How to silence your Mac’s startup sound

SoundIconXWhen you press the power button to start up your Mac, you will be met with a boot chime that lets you know your system is healthy and ready to load OS X. However, this sound can be a bit intrusive, and there may be times when you would prefer to not have it play. Since sleep mode will not make such sounds when waking, you can always use it instead of shutting down your Mac; however, if you need to cold-boot your Mac, then you have a couple of approaches for muting that boot chime.

Hold the Mute key

The first option you have is to press and hold the mute key immediately after you press your power button or restart your Mac. Remembering this is best if you have to start up your Mac and you know the boot chime will sound.

Turn off system volume

Unplug all audio devices from your Mac, and then open the Sound system preferences. In here, go to the Output tab, and ensure your Internal Speakers device is selected. Now drag the output volume slider to the left to silence it. Note that this may only mute the startup sound on a restart, and not necessarily on a cold boot.

Disable the Boot Chimes completely

The system’s boot chimes are sounded by firmware, and the system uses a parameter RAM (PRAM) variable to set the volume of the boot chimes. Therefore, while you cannot technically prevent the sound from playing, you can turn off the system’s default audio volume to mute the sound when it plays. To do this, open the Terminal and run the following command:

nvram SystemAudioVolume

Make a note of the value of this setting, which should be some hexadecimal value following a percent symbol. Now run the following command, to change the setting to 0:

sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%00

The value %00 may not work for some Macs, so you can also try %80, or some other pair of characters from 0-9 and a-f, which may work depending on your system. You can always run the command and set the value back to the original value, or reset your Mac’s PRAM to have the system load defaults.

SystemAudioVolume nvram settings in OS X

The SystemAudioVolume setting will be output when you run this command, and you can use this to revert any manual changes you make to this setting.

After making any changes to the system audio volume settings in the Terminal, be sure to shut down your Mac and start it up cold in order to test the change, and do not simply reboot your system. Your Mac will likely preserve the current audio volume when only restarting, and this may change when you start up from scratch.

Can you change the boot chime?

As with a ringtone, you might be interested in changing your Mac’s boot chime to something more unique; however, this sound is stored in the system’s firmware and cannot be accessed by users. Therefore while possible, you will very likely do more damage than good in an attempt to modify this aspect of your system.

Are there benefits to the boot chime?

While it may seem pointless, the boot chime is a status indicator and not just a welcoming sound. When it sounds, the system is telling you that all hardware components have checked out and the system is ready to load the system software. If there are hardware problems, then you will otherwise get beeps that indicate the error at hand. By completely disabling the system volume using the terminal commands above, you chance not hearing these sounds as well.

20 thoughts on “How to silence your Mac’s startup sound

  1. xAirbusdriver

    I think I used a third-party app to do this several years ago. So long ago that I can’t remember (of course, at my age, that may not take actual years…). I’ve done the same on practically every Mac I’ve owned. I’m sure there was at least one time when the hardware malfunctioned and I missed the different startup chime signal. OTOH, it shouldn’t take long before one notices more than a different startup chime to figure out there is a problem with the machine. Meanwhile, the silence _IS_ golden! ;+)

  2. Charles Lindauer

    Interesting… I use the terminal command nvram SystemAudioVolume and get this: SystemAudioVolume (

    What does this mean? My MacPro3,1 starts up with a chime, as it always has.

    1. xAirbusdriver

      @Mr. Lindauer,
      “the terminal command nvram SystemAudioVolume and get this: SystemAudioVolume (”
      As Topher mentioned, you may need different values to silence the volume on Start Up. I actually had “Y” when I ran the command. I can only assume that different hardware/machines/OSs can result in different values for the sound volume. In my case, using “%80” worked for silencing. I may experiment with other values to see if I can have a 25% volume setting…

      What surprised me was that after reading the blog, I updated Cocktail, and the next cold start up, I had the Start Up sound again! All I can phantom is that in running Cocktail, I must have checked and then UN-checked that setting. Cocktail then obligingly reset the volume to the default value!

  3. Karen vB

    With earlier equipment (iMac/MacMini), I had noticed that the boot chime vanished as the machines aged. There were no other sounds in their place – the machines simply booted up and worked as appropriate – at least as far as could be told, no big deal. However, the machines eventually did need to be replaced: one because it simply became too sluggish to deal with and the other due to the fact that its OS version was no longer being supported and it would not do the things that its replacement does. Guess I will begin to wonder about the machines’ health if we lose the chimes again with either one. Till then, I will now silently cheer when I hear them.

  4. MaX

    Or use Cocktail “System – Mysc – Disable startup sound”.

    1. xAirbusdriver

      I checked that earlier today, but it shows that checkbox NOT used. Still, I think that may have been the app I used many years ago to disable it. Back when MacFixIt was still usable! 😉 Thanks for reminding me to check for an update, I was still running the Mavericks version! DOH!

  5. mrmogimagoo

    hummm, i have been using Cocktail for years and although i am somewhat blind where do you find that Cocktail will disable startup sounds ????

      1. mrmogimagoo

        Thanks MaX.

        Indeed it kills the startup sound. And now my family is not upset or complaining about that Apple chord startup sound.

        Then when wanted to listen to an iTunes song listening thru my head set OH NO i have no more sounds . Great !!! Cocktail killed my entire sound system. Now what ???

        Then realized i have to move the sound level lever from zero to ” whatever ” level that was comfortable for my ears to hear the sounds thru my head set.

        AH, music again but no more most annoying loud startup sound that wakes up the entire household.

  6. Julia

    I got my first Mac about a year ago and this was my first project, getting rid of that annoying startup sound. At one point I seriously considered cracking the case and clipping the speaker wires. I finally settled on using a login/logouthook so that on logout the sound gets disabled and on login it is restored. That did the job without any drama or third-party software.

    Does the nvram approach outlined above preserve the previous sound level setting or does it set it to zero every time you reboot?

  7. mrmogimagoo

    The very first time it set the sound level to zero which as i noted above i thought Cocktail had somehow destroyed my internal sound system.

    Then when moved the sound level lever up ( i have ” show volume level in the menu bar ” ticked on ) to a comfortable level for listening thru my headset or running the sound thru a mackie board to a set of speakers that level setting is maintained on any restart ( unless i move the lever up or down ) but the internal/firmware startup chord sound is shhhhh’ed to zero.

    In fact using the Cocktail to shhhhes the startup sound is far more reliable then the programme i purchased ” silent start ” which has turned out somewhat temperamental regardless of all the tweaking the developer has asked me to try.

  8. forkboy1965

    It really is an annoying sounds and a shame Apple, after ALL these years, hasn’t given folks a path to change the sound to something they would prefer.

    I’m fine with having the sound… it serves a purpose and it’s a good one, but damn if it’s not an annoying sound.

    1. mrmogimagoo

      Fully agree.

      It’s a shame the gurus at Apple have never issued a full explanation about their famous but beyond annoying threee chord song. Although perhaps they did provide a paper on why and what the three chord song is telling me.

      I have been using mac’s since Apple’s 7.5 days and never has the three chords provided a heads up to a problem unless i was to stupid to realize that in those the “bomb” or “force quite” days those were cryptic messages by Apple telling me to do something.

      These days the base Unix OS itself and the high end commercial software used to defrag directories , repair permissions ( which always seems to be out of whack ) or repair hard drives and what ever other types of software one can buy all seem to preempt what ever it is that chord is telling me.

      Still love Apple and especially their cryptic only Apple gurus can understand messages that pop up on my desktop and sit there for about a Milli second.

      In all my years I have just lived with all or any software/hardware glitches and sometimes it is faster to simply erase the hard drive and re-install the software rather then to repair this or repair that.

      Sometimes the problem is that the Mac is poorly built. I remember the fiasco Apple had with their Mirror door Macs and the flawed motherboards. Apple replaced many mother boards in my collection of Mirror door G4’s that were the hot machines of the that day and an experiment by Apple with the consumer paying the shot.

  9. Julia

    There was something in the news recently about this sound. I think Apple was awarded a patent for it? I may be misremembering. Anyway, it was supposedly some sort of Zen thing. The sound that is, not the effect it apparently has on many of us.

    Mac startup sounds of the past:

  10. mrmogimagoo

    Thanks Julia, would love to get that collection and place them in the apple alert sounds folder. Talk about retro sounds.

    May have to resort doing a ” live ” recording and breaking it up into snippets .

  11. Me In LA

    Get a cheap 3.5mm audio cable. Cut the cable at the plug and plug it in. No system beeps when you startup, and you can remove easily if you need sound.

  12. lronnow

    I have tried the “sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume” command. Yosemite, MAC air.

    It doesn’t work, no matter what value I use.

    When I read the current value (nvram SystemAudioVolume) I also first got “)” the after applying the “sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%80” I got %80 when reading the value. same thing with %00 etc.

    But when I after closing the xterm starts changing the volume by F10 and F11, then reboots, then read the values, I get “2” or other numbers. correlated to the changes in the volume set by the keyboard.

    My point is, that it seems that the “sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume” does set a value, but it is not locked. Other applications may overwrite this.

    So, I think the current challenge with yosemite is to “lock” the setting….. Looking forward to comments and ideas.

  13. MaX

    Press and hold the mute key immediately after you press your power button or restart your Mac does not work on Mac OS X 10.11.6 (15G1004) El Capitan.

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