5 Mac apps I have set to launch at system startup

By , Mar 1, 2016


There are some apps I use so much that I have them set to launch automatically every single time my Mac turns on. This is a handy feature that I like to take advantage of because it not only saves time, but it gets my favorite apps up and running as soon as I’m ready to start using my computer.

In this piece, I’ll share my top 5 OS X apps that I allow to start up when my Mac turns on each time I use it.

Five apps that I have set to launch when my Mac turns on

1. MacID

MacID App Icon Large

I know, I give MacID a lot of love, but to be completely honest with you, it has earned its place as one of my favorite Mac apps of all time.

MacID is set to start up on my Mac with every restart so I can use my iPhone and/or Apple Watch to unlock my Mac instead of entering my insanely long password all the time. I’m also in love with the ‘Tap to Unlock‘ feature that lets me use a tap gesture sequence on the Mac’s multi-touch trackpad itself.

os x lock screen macid login

MacID helps so much with my workflow, and I particularly love the implementation. With its Bluetooth low energy connection, battery consumption is so minimalistic that you can hardly even notice it, so it’s great for launching automatically when your Mac starts up and letting it do its job in the background.

If you’re interested, you can download MacID for your Mac for free from the developer’s website, but you’ll also need the $3.99 iOS app from the App Store.

2. Dropbox

dropbox icon

Dropbox is a must-have for me. I have this app start up every time my Mac turns on so I can immediately access all my cloud-based files in a snap.

Dropbox is also really useful in allowing me to quickly transfer files from one device to another. Although I mostly use AirDrop for transferring files from one device to another, Dropbox is my backup for when AirDrop is being a bit buggy.

Fortunately, Dropbox is also great for sharing files with other people when a Bluetooth connection just won’t get the trick done, such as when they’re in a different state or country. I use it often to send files to and from my co-workers and it’s a very quick and efficient way to do so.

Dropbox Finder window

Not to mention, it has a very minimal impact on my Mac’s battery life and it integrates very nicely with the Mac’s Finder window.

You can download Dropbox for free from the Dropbox website.

3. Coca

coca icon

It’s super annoying always having to unlock my Mac whenever I step in the other room for 15 minutes to make myself a sandwich for lunch. That’s why I use Coca to ensure my Mac stays awake at all times whenever it’s plugged in to a power source.

It just saves me the trouble of having to wake up and unlock my Mac all the time, and helps so much when I have a busy day. Best of all, I can set the app to let my Mac fall asleep and lock as usual when not connected to a power source, which is when I’m most likely not doing work on my Mac.

coca preferences pane

Coca can be downloaded for free from the Mac App Store, although it includes a $0.99 in-app purchase to unlock some extra features.

4. Screens Connectscreens connect icon

The Screens VNC app for iOS is one of the best apps I’ve ever used for VNC connections to my Mac, and because I use it so often, I allow the Screens Connect software to launch on my Mac when I turn it on first thing in the morning.

I use Screens Connect often for when I’m watching movies on my Mac and sharing the display with my smart TV, but when I’m too lazy to get up to press the play button or adjust the volume, I’ll use Screens VNC to access these controls remotely from my couch.

screens connect preferences pane

It’s also useful for when giving presentations in an online meeting, or at a place of business, because you can step away from your Mac and still control it from a distance.

Screens Connect makes the pairing super simple, and even lets you connect to your Mac when you’re not on the same Wi-Fi network, which is perfect for getting things done on your Mac even when you’re on the go and it’s not even with you.

Screens Connect for OS X is a free download from the developer’s website, but you’ll also need the $19.99 iOS app or the $29.99 OS X app.

5. Private Internet Access VPN

private internet access vpn icon

Private Internet Access is a VPN service I use constantly to keep my web browsing anonymous, so it’s a given that I have this app start up with my Mac every time it turns on.

Since I pay a little bit of money per month for this VPN, I get unlimited bandwidth and unlimited data with it, so I really don’t have to worry about blowing through caps. For that reason, I just turn it on all the time for peace of mind, and it start up with my Mac so I don’t have to initialize it myself.

private internet access vpn connected in safari

With it, I get to experience an encrypted internet connection no matter what website I visit and on any Wi-Fi network I use.

Best of all, the servers used to host the VPN don’t log their users’ IP addresses, web usage, or site histories at all whatsoever, so your privacy is protected a great deal.

Private Internet Access is a free download from the VPN’s web page, but in order to use it, you’ll have to subscribe to the VPN, which costs as little as $3.33 per month.

How to configure startup programs on your Mac

Since it was related, I also wanted to include where you can manage your startup programs on your Mac.

It’s easy – just launch the System Preferences app on your Mac, and go to Users & Groups > Login Items to see the apps that will start every time you start your Mac up:

apps that start up on my mac when I turn it on

You can add or remove apps to and from the login items list with the “+” and “-” buttons at the bottom of the interface.


What apps do you have start up with your Mac? Share in the comments below.

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  • Martynet

    Is “Screens” any better than the VNC, remote desktop, built in OSX?

    • Not really, but iOS doesn’t have a VNC app and Screens is the best VNC app I’ve found for iOS.

      • Martynet

        I use the remote desktop on OS X and VNC viewer on iOS. Works great. Check it out. And it’s cheaper than screens. I think.

      • But I love Screens ;). I’ll check it out, thanks.

  • Viv

    I think you should also try Hazel from noodlesoft. It is one piece of software I cannot live without!

    • andyr354

      Different for everyone. I have Hazel and yet have found anything I need it for.

  • Mr_Coldharbour

    How different is the Coca app than Caffeine or, say, going into Energy Saver Prefs and change a few settings to prevent my Mac from sleeping or going into screensaver mode whether plugged in or not? I’m not asking out of snark, I really am asking because I’d like to know the difference if this has any added value. Thanks.

    • I tried to make Coca very similar to Caffeine. The reason I created it was the lack of updates for Caffeine.

      For the settings thing:
      My understanding is that these setting are not aimed to be changed regularly. Every system setting that should be changed quickly has an item in the menubar wifi for example. So Coca / Caffeine and others add a one click solution to the menubar.

      Well I use it everyday. Others don’t need it. You should try it and see if it is useful to you.

  • LeMerlot

    Another strong MUST have IMHO is Startupizer 2 by Gentlebytes. I use it as my very powerful login items handler, giving me perfect control what starts – even with options.

  • AM

    BetterTouchTool is a MUST for me. I have gotten so used to the trackpad shortcuts I’ve created, that it has become an intuitive and natural way to use my Mac.

  • I have Cinch on start up and I’ve been using the app for a long long time. I recommend you guys to check it out on the Mac App Store.

  • diggitydang

    I hate how some login items don’t appear in that Login Items screen (eg. Google Drive) and just load automatically on startup.