six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

Support this Site

Become a Six Colors subscriber and get access to a special weekly podcast, monthly newsletter, and community.

By Dan Moren

Quick Tip: Fix disappearing Login Items (mostly)

Another day, another bug to address. This morning I opened up my MacBook Air after having installed the 10.13.2 update yesterday1 and noticed that a bunch of the apps that usually load at startup were missing from my menu bar.

I’d actually noticed this yesterday on my iMac as well, but at the time I’d chalked it up to an isolated incident, shrugged, and re-launched the apps. The same thing happening on two machines, though, is a little suspicious, so I decided to get to the root of the problem.

First, I opened a few of the apps and made sure that their own preferences were set to start at login. Everything seemed to check out.

Empty Login Items

Next I opened up System Preferences, went to Users & Groups, and checked my Login Items.

Okay, well, I know it’s not supposed to be empty, so I resorted to Google and found that this seems to be a known problem with High Sierra.2

Appealing to Twitter, I got a link from our former Macworld colleague Rob Griffiths pointing me towards a post on Apple’s discussion boards, with a suggested fix:

Anyway, search out and destroy a file called backgrounditems.btm then reboot. The login panel should be cleared out.

So, I searched out and terminated said file (it’s in ~/Library/Application Support/com.apple.backgroundtaskmanagementagent/ but you can also find it by searching your Mac with system files included), rebooted, and sure enough, upon restarting, all of my startup applications launched as they should. Problem solved, right?

Well…mostly. Now when I go to my Login Items I see this:

Okay, that’s better, but it’s still not reflecting all the apps that are launching—I’ve got at least another four or five. Rob’s suggestion to fix this is to remove everything, logout, login, and then add everything manually.

I’m going to be honest: I haven’t tried that yet. To Rob’s point, it mostly matters if you’re dedicated to having a complete list of your login items and at this particular moment, I’m satisfied merely that the apps are launching as intended. But if I decide to take that next plunge, you can rest assured I’ll be back.


  1. Starting to think this is the unlucky .13 update indeed.  ↩

  2. Some folks have reported it happening the first time they installed High Sierra—I restart my machines infrequently, so I don’t recall. ↩

[If you appreciate articles like this one, help us continue doing Six Colors (and get some fun benefits) by becoming a Six Colors subscriber.]

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]