
- The term for account-specific applications or processes launched when a user logs in to their account has varied from Mac OS X 10.2 to 10.4, as follows:
- Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger®, and later use the term Login Items.
- Mac OS X 10.3 Panther® uses the term Startup Items.
Beginning in Tiger, the direction has been to replace Startup Items with daemons and user agents managed by the launchd process. Like Startup Items, daemons are background processes that provide services to all users; user agents agents for short are background processes that provide services to one or more users. The move to daemons and agents gained substantial momentum in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard®. Advice on troubleshooting daemons and agents is covered in our book Troubleshooting Mac OS X, Leopard Edition.
||Start up in Safe Mode.
To identify if incompatible Startup or Login items are causing problems, start up in Safe Mode. If Safe Boot resolves the issue, this implies a Startup Item or Login Item is the cause. Follow the remaining steps in this procedure to determine the specific Startup or Login Items at fault.
Note that Safe Mode has certain operating limitations. Under Tiger, any fonts you disabled using Font Book will be enabled when you next restart or log in to your Mac.
||Rule out third-party interface modifications and menu extras.
If you are using third-party interface modifications or menu extras:
- Check for updates to them.
- Disable them.
- Uninstall them.
If this resolves the problem, report the problem to the developer or vendor of the application causing the problem.
||Troubleshoot account-specific Startup or Login Items.
Account-specific Startup Items (Panther) or Login Items (Tiger, Jaguar) are launched when a user logs in to their account. They are used to launch specific applications or open specific documents or folders when the user logs in to their account.
You define account-specific Startup Items (Panther) or Login Items (Tiger or Jaguar) for your account as follows:
- Tiger and later: Login Items are specified in the System Preferences > Account > (select account) > Login Items tab.
- Panther: Startup Items are specified in the System Preferences > Account > (select account) > Startup Items tab.
- Jaguar: Login Items for an account are specified in the System Preferences > Login Items preferences pane when logged-in to that account.
Third-party applications may add items to these lists. Troubleshoot these via process-of-elimination:
- Take a screen shot of the Startup or Login Items you have defined to save the list
- Remove [-] all the Startup or Login Items.
- Log out, then in.
- If the problem is cured, one of the Startup or Login Items was the cause. Use process-of-elimination to find the specific Startup or Login Item causing the problem:
- Add [+] one the Startup or Login Items back to the list of such for your account
- Log out, then log in.
- If the problem recurs, the last Startup or Login Item added is the culprit. Check with the vendor for updates or uninstall the related third-party application and report the problem to the vendor.
- Repeat steps a-c until all Startup or Login Items have been added back to your account.
||Troubleshoot system-wide Startup Items.
Third-party applications may install system-wide Startup Items in the Computer > Macintosh HD > Library > StartupItems folder. System-wide Startup Items are launched when you start up your Mac and before any users can log in to their accounts. They are used to start system-wide processes that should be run before users log in to their accounts, such as anti-virus software, or to launch system-wide processes that can be available to all users, such as a background process used by a third-party application.
Troubleshoot these via process-of-elimination:
- In Finder, examine the contents of this folder to see if you can determine the third-party applications to which these Startup Items might belong.
- Move (Command-drag) the contents of this folder to your desktop
- Provide your Admin password if prompted to authenticate moving these objects.
- Restart your Mac.
- If this solves the problem, then one of these Startup Items was at fault. Use process-of-elimination to find the specific system-wide Startup Item causing the problem:
- Move one or more of the Startup Items back to the Computer > Macintosh HD > Library > StartupItems folder. You should only move multiple Startup Items back if they belong to the same third-party application.
- Restart your Mac.
- If the problem recurs, the last Startup Item returned to the StartupItems folder was the culprit. Check with the vendor for updates or uninstall the related third-party application and report the problem to the vendor.
- Repeat steps a-c until all objects removed from the StartupItems folder have been restored.