Uninstall programs from Mac and clean up any leftover files

Uninstall programs on the Mac

Deleting apps on a Mac is pretty easy, isn't it? You go to the "Applications" folder, grab the app icon for the relevant software and throw it in the trash. Complete!

Not quite ... this process should actually work for some smaller apps, but for most programs, this only deletes the application itself, leaving a lot of remnants of the app on the Mac. Caches, log files and registry files remain in the system and gradually fill the operating system in the background with superfluous files and information. On the one hand, this takes up unnecessary space on the hard drive and, on the other hand, background processes may continue to run, which slow down the Mac. For this reason, it is important to know how to uninstall a program properly - in such a way that it doesn't leave any junk on your Mac.

The supplied program uninstaller is the best choice, but unfortunately not every manufacturer delivers these programs with their software.

The supplied program uninstaller is the best choice, but unfortunately not every manufacturer delivers these programs with their software.

Delete app store apps from the launchpad

If you download a lot of programs from the App Store, you are in luck, because they install less deeply in the system because macOS forbids this. To delete these apps, open the launchpad via the dock.

Now hold down the Option key or click on any app and hold down the mouse button until the apps start to wobble. To delete the corresponding app, click on the cross ("x") next to the app that you want to delete and then confirm that the app should be removed.

If you have started Launchpad and hold down the ALT or Option key, small circles with crosses appear next to the programs that can be deleted. If you click on this, the corresponding app will be uninstalled.

If you have started Launchpad and hold down the ALT or Option key, small circles with crosses appear next to the programs that can be deleted. If you click on this, the corresponding app will be uninstalled.

Note: If the corresponding app does not have a cross next to it, it does not come from the App Store or is required by the Mac. In this case you have to use the Finder to delete the program.

Disadvantage of this method: Software from the App Store also creates settings files, caches and a lot more, which is then left on the Mac after the software itself has long been removed from the Mac.

Tip 1: use the app's uninstaller

If you have an app with a native uninstaller, you can use this to remove the software and all related data from the Mac hard drive. These uninstall programs are usually supplied with the software and are often in the same folder as the app itself. Unfortunately, very few applications have their own uninstall program, so this solution is rarely available.

Remnants of files can also be found by searching in the Finder, but it is time-consuming and often you still cannot find all of the remnants.

With the AppCleaner program, apps, including the associated system residues, can be easily removed.

Tip 2: manually uninstall a program and its leftover files

If you have the time and know what you are doing, you can delete the app yourself, including all the rest, from the Mac by hand. It works like this:

  1. After you have thrown the application in the trash yourself or deleted it from the launchpad, you still have to find the leftovers. These leftovers can usually be found in the "Library" folder. However, if you are still using OS X 10.7 (Lion) or older, you will not be able to see the library. However, there is a trick to accessing this hidden file. Three ways to the library I explained in the linked post. One of them is explained below so you don't have to click away.
  2. Open the Finder and look for the item "Go to" in the top menu bar. In the drop-down menu, select the entry "Go to folder" and click on it. Now enter ~ / Library in the pop-up window and click "Open". Hopefully the Library folder will then appear.
  3. Now one has to find the remnants of the deleted application. To do this, enter the name of the application for which you want to find the remains in the search field. As you type, you can select the suggestion "Name matches" what you should do.
  4. In the bar below the search field you still have to click on "Library". You will now see all files and folders that contain the name of the application. Make sure you look in the "Library" folder, because if you look in "This Mac", not all of the hidden files will be displayed.
  5. The files you see are the leftovers that should be gone. You now select this and move it to the trash.
  6. That's it - the leftovers are gone and all you have to do is empty the recycle bin to completely erase the data.

While this is an effective way to remove unnecessary files, it is time-consuming. There is also the risk of deleting important files that you might not even want to delete. I usually use tip 3 or 4 to uninstall programs on the Mac.

Tip 3: AppCleaner and AppZapper

The software AppCleaner is a free but helpful little program that does the work described above for you. It is used by dragging the application to be uninstalled onto the AppCleaner window. In a matter of seconds, the software searches for the files that are probably related to the app and asks whether they should all be deleted. If you confirm this, the files mentioned will all be removed from the Mac.

With the AppCleaner program, apps, including the associated system residues, can be easily removed.

With the AppCleaner program, apps, including the associated system residues, can be easily removed.

A reader recommended the software to me AppZapperwhich basically works like AppCleaner. There is also an area in which you can drag the app into and then receive a list of the files found, which you might also want to delete.

Tip 4: CleanMyMac

Who already (recommended!) Setapp subscription has booked, gets CleanMyMac virtually free of charge. Everyone else can Demo version install to have a look at the Mac cleanup tool. I've been using CleanMyMac for many years to unclutter my Mac with just a few clicks, and uninstalling software is only a small part of it - but the software does that well too.

Uninstalling Mac programs - including all leftovers in the system - works with just a few clicks if you use CleanMyMac X.

Uninstalling Mac programs - including all leftovers in the system - works with just a few clicks if you use CleanMyMac X.

CleanMyMac X has a dedicated area to completely remove applications. It works like this:

  1. Start CleanMyMac and then go to "Uninstall".
  2. "All applications" is usually already selected there and you can see a list of all the apps that can be found on the Mac.
  3. Now you mark every application that you want to remove.
  4. Then all you have to do is click "Uninstall" and CleanMyMac X will do the rest.

I hope that with these tips I was able to show you how to cleanly delete software from the Mac without messing with your Mac with leftover data. If you also have a few tips, let me know via the comments!

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2 comments

  1. C. Matthias Patt says:

    Dear Jens,
    I've been checking your blog for several years and have already received a lot of valuable tips, the best one being the recommendation for Screen Bar.
    Uninstalling apps is always necessary if you deal intensively with the Mac.
    I've been using AppZapper for this for a long time.
    I can't say whether this is a particularly good app, I don't understand enough about the innards of the programs and the uninstallation process.
    I wish you continued success and time for running this very helpful blog.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Thanks for the tip! I'll include it in the article. : D I think you even recommended the software to me at some point. 😂

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