Everything You Need to Know About Uninstalling Apps on a Mac

Jean Dennison
December 19, 2018
458 Views

The process of uninstalling apps on Mac is made as much intuitive as it can get. By simply dragging the unwanted app’s icon from the Application folder into the Trash icon on the dock, you’ll erase it from your computer. However, there could be cases, when applications won’t have shortcuts that appear in the Application folder. You could also face problems trying to uninstall built-in system apps. In this article, we will cover different app uninstalling scenarios.

How to Uninstall Most Apps on Mac

Image credit: Bench Accounting

Most Applications on the Mac are created as self-contained items. This means, that the apps don’t mess with the rest of your system. This made uninstalling on Mac very easy and intuitive. You can do it by opening Finder, going to the Applications folder from the Finder’s sidebar, right-clicking the unwanted application’s icon and selecting “Move to Trash” option. Moreover, you can also use the drag-and-drop functionality to deleted apps. By dragging the unwanted application’s icon over the Trash icon on your dock, you’ll be able to uninstall it as well.

All the uninstalled applications will go straight to your trash, where they can still be restored. To delete it completely, right-click the Trash icon on your dock and select “Empty Trash”. However, there are cases, when apps will prompt you for a password when you try to delete it. These apps were installed by the Mac package installer and deleting them would remove whatever system-wide changes they made. That’s why you can’t delete built-in applications by following the usual uninstalling process.

Removing the Left Behind Files

Image credit: Daniele Riggi

The method of deleting applications described above does the work, but not completely. After the erasure, there’s still application’s preferences, that are left in the Library folders. The good thing is that usually, those files will use just a little space on your drive and won’t cause any problems for your computer in general. Moreover, the preferences are left for a reason. The information left by the app can be used when you’re uninstalling an app only to replace it with a newer version. Another reason for leaving preferences is for reinstalling the deleted app sometime in the future. When the removed apps are reinstalled all the preferences before the erasure will remain.

On the other hand, there are cases, where you just need to delete those files. This is usually needed if you want to reset an app to its default settings when reinstalling it again. Unfortunately, the in-built uninstalling method on mac doesn’t support this function. That’s why you’ll need to use third-party apps or do the process of deleting leftover files manually, by going to the Library folders.

Uninstalling Apps That Don’t Appear in the Application Folder

Like we mentioned above, there might be cases when there will be no app icon in the Applications folder. For example, if you would install the Flash plugin for the macOS, it won’t appear in the folder we would think it should. On Windows, the Control Panel shows a list of all your installed programs, including those without shortcuts, regrettably there’s no similar function on Mac. This makes it tough to notice what exactly you have installed on your computer.

Some applications have their special instructions on how to delete them. For example, deleting Adobe Flash Player, you would need download and run a separate uninstaller app, that can be found on Adobe’s website. In general, you can always find how to uninstall these special apps without shortcuts by simply Googling it for “uninstall [program name] mac”.

Deleting Built-in System Apps

Macs don’t have a way to uninstall or install operating system features. That’s why there’s no easy way to remove the applications included with the operating system by Apple. However, on OS X 10.10 Yosemite and earlier, it was possible to issue a command to delete specific system apps by using the Terminal. The command “sudo rm -rf /Applications/[application name].app” was possible until further macOS updates.

From Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan this is being stopped by System Integrity Protections, which stops you from modifying system files. This is protections is also useful for malware security, that system files wouldn’t get damaged. Nevertheless, if you would wish to delete system files, you would need to disable System Integrity Protection first. This, however, is not recommended. If you would want to learn even more about uninstalling applications and explore some of the best third-party apps for this job, “Setapp” has great guide how to uninstall apps on mac.

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