MacMost Now 157: Uninstalling Applications on Mac OS X

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.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now
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, so check that out.
Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Show Notes:
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.
AppTrap (free)
AppZapper ($12.95)
AppDelete (free)
SuperPop ($15)
CleanApp ($13)
Hazel ($21.95)

Comments: 42 Responses to “MacMost Now 157: Uninstalling Applications on Mac OS X”

    11/11/08 @ 10:18 am

    There’s also a freeware like AppZapper version :

      9/26/11 @ 7:27 am

      Well I tried all the free ones posted here and there is only one free now App Trap, App Delete is now downloadable but there is a button to buy it so I think it’s now only a trial version. and the link that Martin, posted here takes me to a page that say’s forbidden You do not have permission to access this document.

        9/26/11 @ 7:33 am

        Watch the video. The idea I try to get across is that you don’t need any of those apps.

          12/22/11 @ 11:19 am

          I just installed osx lion on my iMac. I didn’t know that Quicken, AppleWorks6, and Kodak easy share are no longer supported.
          I need Quicken for my checking account info. Can I uninstall
          Lion and expect those applications to be usable again? I am
          definitely not computer savvy.

            12/22/11 @ 12:31 pm

            A better option is to upgrade to software that is supported, rather than old versions that are no longer supported by the developer. Quicken Essentials and Quicken Online (Mint too) are supported. Lots of other software too. iWork apps are supported by AppleWorks is very very old and not.

              12/22/11 @ 11:24 pm

              Ok, but I need the information on quicken for tax purposes.
              How do I recover that information?

                12/23/11 @ 9:08 am

                Don’t know. Try calling the Intuit and ask.

    11/13/08 @ 4:27 am

    Thanks for this information…I’m a Mac Newbie (switch from a PC about 5 months ago) and this helped me understand the uninstalling concept on a Mac. Also, thanks for the links to the uninstaller apps…I’ll go check them out.

    Carlos Rivera
    11/13/08 @ 2:16 pm

    Excelent podcast / topic. Of the above mentioned apps which one will search your system and remove any orphaned files that were left behind when an application removal was already done by dragging the application to the trash.

      11/20/10 @ 10:51 pm

      @Carlos R… If you can’t find all the files, try reinstalling the ‘offending’ program and THEN use the software to remove it (and its associated files.)

    11/13/08 @ 6:24 pm

    Carlos: Not sure off-hand. You’ll have to check out their Web sites to see.

    11/16/08 @ 8:23 pm

    You can add ForkLift to the list
    It has a so called “Delete App” function which does this.

    11/28/08 @ 10:57 pm

    excelent. thanks for your time i learned from you thanks

    Michael Sweeney
    6/6/10 @ 4:23 pm

    how to get rid of facebook on my ibook G4 10-4-11?????? I don’t even have a facebook account but am still inundated w/their requests and my icon is a facebook icon, and I rec’v updates etc. from facebook ??????

    10/10/10 @ 6:46 am

    Nice video Gary, very helpful.

    11/20/10 @ 10:50 pm

    @Carlos R… If you can’t find all the files, try reinstalling the ‘offending’ program and THEN use the software to remove it (and its associated files.)

    1/2/11 @ 6:38 pm


    I want to safe clean my trash, and it keeps coming something like: It cannot be done, fail code 8003.
    In my trash I also have the old version from Time Machine. That I could never delete…. Any suggestions ?

      1/2/11 @ 8:09 pm

      From what I hear, that problem happens if you try to use the Finder to delete files from your Time Machine backup. That really messes up Time Machine and your trash, both. I hear that you basically need to re-install Snow Leopard (over your existing OS, no need to delete any of your data). Then start a Time Machine backup from scratch. But I’m not sure. You may want a second opinion on that as I’m just relaying information I found elsewhere.

    1/8/11 @ 6:11 pm

    Hi Gary,

    I had a Tom Tom and its applications on my computer, now i have a Garmin and trying o remove all traces of Tom Tom from computer, but there seems to be a folder I can’t seem to get rid of, I have deleted everything out of the folder, but it is there on my Documents. Thanks.

      1/8/11 @ 8:00 pm

      Need details. Why can’t you get rid of the folder? Is there an error message? What happens when you drag it to the trash? When happens then when you try to empty the trash?

      1/13/11 @ 11:58 pm

      Hi guys. Here is my Unix geeky stuff coming out.

      Pull up a terminal (for the case of Tom Tom)
      {{you can change the Tom with whatever main part of the file name is used that you think will be a directory.}}
      and type this ==> find / -name ‘*Tom*’ -print 2>/dev/null

      Once you have been shown the directory name or files yo udo not need.. type this ==> sudo \rm -R

      Be careful with that one. you can if you are not sure.. cream your computer.. but.. if you know about RM and are confident.. no problemo.. you can remove all annoying parts of a program that you were unable to remove. and or find.


    4/4/11 @ 12:43 pm

    thanks for this. do you actually use any of the third party uninstall apps?
    whats best from your list?

      4/4/11 @ 1:47 pm

      No, I don’t use any of them. I follow what I talk about in this episode.

    Mr Anthony Cotton
    8/3/11 @ 3:19 pm

    Yes like gmcd2200 says, I was advised to use Terminal, but this was way over my head. I just could not empty the trash,messages like- thats in use- error code. I Googled for the answer. It came up with quite a few,but there was one. It was called SuperEmptyTrash it worked straight away and it can delete items from your USB Pen,and it`s safe. You can see what you are deleting. Even the uninstalled applications you do not have to go through all the procedures.

    10/5/11 @ 8:52 pm

    Hey i’m sorry I want to use the new feature i learned with you but i want to delete the package contents that i still have (from my past deleted apps) could you tell me the name of the app that deletes the old package content please thanks for all tutorials.

      10/5/11 @ 8:59 pm

      Not sure what you mean. Typically an app IS a package. If you delete the app, you are deleting the package.

    10/6/11 @ 4:44 pm

    So if I delete the application the package is erased too?

      10/6/11 @ 5:08 pm

      The application IS the package. Unless you are asking about something else. Perhaps you aren’t understanding what the “package” is? What do you think it is?

    11/15/11 @ 8:12 pm

    I use App Cleaner, it is free. I find it works very well.

    Rodney MAROIS
    12/4/11 @ 11:28 am

    I have K9 web protection the dog barks when a site is blocked for adult content I may want to delete this off my system how do I do so thanks I am on mac G five flat screen unit

    2/27/12 @ 9:53 pm

    Applications started showing up like Growel, Akamai and Vision Cue cs4. Where did they come from and how can I be sure which applications I can delete?

      2/27/12 @ 10:28 pm

      Growl and Akamai are often installed by other apps. You must have missed it when they told you that you were going to get them too. Growl adds notification functionality to some apps. Akamai is download functionality. Not sure about that other one. But you have some software somewhere that you recently installed that uses them. Remove them if you like, but you may be crippling and disabling other software. Think about what you have recently installed and investigate from there.

    4/26/12 @ 5:34 pm

    I’ve gone through the steps of uninstalling the program (AutoCAD) as noted above, yet I am having trouble with the new version of CAD I am trying to install! When I first tried to install AutoCAD it said it cannot do it because there is already an existing version. So I went ahead and uninstalled it (following all the tips in the video) including checking for stuff hidden in other user profiles. It allowed me to install the New Version, however, when I try to use the app I still get the water stamp that was created by the educational version previously installed (the one I am trying to delete!!!). This is a NEW file I am creating with the “New non-educational” version, but it somehow picks up remnants of the old version installed. Any suggestions?

      4/26/12 @ 8:02 pm

      Alice, I would contact AutoCAD support. They would be the only ones to know what it triggering the watermark.

    5/28/12 @ 1:32 pm

    Hi Gary,

    I downloaded trial version of inlet and after uninstalling it in my mac top bar I still have a symbol of pen . When clicking on it the drop down menu says “Write Anywhere, Show Ink Window, Ink Preferences”.

    Do you know how I could delete that symbol?

    Thank you,


    Thank you

      5/28/12 @ 3:02 pm

      The toolbar icon should have been removed when you uninstalled. I’d contact the developer and ask them about that.

    6/10/12 @ 5:23 pm

    hi Gary, thanks for the info, i have learned a great deal, however after hunting down the app’s contents everywhere you suggested in the vid, my trash still won’t empty it says “Impossible because « MacKeeper Helper » is being used and other such messages. I have searched high and low in my libraries both on hard drive and in my user folder and have installed AppTrap – but that did nothing even when I threw another old app away – no pop up boxes asking me if i wanted to delete the associated contents. Any thoughts? Meanwhile i’ll just watch your vid again and then restart my mac. Hmmm.

      6/10/12 @ 9:16 pm

      So you are trying to uninstall Mac Keeper? Is there an uninstaller? Do they have an uninstall process listed on their site? You’ll probably need to properly uninstall it to get rid of it.

    9/18/12 @ 11:33 am

    hi i would like to ask how can i uninstall imovie on a mac without losing my data!
    because i want to install it again due to some difficulties i have with the program!

      9/18/12 @ 11:48 am

      Depends. If you bought it from the Mac App Store (or got it with a recent new Mac) then you can use LaunchPad to delete it, and then the App Store to re-install it. But that might delete your data — probably not. So just back up, as you are doing anyway, right?
      Otherwise, perhaps try something less drastic. Like removing your iMovie preferences file so it resets your iMovie preferences.

Comments Closed.