How to uninstall programs on a Mac

As of 2024, 40% of Mac owners use their computers for gaming and 35% — for coding and programming. It implies that they install third-party apps. But how to uninstall unneeded programs? Dragging them to Trash leaves tons of leftover junk files on your drive. Here’s how to delete apps on MacBook and get rid of leftovers.

    How to delete apps on Mac

    If you are trying to delete an old application, reinstall corrupted software, or just free up disk space on your Mac, removing all components of the program is important. These include the app, its preferences and support files, and sometimes other hidden files.

    To completely uninstall a program on Mac, you have to choose one of five options. Their effectiveness and difficulty levels vary, though. Check our table below to learn more:

    Uninstall optionEffectivenessDifficulty level
    TrashLow if you do not hunt down leftover files. High if you find and remove all leftovers.Hard — hunting down all leftover files is a time-consuming and difficult task.
    LaunchpadSimilar to removal via Trash.Hard — similar to removal via Trash. Plus, not all apps can be removed via Launchpad.
    A native uninstallerHigh — removes all leftover files securely.Medium — you may need to additionally download the uninstaller from the developer’s website.
    Third-party appsHigh — complete removal with no leftover files remaining on your Mac.Easy — usually, it is a one-click and rapid solution.
    TerminalHigh — complete removal of an app and all related files. Hard — requires the knowledge of command line tools. 

    The ways mentioned above include manual intervention from you. But don’t worry; in this article, we’ll cover all of the steps you’ll need to follow. So, let’s go ahead and delete some apps!

    1. Uninstall Mac apps using Trash

    Whether you’re running a newer macOS, such as Sonoma or Ventura or an earlier macOS, like Catalina or Mojave, the process of manually uninstalling apps remains relatively similar. Here’s what you need to do:

    1. Open Finder > Applications.
    2. Choose the app you want to delete.
    3. Press Command + Delete (⌘⌫).
    4. Empty the Trash by clicking the Empty button in the upper-right corner of the window.

    And the app is gone.

    Uninstalling apps on macOS Sonoma still requires getting rid of leftovers, despite the fact that Apple has done such a good job in terms of deinstallation on recent macOS versions.

    To completely remove programs from Mac manually, you have to find all the associated files that come along with the app. That means not just dragging the app icon to the Trash from your Applications folder but searching the depths of the system files on your Mac.

    For example, here’s one app storing cache in different places on your Mac:

    To completely remove the app, you have to go over each of these folders one by one and delete the following:

    • Binary and dock icons are located in /Applications/
    • Application support files are located in ~/Library/Application Support
    • Support Caches can be found in /Library/Caches/ and ~/Library/Caches
    • Plugins are located in ~/Library/Internet Plug-Ins/
    • Library can be found in ~/Library/
    • App preferences are located in ~/Library/Preferences/
    • Crashes are found in ~/Library/Application Support/CrashReporter/
    • App saved states are located in ~/Library/Saved Application State/

    There are many more hidden files, some of which cannot be accessed by the user. And macOS/OS X will prevent you from deleting some app files. 

    Remember, please be careful when deleting system files — you never know how it will affect your Mac if you remove the wrong ones (or the right ones, for that matter!).

    Tip

    If you do not want to go through these manual steps, use a dedicated app — CleanMyMac X. Its Uninstaller module has the Leftovers tool that helps you get rid of all of the traces other applications may have left on your Mac. Just open the app (free download here) and go to Uninstaller > Leftovers > Uninstall upon selecting all files on the list.


    2. Uninstall Mac programs with Launchpad

    How to uninstall on Mac by using the Launchpad? It’s easy, and this manual method works like this:

    1. Click the Launchpad icon in your Mac’s Dock.
    2. Find the app you want to delete.
    3. Click and hold the app until it starts shaking.
    4. Click X in the top-left corner of the app icon.
    5. Click Delete.

    This will uninstall the app from your Mac. But you still have to remove leftovers manually, as described above.

    Note: Not all apps can be deleted from Launchpad.


    3. Uninstall apps with CleanMyMac X

    Deleting apps is a pretty tiresome task. So, we’ve found a way to do it more quickly and easily — CleanMyMac X. Its Uninstaller module helps get rid of multiple apps at once. Here’s what you need to do:

    1. Download the free version of CleanMyMac X and open it (it takes less than a minute).
    2. Go to Uninstaller.
    3. Choose All Applications.
    4. Select the boxes next to the apps you want to remove and click Uninstall.

    As you can see, CleanMyMac X shows precisely how much space each app takes, so it’s easier to detect the heaviest programs. And you can skip all of the manual steps!

    Is it possible to delete system files on Mac?

    CleanMyMac X doesn’t let you delete system apps like Safari. Neither of Mac cleaners can do that. But CleanMyMac X allows you to delete the data associated with system apps and reset them completely. Click CleanMyMac X’s menu in the upper-left corner and choose Settings. Go to Ignore List and click Uninstaller. Here deselect the box next to “Ignore system applications.”

    Now, you can quit Settings and go back to Uninstaller.  Click ► next to the app’s icon to show its files. Then select the data you want to delete and choose Reset from the drop-down list next to the app’s icon. 

    Safari reset selected in the Uninstaller module in CMMX

    It will help clear some space on your Mac. Note that your app logs may also disappear after the reset.


    4. Use the native uninstaller

    Many applications are designed to clean up after themselves. They come with a built-in uninstaller — a self-destroying utility bundled with the main app. This is mostly true for third-party apps that you download from the internet.

    The original uninstallers can be found in Finder > Applications. If your app looks like a folder within the Applications folder, most likely, it will have a separate uninstaller. Otherwise, its uninstaller will look like a separate app. The name will read [Your app] Uninstaller or Uninstall [Your App].

    Open the folder, find the launcher, and just follow the onscreen instructions. After the removal is complete, you can enjoy your extra storage space!

    However, you will still have to remove leftovers.


    5. Uninstall programs with Terminal

    Like with all things Apple, there are different ways to do things, and deleting apps on Mac is no exception. So, here’s another way to remove programs — use a native tool named Terminal. It is a powerful utility that can control Mac, but it requires certain expertise. So, if you are not a confident command line tools user, it is better to choose one of the app removal techniques described above. 

    If you’re willing to run several Terminal commands, follow these steps: 

    1. Go to Applications > Utilities and open Terminal.
    2. Enter the following command: sudo uninstall file://
    3. Drag the app icon into the Terminal window — you will see the path to the app. 
    4. Press Return and enter your admin credentials.

    It should remove all app leftovers, along with the binary file. However, it is still recommended to check for related files following the steps above to ensure complete app removal.


    6. How to uninstall apps downloaded from the App Store

    You can also use the App Store to delete apps from MacBook. Before you do it, make sure to cancel any subscriptions for the app you no longer need. You can do it by going to System Settings > Apple ID > Media & Purchases and clicking Manage next to Subscriptions. 

    Next, follow these steps: 

    1. Open the App Store and click your name in the sidebar. 
    2. Find the app you no longer need and hover your mouse over the blank space next to the Open or Update button until you see the ellipsis. 
    3. Click the ellipsis and choose Delete App and confirm the deletion. 
    4. Follow the steps we outlined above to get rid of leftover files and ensure complete app removal.

    Note: If you’ve already removed some apps via Launchpad, you will see the redownload button under the app name in the App Store. 

    Extra tips on uninstalling apps on Mac

    How to remove third-party app icons from the menu bar

    Some apps may add icons to the menu bar. It may come in handy if you use the app quite often, as it can be easily opened from there. However, what if you want to declutter your menu bar or don’t need third-party app icons in there? The fix is simple — remove them. 

    The problem here is that you cannot simply drag the icon to the Trash. So, you’ll have to go to settings of each of the apps and deselect an option telling Show in menu bar. Just right-click the app icon and choose Settings on the right side of menu bar. If it doesn’t work, open the app and go to settings from the left side of menu bar. Note that it will only remove the icon but won’t delete the app itself. 

    How to remove an app that won’t delete

    Unfortunately, manual methods won’t get everything. Some apps are preinstalled macOS components and protected by the system, while others will refuse to delete because they are already open (even though that’s often not true).

    So, how to delete the apps on Mac that won’t delete? Try the manual removal after force quitting the app in question (press Command-Option-Esc, and if the app is on the list, shut it down) or rebooting your Mac. If you still cannot delete it, it may be preinstalled, so it should stay on your Mac. 

    Deleting apps can be a cumbersome task. Nevertheless, with the help of the tips we shared, it will become easier and less painful, especially if you give preference to third-party apps, such as CleanMyMac X. And if you need to uninstall apps on iPhone, check out this article with everything you need to know.

    Free up space on Mac for free

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the best way to completely remove an app from a Mac?

    The best way is to use a third-party app like CleanMyMac X and its Uninstaller module. It will not only remove all leftovers but also do that in no time. Another effective alternative is running a native uninstaller, but only a few apps come with it.

    Why should I remove leftover files?

    The most obvious reason is to free up space, which could potentially reduce the risks of Mac slowing down. 

    When deleting apps, which one is better: using a third-party app or manual removal? 

    With a dedicated third-party tool, you are 100% sure that all leftover files are removed from your Mac, so it is better and significantly faster.