How to uninstall apps on a Mac

Quick question – how do you uninstall programs on Mac?

If your answer is to drag the app to the Trash, we’re sorry to say that you’ve been doing it wrong.

You probably know or guess that you can remove apps by dragging them to the Trash bin, but it is not quite so. Dragging normal files like documents and movies to the Trash works fine. But doing the same for apps leaves gigabytes of leftover junk files on your hard drive. 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 programs on Mac

Learning how to uninstall on Mac is more than just moving things to the Trash — it’s completely uninstalling them. 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

We’re going to show you how to manually uninstall a program on Mac and then we’ll also show you the easy way. The easy way to remove apps involves a Mac uninstaller app, which will remove any app you want while also cleaning up the associated files spread across your hard drive and system. How to force delete an app on a Mac? That’s another problem that a quality uninstaller can solve.

As a bonus, we’ll also show you how to uninstall the apps that you’ve forgotten are even there. Things like Java, Flash, and other extensions that are hard to find.

Are you ready to uninstall Mac apps for good and clean up your system?

Then let’s go!

How to delete apps on Mac using Trash

Whether you're running macOS Catalina or an earlier macOS, like Mojave or Sierra, the process of manually uninstalling remains relatively similar. Even uninstalling apps on macOS Catalina 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 macOS 10.14 but left this unfortunate issue unresolved for another year.

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 in your Mac.

How to uninstall application on Mac by hand with all associates files and leftovers

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:

  1. Binary and dock icons are located in /Applications/
  2. Application support files are located in ~/Library/Application
  3. Support Caches can be found in /Library/Caches/ and ~/Library/Caches
  4. Plugins are located in ~/Library/Address Book Plug-Ins/
  5. Library can be found in ~/Library/
  6. App preferences are located in ~/Library/Preferences/
  7. Crashes are found in ~/Library/Application Support/CrashReporter/
  8. 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. How to delete apps on Mac using Launchpad

How to uninstall on Mac is 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.
remove apps using launchpad

This will uninstall the app from your Mac. However, keep in mind that after the removing the program, you should also delete its leftovers like we've described above. 

Can't uninstall software on Mac?

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).

How to delete a program that won

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. 

3. 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 a 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].

Delete programs on Mac

Open the folder, find the launcher and just follow the onscreen instructions.

PUPS: Delete potentially unwanted programs on Mac

According to 2019 World Malware Summit (Objective by the C), 20% of all Macs in the world are infected with PUPs. They are potentially unwanted applications. Such programs constantly evolve and exploit security breaches that Apple yet failed to close. Even if an app looks like a harmless internet downloader or a java plugin, it could be a PUP.

There's an updated version of malware scanner that comes with CleanMyMac X. The app itself is notarized by Apple so you are safe using this method.

Here's how you can detect and uninstall adware using this program:

Whether you used the manual methods or let CleanMyMac do the job for you, the important thing is that your unwanted apps are now completely removed. Your Mac thanks you for it. 

Enjoy your extra storage space. Enjoy your new efficient Mac. Enjoy the feeling of blasting apps into dust with a couple of clicks! 

Clear app remains: preferences files and caches

No sane developer wants people 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 Telegram app as an example.

Delete application support files

Click on Finder > Go to Folder… (in the upper menu).
Paste in: ~/Library/Application Support/Your App Name

In my case its:  ~/Library/Application Support/Telegram

Now, delete the content of this folder.

Delete application Preferences

Preference folder contains your user settings. These files are tiny but there’s no reason not delete them, just out of principle.

Click on Finder > Go to Folder…
Paste in: ~/Library/Preferences/

Delete applications' on Mac (Preferences)

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... 
Paste this:  ~/Library/Caches/Your App Name

Note: In some cases you need to search for app developer's name, rather than the name of the app.

How to delete hidden apps

So you now know how to delete programs on Mac manual way and the easy way. But how to uninstall on Mac your hidden apps and extensions that can be hard to find, let alone remove. Well, we’ve got you covered.

Below we have easy to follow methods for removing Java, Flash, and other stubborn processes and extensions.

How to uninstall Java on Mac

Once upon a time, Java was an important component. But now it’s just unnecessary and a security risk that’s not worth taking. Apple agrees, which is why it stopped supporting Java in macOS. If you have Java on your system and want it removed, once again there’s a hands-on manual way and an automatic easy way.

The manual way to remove Java from Mac:

  • Open Utilities and launch Terminal

  • Paste in the following code:
    sudo rm -fr /Library/Internet\ <strong>Plug-Ins</strong>/JavaAppletPlugin.<strong>plugin</strong>. sudo rm -fr /Library/PreferencePanes/JavaControlPanel.prefPane.

  • Enter your password

Congrats, you completely removed Java off your Mac!

How to uninstall Flash Player and other extensions

Adobe Flash Player is an extension that, like Java, has become infamous for security and privacy problems. Steve Jobs even called the extension “buggy,” and blamed it for a range of issues.

To remove Flash manually you can download the uninstaller from Adobe, but the process of finding the right version and the steps needed to do a proper removal of Flash is tiresome. Head over to get the full set of Adobe's Flash removal instructions.

Alternatively, you could just use the free edition of CleanMyMac X.

The easy way to uninstall Flash on Mac is to:

  1. Open CleanMyMac X — download its free version here

  2. Click on Extensions > Preference Panes.

  3. Select Flash Player from the list.

  4. Click Remove at the bottom.

Removing browser extensions

Browser extensions can offer significant benefits but they are often the first culprit when your browser starts misbehaving. If you have a problem extension or you just want to remove it to free up Mac resources, you can do so directly from your browser.

Uninstall applications on Mac (browser extensions)

Once you find the right section it’s easy to disable or remove whatever extension you want. Of course you can do the same with CleanMyMac, where all your browser extensions are clearly grouped into one clear section.

Faster way: Use the dedicated tool in CleanMyMac X

  1. Open CleanMyMac X.

  2. Click on the Extensions tab and check View all extensions.

  3. (Extensions are easily grouped into categories for easier navigation.)

  4. Click Remove.

As we already noted, CleanMyMac is free to download and try. It’s a handy way to uninstall applications Mac no longer needs. If you don’t feel like spending hours on manual uninstallation, check it out.

Now you are just as good in uninstalling applications on Mac as any Apple engineer. Hopefully, your Mac has become lighter and healthier. Don't miss a few related articles below.

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