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TipBITS: Enable the Startup Chime on New Macs

I have recently been playing with some very old Macs and emulators, which reminded me of how the Mac’s startup sound evolved over the years before going quiet in 2016. Ken from the Computer Clan made a nice video that provides a history of the startup sound and demonstrates how the startup sound changed over time.

When Apple disabled the startup sound by default in 2016, someone discovered that a Terminal command could bring it back:

sudo nvram BootAudio=%01

Unfortunately, that approach stopped working with Mac models in 2017, presumably due to Apple removing the option in a macOS update, and since then, new Macs have started up silently. Now, however, Twitter user DylanMcD8 has discovered a new NVRAM parameter that brings back the startup sound, even on the latest Macs.

sudo nvram StartupMute=%00

TidBITS Talk members report it working on 2017 iMacs, 2018 Mac minis, a 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro, and a 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro. However, AppleInsider said that it didn’t work on several machines—it’s unclear why not.

I don’t understand what modern-day Apple has against the startup sound. Sure, make it an option for those who need their Macs to be silent at all times, but it’s a useful indication that the Mac is working as expected—at least to that point in the boot process. Perhaps Apple is trying to encourage the belief that Macs are always available like iPhone and iPads, but reality doesn’t support that.

To reverse this setting, should you want to, change the command to:

sudo nvram StartupMute=%01

Thanks to Howard Oakley, whose post on his Eclectic Light Company blog was the first instance I saw of this, though it has subsequently spread widely.

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Comments About TipBITS: Enable the Startup Chime on New Macs

Notable Replies

  1. I don’t understand what modern-day Apple has against the startup sound.

    I think of they’re trying to blur the line between “off” and “asleep” in order to streamline the safe sleep “experience”.

    As users of modern Mac laptops probably know, the power button is almost superfluous. The act of opening the lid is enough to cause a powered-off computer to boot up. You only need the power button if the lid is already open (since it would be pretty awkward to have to close-and-reopen the lid).

    Now consider safe sleep. This is a feature Apple (and Microsoft and probably others) has had for a long time. When going to sleep, the contents of RAM are written out to storage (a “hibernate” file). Should the battery run out while the computer is asleep, the OS, at the next reboot, can recover the full system state from this file, making it seem like the computer never powered off - it just took a bit longer than usual to wake from sleep.

    Now consider these two features together. We’ve got a Mac that can safe-sleep. We’ve got very fast SSDs that can (in theory) boot up in a few seconds. And we’ve got laptops that power-on when you open the lid. This is (almost) a perfect way to pretend that the computer never actually powered off. You close the lid - it goes to sleep. You open the lid - it’s awake. If there was a power loss in between that caused the computer to shut down, you’ll never know it.

    Except for that pesky startup chime.

  2. I mis the startup sound on my Mac mini 2018 when I actually choose to restart or when using the power button after a shutdown. So, thanks for the tip!

    Now something I miss even more, the power light ‘breathing’ when the computer is asleep. Anyone that knows a way to enable that?

  3. That’s a plausible explanation, indeed. I’m due for new Macs fairly soon—I’m still running on a 2012 MacBook Air and a 2014 27-inch iMac, so I’ve never had trouble with the startup chimes going away. Nor have I experienced a modern laptop that behaves the way you describe. Now if only we get a scissor-switch keyboard in the next MacBook Air, I’ll be on board with a chime-less (by default) Mac. (And no, that isn’t an invitation to change the subject to butterfly keyboards! :slight_smile: )

  4. That sounds reasonable. As you point out, though, even an SSD only boots up quickly in theory. My 2018 MBPro still takes anywhere from 12 to 16 seconds to boot. That should have me turning cartwheels compared to booting my Mac SE from a 20MB hard drive in the 1980s (which in turn was an improvement over a Mac Plus booting from a floppy).

    But in practice it’s quite noticeable when my laptop is restarting, and it’s even more disconcerting to have that happen without the startup chime.

    I think your explanation may be very close to what Apple was thinking (and thanks for that, David!). But I reject Apple’s premise that the startup chime somehow ruins the illusion that my Mac had simply suspended operations.

    For the 15 months I’ve had the machine, the missing startup chime has actually sullied my opinion of it just a bit.

    So that would be a “yes.” And I did enable it as soon as I read this tip. And and, I had to reboot a second time because the first time my volume was muted before the reboot. That might explain the experience on a few machines of being unable to resurrect the chime.

  5. I bought my latest 27" iMac in mid-December 2019. When I discovered there was no chime I researched it and it stemmed from a decision Apple made when their latest MacBook Pro came out. It starts up just by lifting the lid eliminating the need for a chime - it has started up. I have tried various Terminal commands recommended in the posts but none worked. Then I was advised by a Level 2 Apple Tech supporter that the latest versions of OS-10 don’t acknowledge all previous Terminal commands. So I shall try this one.
    BTW: I bought David Pogue’s Catalina book (I haven’t upgraded yet) and I aced him because he keeps mentioning the opening chime. In his email response he said he’ll change it in the next edition.

  6. The command did not work on my 2016 MacBook Pro.

  7. The terminal command worked for me! I have a mid 2017 imac 27 (model 18,3) purchased in December, happy days! When I first got this machine I was afraid it was defective until researching why I heard no startup sound…

  8. YEAH!!! Thanks for that tip (2018 Air). As a Mac user since 1984 I really missed the startup sound. Now it’s a proper Mac again.

  9. One thing no one has mentioned is that the very fact this simple terminal command works means Apple can’t make up its mind about whether there should or should not be a startup chime, nor whether a user should be able to toggle it on or off. After all, what this command must do is toggle a setting in the computer’s firmware to either not execute or execute a routine that’s embedded there. The definitive way to banish the chime would be not to HAVE the underlying firmware routine available.

    JMO

  10. This is a great story!… As a very long time Apple fan, it put a smile on my face. The classic chime is back (if you want it)! It worked on my mid-2018 Macbook Air. Watch the video. The history of of Apple’s computer startup sound is simply “astounding” (yes, its a pun).

  11. Check the linked pieces in the article since there are some comments about there being volume issues that can mask the fact that the startup chime is working, but is just muted.

  12. It’s not suppose to work as the chime should be working for you by default. I suspect you have it muted somehow. The command is only needed to restore chimes for 2017 and later Macs.

  13. I had to disconnect my Apple Thunderbolt 2 Monitor to hear the sound.
    But it’s working great.

  14. Much to my sadness the command does not work on my 2019 27’ 5K Retina iMac running Catalina 15.3. I really wish Apple would fix this travesty. They should have give the user/owner of the Mac the option to turn on or off the chime. I suspect the ghost of Steve Jobs is not very happy with this situation.

  15. There is no reason why it shouldn’t work as it does for many other users of this model. I suspect you have the volume muted or turned down somehow. Others have reported needing to reboot a second time to hear it or a need to disconnect a secondary display.

  16. My apologies to all. Before I went towed I turned up the volume on my Mac before I shutdown. I just restarted and behold…I have the Startup Chime!!! Really cool. Thanks Al for suggesting the volume was not turned up enough for the Startup Chime to be had! :grinning::grinning:

  17. Definitely. Without the startup chime, how on earth can you know that the machine is working? I’m very grateful for the techsperts who found the Terminal command and very grateful to Tidbits for publishing it.

  18. Thank you very much, the chime is now restored to my new maxed out 2020 Mac Mini with 10 Gigabit Ethernet [which of course is actually a 2018 Mac Mini, as “About This Mac” explains, but with better pricing]. Works under Mac OS 10.15.4, and now with the public beta 1 of 10.15.5. I am hearing the chime through the speakers of my LG UltraFine Display, not as quite as loud as I would prefer but but definitely clearly there. Where else than TidBITS would I find this?

  19. Glad it helped! I’ve been doing a lot of troubleshooting of my iMac recently, and I would be lost without the startup chime to tell me when to start holding down special startup keys.

  20. As this thread has been resurrected, I should report that the technique was successful in bringing the chime to my 2019 MacBook Pro 16".

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