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 four options:

  • Bin
  • Launchpad
  • A native uninstaller
  • Third-party apps

The ways mentioned above include manual intervention from you. I prefer clearing my Mac without unnecessary effort — using special software made for this particular task — CleanMyMac X. Its 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 Bin

Whether you’re running a newer macOS, such as Ventura or Monterey, 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 Bin by clicking the Empty button in the upper-right corner of the window.

And the app is gone.

Uninstalling apps on macOS Monterey still requires getting rid of leftovers, despite the fact that Apple has done such a good job in terms of desinstallation 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 Bin 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 launch the app (free download here) and go to Uninstaller > Leftovers > Uninstall upon checking 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 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.

How to delete Mac apps 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? 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.

Or you can delete apps on Mac automatically.


3. Uninstall apps with CleanMyMac X

Deleting apps is a pretty tiresome task. So, I’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 launch it (it takes less than a minute).
  2. Go to Uninstaller.
  3. Choose All Applications.
  4. Check the boxes next to the apps you want to remove and hit 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 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. 

Safari reset selected in the Uninstaller module in CMMX

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.

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.

Deleting apps can be a cumbersome task. Nevertheless, with the help of the tips I shared, it will become easier and less painful, especially if you give preference to third-party apps, such as CleanMyMac X.

Free up space on Mac for free

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I completely remove an app from Mac?

You can do it either manually by moving it to Bin and removing all of the leftovers or automatically with dedicated third-party apps like CleanMyMac X.

Why can I not remove some apps?

To delete some apps, administrator privilege is needed. If you have it and still cannot remove an app from your Mac, it means that it is a preinstalled app that should be there.

On Mac, is uninstalling an app the same as deleting it?

Unless you use native uninstallers or third-party tools, these two are different: you will still have to delete leftovers after uninstalling.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

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