Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

We all know that Mac OS X has the very useful Login Items functionality which lets you, among other things, set up apps/scripts to run when you log in.

I'm looking for a way to setup a list of scripts/apps that run when I log out. A "Logout Items" list, if you will.
Basically, I want to write a few little cleanup scripts for myself that will run automatically when I log out or shut down.

So, I'm looking for a way to have a script (or, ideally, list of them) automatically triggered when I log out. The log out would wait for the scripts to finish (just like how the logout waits for you to click Save if an app requests it).

Is there a way to automatically trigger (a) script(s) when I log out of Mac OS X?

share|improve this question
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Logout hooks were deprecated in 10.4, but they still work as of 10.9.

sudo defaults write LogoutHook ~/.logouthook
echo $'#!/bin/bash\nsay a' > ~/.logouthook
chmod +x ~/.logouthook

The value of the LogoutHook key can only be a path to an executable and not a shell command. The logout hook is run as root.

The defaults command modifies /var/root/Library/Preferences/ Adding a LogoutHook key to /Library/Preferences/ doesn't work.

If a logout hook takes long enough to run, a gray screen is shown until the logout hook terminates. There doesn't seem to be any time limit after which logout hooks are forced to terminate.

I haven't figured out any way to run programs on logout reliably with launchd. When I tried trapping signals like EXIT, the code in the trap was only run when I logged out to the login window and not when I shut down or restarted.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "">
<plist version="1.0">
    <string>trap 'echo a>/Users/username/Desktop/a;say a' EXIT;while :;do sleep 10;done</string>
share|improve this answer
Hmm, neither of those has worked for me. I've got this script, which works if I run it with sh (it creates that .txt file). I saved the script as /etc/rc.shutdown.local, and I added it with defaults as you said. Neither file was there already. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks! – Nathan Greenstein Jul 1 '11 at 21:35
I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong or not. I'm on 10.6.8 and LogoutHook isn't working. I'd appreciate if if you could take a look at this screenshot and let me know if something looks wrong. Thanks! – Nathan Greenstein Jul 2 '11 at 16:20
Ah! That last one did the trick on 10.6.8. Thanks! One note though: it doesn't work with Lion :( – Nathan Greenstein Jul 2 '11 at 19:57
Both methods work fine on my Mountain Lion (10.8.2) machine, even when shutting down or rebooting. Note that the LoginHook/LogoutHook hooks run in the context of the root user, and that they are single, system-wide hooks, and that the login hook runs synchronously - much earlier than per-user launch agents; similarly, the logout hook runs earlier than a per-user launch agent that uses the EXIT-trap method. There are cases where only the hooks work; for instance, if you want to mute the sound on shutdown in order to suppress the Mac's startup sound, only the LogoutHook works reliably. – mklement0 Nov 6 '12 at 22:59

Script Timer is a good choice for this. It can run at logout, login, and much more. I'd go with this for a simple and easy to use solution. It has a simple GUI:

Triggered action

There are two things you need to note about Script Timer. One, it is not free. It costs $12, but I personally think it's worth it. Two, it isn't fully compatible with Lion, but they have promised a free update as soon as they've made it compatible.

share|improve this answer

You could also create a Mac application from your script using something like Platypus and then add it to Login Items like any other application.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.