The agr quorum-sensing system of Staphylococcus aureus modulates the expression of virulence factors in response to autoinducing peptides (AIPs). Recent studies have suggested a role for the agr system in S. aureus biofilm development, as agr mutants exhibit a high propensity to form biofilms, and cells dispersing from a biofilm have been observed displaying an active agr system. Here, we report that repression of agr is necessary to form a biofilm and that reactivation of agr in established biofilms through AIP addition or glucose depletion triggers detachment. Inhibitory AIP molecules did not induce detachment and an agr mutant was non-responsive, indicating a dependence on a functional, active agr system for dispersal. Biofilm detachment occurred in multiple S. aureus strains possessing divergent agr systems, suggesting it is a general S. aureus phenomenon. Importantly, detachment also restored sensitivity of the dispersed cells to the antibiotic rifampicin. Proteinase K inhibited biofilm formation and dispersed established biofilms, suggesting agr-mediated detachment occurred in an ica-independent manner. Consistent with a protease-mediated mechanism, increased levels of serine proteases were detected in detaching biofilm effluents, and the serine protease inhibitor PMSF reduced the degree of agr-mediated detachment. Through genetic analysis, a double mutant in the agr-regulated Aur metalloprotease and the SplABCDEF serine proteases displayed minimal extracellular protease activity, improved biofilm formation, and a strongly attenuated detachment phenotype. These findings indicate that induction of the agr system in established S. aureus biofilms detaches cells and demonstrate that the dispersal mechanism requires extracellular protease activity.