Two Fixes for Spontaneously Rearranged Windows

One particular bug has annoyed me for as long as I can remember (or, at least, the last five or six macOS releases). This bug makes the windows on my Mac screen rearrange themselves spontaneously  The symptoms are as follows:

I prefer the Mail window to fill most of the 27-inch display I use with my MacBook Air. But no matter how many times I resize and reposition that window, whenever my Mac awakens from sleep or I reboot, as often as not, the window shrinks and moves to a different part of the screen.

The way I like it (top) and the way it appears after awakening (bottom).
This is how I prefer the Mail window to appear (top), and the way it often appears after awakening from sleep (bottom).

I tried my usual troubleshooting tricks: deleting preferences and .plist files, performing a Safe Boot, Disk Utility’s First Aid, running Onyx, CleanMyMac X, and other utilities, and reinstalling macOS. Sadly, none of that fixed the issue, and my windows continued to jump around the screen almost every time my Mac slept or rebooted.

Only on External Displays

I’d be remiss not to mention that this bug seems only to occur if your Mac has one or more external displays attached. And while it’s annoying, it’s not a showstopper and doesn’t hamper my productivity (much). Still, it annoys me enough that I have been looking for a permanent fix since time immemorial.

The bad news is that I’ve yet to find a way to prevent windows from spontaneously relocating themselves, at least not one that is permanent and free. The good news is that I’ve discovered two inexpensive utilities that reduce or eliminate spontaneous window relocation over the years.

Moom to the Rescue

The first is Many Tricks’ Moom ($10 at or the Mac App Store), which can move, zoom, and arrange your windows to your liking. With Moom, you can quickly move and zoom windows to half screen, quarter screen, or full screen with a click or keyboard shortcut. It also lets you set custom sizes and locations and save layouts of opened windows for positioning with a single click or keyboard shortcut.

It’s an excellent and well-behaved utility and has served my needs for years. Still, while Moom let me restore preferred window positions with a click or keystroke, I could never figure out how to force it to restore my window positions automatically. I know it’s a small thing but what I wanted was a way to restore the window layout I preferred automatically (i.e., without clicking or typing) any time macOS rearranged them.

Or Try Stay

I recently heard about a utility that I hoped could do that on a recent episode of my favorite podcast, Mac Geek Gab. The app is called Stay, from Cordless Dog ($15 at or the Mac App Store), and its motto is, “keeps windows in their place.”

While it can restore window positions based on which monitors are connected (like Moom), it usually requires a keystroke or a click to restore them after sleep or reboot.

I hope someday I can arrange the windows on my Mac, and they stay where I put them with no further intervention from me. But, until Apple fixes this longstanding issue, I’m grateful for apps like Moom and Stay.

2 thoughts on “Two Fixes for Spontaneously Rearranged Windows

  • I’m curious: are the smaller windows the same size they would be if you were to disconnect the external monitor and everything gets resized/repositioned for the built-in display? It sounds to me like the OS is posting a faulty NSApplication.didChangeScreenParametersNotification at sleep/shutdown or at wake/startup.

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