You may have noticed a crowd of programs launching themselves as soon as your Windows or macOS computer boots up. The list may include a music streaming service, an image editor, or your gaming library.

It makes sense to have some applications loaded up and ready to go, especially if you use them constantly, or you need them to run in the background at all times. After all, you don’t want to forget to launch your cloud syncing tool, for example, and later find out the changes you made to your files are not synced.

But as more and more apps fire up upon restart—often without explicitly asking you—they can be a drag on your system’s resources, slowing the booting process to a crawl. You might also find that, in general, you don’t have the processor power or free memory to handle the programs you actually need because so many others are lurking in the background unnecessarily.

The fix is to take back control over the programs that start up with your computer, which is easy to do. And for those applications you don’t use at all anymore, it’s best to completely uninstall them, and free up some storage space.

Individual app settings

You can prevent applications from starting up with your operating system through the app’s settings, or through the configuration options in Windows and macOS. The former is a more precise way of tackling this problem, but finding the right setting on each program is not always easy and can take some time.

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We can’t cover every single piece of software out there, but the path to finding the right screen may be similar to that in Spotify’s desktop client. There,  click your account name (top right), and then go to  Settings. Find the Open Spotify automatically after you log into the computer drop-down menu, and set it to No.

Dropbox and other cloud syncing services are good examples of programs you probably want running all the time to ensure you’re saving all of the changes to your files. But if you only use Dropbox occasionally, you can stop it from starting automatically. Click the Dropbox icon in the system tray or on the menu bar, and from the emerging window, click your account profile picture. There, go to Preferences, open the General tab, and uncheck the Start Dropbox on system startup box.

Settings on Windows

Stopping programs from starting up on Windows hasn’t always been particularly easy, but in the latest iterations of the operating system, there’s a dedicated screen for it. Open Settings from the Start menu, then choose Apps and Startup. You’ll see a list of programs that have requested to launch every time you boot your system, together with the name of its developer. If you have any doubts about any of the entries, this last column will help you better identify where a particular app comes from.

At the top of the list, there’s a drop-down menu that lets you change its order: You can sort the programs alphabetically by name or by their status (enabled or disabled). You can also sort the list by the impact of each app on the speed of your computer’s booting up process. Unfortunately, Windows won’t have that information about every app.

To stop a program from starting up with Windows, turn its toggle switch from On to Off. This won’t uninstall the application or remove it from the list, so you can always change your mind in the future and toggle the switch back on if you need to. 

Settings on macOS

When you’re on an Apple computer, if an app is in the dock, you can stop it from starting up with macOS right from there. Just right-click on its icon, choose Options, and uncheck Open at Login. If the option is not checked, it’s not currently starting up with macOS.

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To see every program that starts as soon as your system boots, go to System Preferences from the Apple menu, and then choose Users & Groups. There, switch to the Login Items screen, and you’ll see a list of everything that launches automatically along with your operating system. To remove a program, select it from the list and click the minus button underneath.

You can also use the plus button to add items to this list if you want to. You also have the option to have a program start up with your Mac but keep it minimized in the dock. To do this, check the Hide box next to the name of an app on the list.