Mac startup chime

The iconic Mac startup chime played when you power up your computer had been around since 1998, but Apple disabled it in 2016 beginning with that year’s MacBook Pro refresh. Thanks to a newly discovered Terminal command, you can re-enable the Mac startup chord sound on macOS Catalina and earlier, and our step-by-step tutorial shows you how.

Bringing back the iconic Mac startup chime

The late-2016 MacBook Pro models outfitted with a Touch Bar marked the first Apple computer systems in years to arrive without the iconic startup tone, the most likely reasoning being (per conventional wisdom) that the machine automatically starts up when opened so it doesn’t really need audio feedback when the user presses the power button.

Mac startup chord

The late-2016 MacBook Pro shipped with the startup chime disabled.

A Terminal command to reinstate the startup chime on the TouchBar-enabled MacBook Pro models was discovered shortly following the notebook’s release. Unfortunately, the simple command stopped working in later macOS updates for reasons unknown.

Thankfully, a new Terminal command was discovered a few days ago by a South Carolina student and developer, helping bring back the iconic startup chord. Best of all, this new method appears to work on most (but not all) Mac models and macOS versions.


Follow along with our quick step-by-step tutorial included right ahead to learn how you can re-enable the Mac startup chime on your computer, as well as disable it at will.

How to enable the Mac startup chime

You can re-enable the Mac startup chime on your computer with a Terminal command that edits an NVRAM value  which determines whether the computer should play startup sounds.

1) Launch the Terminal app on your computer from the Applications/Utilities folder or use Spotlight to quickly find and launch the app.

2) Enter the following Terminal command to re-enable the Mac startup chime, then hit Return.

sudo nvram StartupMute=%00

Enter your password if required.

To disable the Mac startup chime, execute this command in the Terminal window:

command sudo nvram StartupMute=%01

The Mac startup chime has been an iconic signature of Apple computers over the years — it’s even a registered trademark in the United States — and now you can re-enable it.

TUTORIAL: How to reset NVRAM on your Mac

To be perfectly honest, we’re unsure exactly why Apple has disabled the chime so here’s hoping that the new Terminal command will stick around longer than the previous one.

A brief history of the Mac startup chime

The Mac startup chime plays before macOS starts booting to indicate to the user that the machine has successfully passed hardware diagnostic tests run immediately at startup.

TUTORIAL: The different macOS startup tones and the problems they indicate

The specific chord played varies from one Mac model to another, but they’re all similar to the first square-wave beep tone used on the first three Macintosh models.

Jim Reekes, who did the startup chime used for the Quadra 700 through the Quadra 800:

The startup sound was done in my home studio on a Korg Wavestation EX. It’s a C major chord, played with both hands stretched out as wide as possible (with third at the top, if I recall).

Later iterations of the startup chime included a “bong” chord, an F major chord that produces a “ding” sound and several other versions that were used in different periods.

Mac startup tone

The MacBook Pro now automatically powers on or wakes from sleep when you open the lid.

The Mac startup chime that we’ve come to know and love today is an enhanced version of the startup tone that first appeared in the iMac G3 model released in 1998. That one was produced by pitch-shifting the startup sound of the Macintosh Quadra 840AV model.

The startup chime was even featured in the 2008 Pixar film WALL-E.

Apple notes in a support document which Mac computers support the startup tone:

Mac models from early 2016 and earlier make a chime sound when they start up. Mac models from late 2016 and newer don’t have a startup chime, with the exception of MacBook Air (13-inch, 2017).

TUTORIAL: All the ways you can start up your Mac

The support document makes no mention of the above Terminal command. In other words, the command appears to be an undocumented feature after all, meaning it could easily be removed from future macOS updates (obviously something you’d want to keep in mind).

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