Sometimes removing an application isn't as easy as dragging the application to the trash. Learn how to find the files that are left behind and clean up after an uninstall.
Today, let's look at how to uninstall applications in Mac OS X. So theoretically, uninstalling applications is as easy as finding the application in your applications folder, dragging it to the trash, and you're done.
But, applications usually store a little bit more information elsewhere on your drive. Most notably, they store some preferences in your preferences folder, but they can also store support files in your library folder. Let's go and take a look at where to find these extra files, so you can get rid of them, if you want to, when uninstalling an application.
So of course the first place you want to go is your applications folder. You'll see all your applications here and you can drag your application to the trash. However, you'll notice a lot of these applications are a single file and you think: how can this application just be a single file? Aren't usually applications a whole folder full of stuff?
Well actually, these single files are folders full of stuff. So for instance, if we click on Firefox here, and we ctrl+click on it, one of the options is 'show package contents'. This will open up an entire other window that contains all the file contents of that package. So in other words, there's a subset of folders called 'packages' that are basically folders full of stuff. That's how a single application can be a single file even though it must be more complex than that.
Anyway, getting rid of the folder or the application itself will get rid of most of what you need for deleting an application. So the next place you want to look is your libraries folders, there's several of them. There's a library folder in your main hard-drive level for the whole system and there's one in your user folder. Chances are, anything an application puts in a library folder is going to be in your user library folder. So, look in there, and see really quickly if there's any folder that at the library level like this Acrobat User Data folder, but most likely it's going to be in the Application Support folder. You'll find folders for just about every application you have installed. So you can find the one that you've just uninstalled and drag that to the trash as well.
You want to check every library folder, not just at the system level but also in your user folder and check to see if other users on the same machine, if you have more than one user on the machine, also have an application support folder for that application. Chances are they have, if they've ever used it.
Also in your libraries folders, you'll find a folder for preferences. Click on that and your going to find even more files. Now, these files are really, really small ones, because they're just going to be bits of information storing like, where you like your windows and what the options are for the program. So, chances are you'll probably skip this step if all you're worried about is reclaiming some hard-drive space. But other than that, you can basically go and look for files that have names that somehow match your application. So, for instance look for com dot and then the name of the developer, say Apple, and then the name of the application dot plist. That's the standard preference file. However some applications go beyond that and actually go ahead and create a folder, so for instance the spore creature creator created an entire folder in here and put a bunch of stuff in it, so you can just remove that whole folder.
If you've created an aliased application anywhere you want to get rid of that as well. If there's an alias in the dock, just drag it out of the dock. You can do a search of the application and it will usually come up with any other aliases, or maybe an extra file somewhere that you didn't find. You can also use Spotlight to go ahead and search for documents created by that application. Now if it's a standard type application like a word processor, you'll probably find that you don't want to get rid of your documents. But if it's a very specific type application like a game that creates certain game files, you may want to search for that type of file and you might find that you have a few documents in your documents folder that you no longer want around, and you can delete those as well.
Now, if you don't want to go through all this work on your own, there are a ton of different freeware and shareware applications that will allow you to go ahead and do this really quickly and easily. Some of them are even more comprehensive, and actually looking at the data that was stored on your computer when the application was installed, to find every single file, and clean it out completely. Some even get rid of files an applications you uninstalled a long time ago. I'm going to include a list of all these applications with this post at MacMost.com, so check that out.
Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.
Place to look for application files:
Library folder, both in your user folder and at the hard drive level.
Library > Application Support folders.
Library > Preferences folder, look for com.developer.application.plist files, files and folders with the application name.
Search for the application name to find aliases and other files.
Remove the application from the Dock if it is there.
Some software that will help you uninstall applications. Some of these just help you with uninstalls, while others have other functions as well.