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How To Silence the Startup Chime on a Mac

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Each time you start a Mac, you'll hear a familiar start-up chime. You may have noticed that sometimes it seems louder, or perhaps quieter, than usual. Or perhaps there is no chime at all.  In this tutorial I'll show you how to change the volume of the Mac start up chime, or mute it completely.

There may be good reasons as to why you want to mute the start up chime on a Mac. Or change the volume.

The Start Up Chime

If you are unfamiliar with the Mac start up chime–perhaps your has been muted all along–click on the audio snippet, below, to listen:

Chime Volume Explained

Whilst it might seem that the volume of the chime is somewhat random, the reason for its volume is surprisingly simple and easy to control. How to adjust it will depend upon whether you have any external speakers, or headphones, plugged into the Mac or whether the start up chime comes from the internal speakers.

Either way, the volume of the chime, or whether it is muted, is all controlled by the system volume through the Sound preference pane within System Preferences.

Adjust Chime Volume on Next Start Up

Sound preference pane in Apple > System Preferences

Deceptively simple to adjust, you might well wonder why you didn't know how to do this before now.  Adjusting the start up chime volume is dependent upon a couple of factors:

  1. Whether you have any headphones or external speakers plugged in, and
  2. The current volume in System Preferences > Sound

Adjust Chime Volume for Built-in Speakers

Adjusting internal speaker volume in the Sound preferences
  1. Ensure that any headphones or external speakers are disconnected and that there is nothing plugged into the audio-out socket on the Mac
  2. Navigate from the Apple icon, on the menubar, to System Preferences > Sound
  3. Select Internal Speakers - Built In
  4. Using the Output Volume slider, at the bottom of the window, adjust the volume.  Note, if you move the control to the extreme left, the volume will be muted.  Alternatively, tick or untick the Mute tickbox as desired

The next time that the Mac is shut down and restarted, the volume of the start up chime from the internal speakers will be determined by the setting that you chose in System Preferences > Sound

Adjust Chime Volume for Display Audio, Headphones or External Speakers

Adjusting Display Audio volume in Sound preferences, same principle for headphones
  1. Ensure that any headphones or external speakers are disconnected and that there is nothing plugged into the audio-out socket on the Mac
  2. Navigate from the Apple icon, on the menubar, to System Preferences > Sound
  3. Select Headphones - Headphone port
  4. Using the Output Volume slider, at the bottom of the window, adjust the volume.  Note, if you move the control to the extreme left, the volume will be muted.  Alternatively, tick or untick the Mute tickbox as desired

The next time that the Mac is shut down and restarted, the volume of the start up chime from the headphones will be determined by the setting that you chose in System Preferences > Sound

The same principle is used for any external speakers that have been attached to the Mac via the audio-out port, whether that is Thunderbolt Display speakers or a set of powered external speakers.

A Quicker Way to Change Start Up Chime Volume

The media keys on a modern Apple keyboard

Having to go to System Preferences > Sound, each time, to change the start up chime volume is a bit of a hassle.  An even quicker way to adjust the volume is to use the F10, F11 and F12 media keys on a Mac keyboard.

The F10, F11 and F12 media keys toggle mute on or off, decrease volume and increase volume respectively.

For example, if you prefer no start up chime when you next restart the Mac, just press F10 on the Mac keyboard before shutting down the Mac.

Note, if you have changed the default behaviour of the media keys, you will need to hold down the Fn key in conjunction with the F10, F11 and F12 media keys.

Bear in mind that using the mute key on the keyboard will not mute the internal speakers, on next start up, if there is anything plugged into the audio-out port.

Using Terminal

With the method, from the command line, it is possible to completely disable the start up chime.  Even on subsequent reboots, the chime will remain muted.

To permanently mute the chime–or at least until such time that you wish to unmute it–navigate to Terminal.  A quick way is to press the Command-Space keys, to open Spotlight, and type the word Terminal, select the Terminal app and press Enter.  It's quicker to do it than it is to tell you how to do it!

Permanently Mute the Chime

Entering a command to permanently mute the start up chime

Once in Terminal, enter the following command on the command line:

sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%80

Enter the administrator password when prompted.  The start up chime is now permanently disabled.

Re-enable the Chime

Entering a command to permanently unmute the start up chime

If, at a point in the future, you decide that it is best to have the start up chime afterall, open the Terminal application and enter the following command:

sudo nvram -d SystemAudioVolume

This will restore the start up chime.

Conclusion

The start up chime is actually there for a reason: to indicate that the Mac has performed initial diagnostics tests and there are no fundamental hardware or software problems.

Having the start up chime is useful; press the Option key, immediately after the chime, to access available start-up volumes, for instance.  That said, there are sometimes circumstances where controlling the chime volume is preferable.

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