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I don't want System Preferences in my dock (not just because of the annoying red badge that keeps showing, I just don't want it). I move it to trash, but every time I open System Preferences again, it pins it back to the dock. I have to 'remove from dock' each time. Why? How do I prevent this?

Sys Pref returns!

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This area of the dock, separated by the lines, is your recent applications. It will show your three most recent applications, even if they're closed.

If you only want to hide System Preferences and not disable the feature entirely, you will need to open other applications (at least three) and System Preferences will be replaced.

Alternatively, you can hide this area of the dock in the Dock preferences. It is a checkbox called "Show recent applications in Dock.":

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    Hm, while I can see how some people would appreciate this, I really don't like this whole "new, optional behavior is switched on by default" thing with OS updates. I guess the flipside is that it'd become an obscure feature otherwise. – Wyatt Ward Dec 26 '20 at 23:37
  • I mean, I like it - and most people I talk to do as well so it makes sense to turn it on by default. I'd argue that if you're adding a feature and not sure if it should be on by default you should at minimum be re-examining that feature - so most new things would be on by default. – Ezekiel Elin Dec 27 '20 at 15:08

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