“If you’re like most OS X users, a fair number of things happen automatically when you log in. For example, my MacBook Pro launches a few background applications (Unplugged, Snapz Pro X, Salling Clicker’s helper application, TypeIt4Me, and the daemon for Witch). It also loads things such as the Microsoft auto update daemon, iCal’s alarm scheduler, and iTunes’ helper application. All of these things are listed in the Login Items tab of the Accounts System Preferences panel, and in the case of these examples, I know what they all do, and how they got there.
However, that may not always be the case. Since applications can add things to your Login Items list automatically, you might see entries in the list that you don’t remember adding, and that have names that aren’t exactly useful in revealing what they’re for—the Salling Clicker’s helper app, for instance, is named SEC Helper. Now, being a resident of the United States, the first thing that comes to my mind is “why am I helping the Securities & Exchange Commission?” There’s certainly nothing in its name to indicate that it’s associated with Salling Clicker.
So how do you figure out which program might be responsible for an unknown entry in your Login Items list? You might want to know just for your peace of mind, or to understand where something came from before you decide to remove it. There are two methods to get this information; one is simple but shows (temporarily) only one entry at a time, and the other is more technical, but generates a list covering everything in the Login Items window.
The easy way
Just hover your cursor over the mystery item for a second or two, and a pop-up tooltip will reveal its origins, as see in the image at right. Once the tooltip has appeared, you can then move your mouse up and down the list and the other entries will display their tooltips immediately.
While this is quite handy, it’s not so useful if you’d like to see where everything is from, or if you want to have the path to do something with—use Shift-Command-G in the Finder to go to that folder, for instance. Enter the not-so-easy way.
The not-so-easy way
This method really isn’t much tougher than the prior method, but it does require you to use Terminal to enter one command. Launch Terminal (in Applications -> Utilities), and enter this command:
defaults read loginwindow | grep Path
The output won’t necessarily be pretty, but it will show you the full path to everything in the Login Items window. Here’s what a typical line of output looks like on my machine; you’ll see one line like this for each entry in the Login Items screen:
Path = “/Library/PreferencePanes/Salling Clicker.prefPane/Contents/Resources/SEC Helper.app”;
With the full path visible, it’s easy to see that SEC Helper belongs to Salling Clicker. If you want it, it’s also easy to dump the above output to a file instead of the screen. To do that, just use this command:
defaults read loginwindow | grep Path > “/Users/your_user/Desktop/loginitems.txt”
You can change the path and filename at the end to whatever you like, of course, and replace your_user with your user’s short username.
Both the easy way and the not-so-easy way work well; it’s just a question of whether you need a more-permanent version of the path information or not.”