How to resurrect your Mac’s startup chime

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startup chime
Chimes and bongs: not just for hippies.
Photo: Arturo Rey/Unsplash

When you start up a Mac, it goes “bong,” and that’s the way the world should be. Unless, that is, you bought a Mac in 2016 or later, when Apple removed the Mac startup chime. These days, a Mac starts up silently, with only a whisper of fan noise (or the din of a whirring, clicking hard drive on an iMac) to let you know something is happening.

But what if you miss the good old Mac startup chime? Or — if you’re new to Macs — you just fancy a bit of retro charm? Today we’ll see how to bring back the bong.

How to enable the startup chime in macOS Catalina

If we want to enable the startup chime on a Mac that never had one, like a modern Mac running macOS Catalina, you need to start with the Terminal app. (You will find it inside the Applications/Utilities folder on any Mac.) Open up Terminal and type the following:

sudo nvram StartupMute=%00

A word about ‘sudio’

The sudo part of that command means that it will be run at the level of a “superuser” on your Mac, with extra abilities, permissions and risks. You also must enter your Mac password to run it, so make sure you’re completely happy with the security side of this before pasting in the command and hitting Enter.

If you go ahead with it, when you start up your Mac, you’ll hear the chime. Probably. It seems odd that the audio file is still in macOS, to be honest. I’m sure the only reason it’s still around is that nobody got around to removing it yet. Until then, enjoy a good bong every morning, while you still can.

If, for some reason, you don’t like the Mac startup chime, you can silence it agin. Open Terminal again, then type:

sudo nvram StartupMute=%00

How to mute the startup sound on older Macs

If you’re running an older Mac with High Sierra or earlier (and possibly Mojave — I don’t have a Mojave Mac to test this), you already have the startup tone. If you don’t want to hear the chime, you can simply mute your computer before you restart it.

However, if you want to take drastic action and mute the chime permanently, you can do that, too. Open Terminal and type this command:

sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%80

As before, you’ll need to enter your password to make this work. If you try to run it without the sudo part, you’ll get an error message.

To reverse the process and reenable the chime, open Terminal and type:

sudo nvram -d SystemAudioVolume

And if the above commands don’t work, you can try some alternatives:

sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%01

sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=%00

sudo nvram SystemAudioVolume=" "

Changing all the time

And that’s about it for today’s chime-related antics. The ability to switch the Mac startup chime on and off changes regularly — seemingly with almost every major macOS update, and perhaps even more often. Let us know if you have any tips for getting this working on problem Macs.