How to uninstall programs on a Mac
Quick question – how do you uninstall programs on Mac?
The logic tells us we should simply drag an unwanted app to the Bin. Alas, it is not quite so. Dragging normal files like documents and movies to the Trash works fine. But doing the same for apps leaves tons of leftover junk files on your hard drive.
- An app is stored in more than one place
- Many apps have small “satellite” apps
- Some apps have unusual locations
For example, Steam games are stored in a custom folder, that’s why deleting such apps is a bit harder. We’re going to show you what gets left behind and what you can do to completely uninstall apps from here on out.
How to uninstall on Mac
If you are trying to delete an old application, reinstall a 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 three options:
- Using Trash.
- Using Launchpad.
- Using a native uninstaller.
The ways mentioned above include navigating your Mac’s in search of the apps you want to remove and then locating their remaining data. The latter can take even more place than the app itself and can be stored anywhere in your folders.
I prefer clearing my Mac from apps using special software made for this particular task - CleanMyMac X. It’s Uninstaller feature, is an app-killer that sweeps away any program you don’t want on your Mac and clears remaining junk.
Now let’s go ahead and delete some apps!
1. Uninstall Mac apps using Trash
Whether you're running macOS Big Sur or an earlier macOS, like Catalina or Mojave, the process of manually uninstalling apps remains relatively similar. Here’s what you need to do:
- Open Finder.
- Go to Applications.
- Choose the app you want to delete.
- Press Command + Delete (⌘⌫).
- Open Trash.
- Click the Empty button in the upper-right corner of the window.
And the app is gone.
Uninstalling apps on macOS Big Sur still requires getting rid of leftovers, despite the fact that it's the latest and the most sophisticated system for Mac. Apple has done such a good job on recent macOS versions but de-installation to this day remains an issue.
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:
We’re going to reveal the locations of the most common files that are associated with apps. To remove the app leftovers from your Mac just navigate to each of these folders and hunt for the app you want to remove. If you find files with the app name you can send them to the Trash.
So, when uninstalling any software, you have to go over each of these folders one by one and remove the following:
- Binary and dock icons are located in
- Application support files are located in
- Support Caches can be found in
- Plugins are located in
- Library can be found in
- App preferences are located in
- Crashes are found in
- 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.
As you can see, it's not that easy to uninstall applications Mac doesn't need, even when you know what to do. By the way, be sure to look for the name of the app in the file names of the files you remove. Don’t remove anything you don’t know! Do your due diligence before removing something from your system.
When you delete software on Mac manually, be sure only to remove an app file or folder when you’re sure of what it is. Look at the name very carefully before you nuke it. Removing the wrong files could cause problems with your system.
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!).
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:
- Click Launchpad icon in your Mac's Dock.
- Find the app you want to delete.
- Click and hold the app until it starts shaking.
- Click X in the top-left corner of the app icon.
- Click Delete.
This will uninstall the app from your Mac. However, keep in mind that after removing the program, you should also delete its leftovers as we've described above.
How to delete Mac apps that won't delete
Unfortunately, manual methods won’t get everything. Some apps are pre-installed 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? You can 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're still unable to delete apps on Mac or if you’re worried you won't do it correctly and want a safer alternative, there’s the easy method of uninstalling apps from your Mac so you don't have to force delete applications. It actually does a better (and safer) job and in a fraction of the time. Read on to learn how to delete apps on Mac automatically.
3. Uninstall apps with CleanMyMac X
When I referred to the easy method of uninstalling apps, I meant using CleanMyMac X. As for me, deleting apps is a pretty tiresome task. I’ve always put away this chore, as it will waste a huge amount of my time. But, my Mac was running low on free storage, so I decided to try CleanMyMac X to fix this problem and uninstall programs on Mac with ease. I used the Uninstaller module to get rid of multiple apps at once. Here’s what you need to do:
- Download the free version of CleanMyMac X and launch it (takes less than a minute).
- Go to Uninstaller.
- Choose All Applications.
- Check the boxes next to the app you want to remove.
- Press Uninstall.
As you can see, CleanMyMac X shows precisely how much place each app takes, so it’s easier to detect the heaviest programs. Another benefit is that you can bulk uninstall programs on Mac without dragging each app and its files to the Trash.
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 Preferences. Go to Ignore List and click Uninstaller. Here uncheck the box next to “Ignore system applications.”
Now, you can close Preferences and go back to Uninstaller. Click ► next to the app's icon to show its files. Then check the data you want to delete and choose Reset from the drop-down list next to the app’s icon. Then press Remove.
It will help to 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 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. That’s why native uninstallers remain more of a Windows thing, not much heard of in the Mac world.
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. 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!
Clear app leftovers: preferences files and caches
No sane developer wants people to delete their application. As your desperate ex, they would do everything to stay on your Mac, like planting pieces of their software around your Mac so one day they can return. Support files, preference files, and caches — all these will likely remain even if you’ve deleted the app itself.
Here I’ll show you how to root out these remaining traces. I’ll use the Telegram app as an example.
Delete application support files
Click on Finder > Go to Folder… (in the upper menu).
~/Library/Application Support/Your App Name
In my case it's:
Now, delete the content of this folder.
Delete application Preferences
The Preferences folder contains your user settings. These files are tiny but there’s no reason not to delete them, just out of principle.
Click on Finder > Go to Folder…
Open the folder. Now type the name of your app in the search bar. Click to search "Preferences.” Delete the found items.
Delete the caches
In the same vein, you’ll have to delete the remaining app caches.
This time, use the following command to paste in Finder > Go to Folder...
~/Library/Caches/Your App Name
Note: In some cases, you need to search for the app developer's name, rather than the name of the app.
Delete leftovers with CleanMyMac X
If you’ve been doing a "spring cleaning" in your Applications folder, chances are some files are still left somewhere in your Mac’s system. CleanMyMac X detects and collects them into the Leftovers tab.
Go to Uninstaller once again and select Leftovers. Select all the remaining files and press Uninstall to say goodbye to the app remains. If the app is still running, CleanMyMac X will close it, so it's a quick way to force delete an app on Mac.
Now you are just as good at uninstalling applications on Mac as any Apple engineer. Hopefully, you now have plenty of free space. Don't miss a few related articles below.