How to Use Automatic Login on Mac OS X
Longtime Mac users likely recall that Mac OS used to log in automatically when a computer was booted up or restarted. For security purposes this has changed over time, and for the most part Macs now request a login and password in order to successfully access a Mac and whatever documents and apps are contained on the computer. Nonetheless, some Macs in secure environments, in group computer labs, or with another particularly compelling reason may wish to have automatic login in use with Mac OS X.
Using automatic login is not recommended for the vast majority of Mac users because of the theoretical security risk, as there is no password requirement necessary to access anything on the computer. Additionally, automatic login requires that FileVault disk encryption be turned off, eliminating any security and privacy benefit that feature offers. If you are going to use this feature on a Mac with any personal data or sensitive information, it is critical that you use the lock screen to mandate a password after a period of inactivity, but overall automatically logging in is simply not recommended for most computers.
How to Enable Automatic Login in Mac OS X
This requires admin access to enable, it will disable the login screen on a Mac and instead immediately access the account selected upon boot and restart:
- From the Apple menu choose “System Preferences”
- Select the “Users & Groups” control panel
- Click the lock button in the bottom left corner and authenticate with an admin account
- Click on the “Login Options” button in the bottom left
- Locate “Automatic login” and choose the username to automatically log in to from the drop-down menu *(see below if feature is disabled or inaccessible)
- Close out of System Preferences, the Mac will not automatically login to the account selected
If you reboot the Mac, the user selected will now automatically boot up without password entry and with no login or authentication required.
If you’re doing this on a personal Mac, which is generally not recommended, you may wish to create a user new user account on the Mac specifically for the automatic login purpose, and not allow the primary admin account to be automatically logged in.
Automatic Login Disabled, Grayed Out, or Unavailable?
You may find the the Automatic Login feature is disabled in Mac OS X, which displays as “off” and with the dropdown menu greyed out and inaccessible. There are two reasons for this:
- FileVault is enabled – when disk encryption with FileVault is turned on, the automatic login feature is not available. Users would have to turn off FileVault to access the feature, which is generally not recommended
- Using an iCloud password to login to the Mac also disables Automatic Login, thus you’d have to turn off iCloud password Mac access for authentication, or just not use automatic login in the first place.
As mentioned several times but worth repeating yet again: Automatic Login is not appropriate for many Macs, particularly if the computer is a laptop that is moved around and has the potential of being lost, stolen, misplaced, or accessed by untrusted individuals. Disabling the login screen means that a rebooted Mac could have any and all files accessed by anyone who happens upon the computer to restart it, which poses security risk to many computer users. This is really a feature that is best reserved for distinct user accounts in computer labs, or private computers in a secure location, like within a household. Even in the latter scenario, having distinct user accounts and using logins is recommended, or at least having the guest user account setup for non-primary users.