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Summary:

So you’ve just installed tons of apps from the Mac App Store, but now you realize you don’t really need that fifth Twitter client. How to uninstall it? Unlike Windows, OS X doesn’t have a “Remove Programs” tool, but the answer is actually simpler than that.

uninstall

So you’ve just installed tons of apps from the Mac App Store, but now you realize you don’t really need that fifth Twitter client. How to uninstall it? Unlike Windows, OS X doesn’t have a “Remove Programs” tool, but the answer is actually simpler than that.

All you have to do is navigate to [Your User Name]/Applications, locate the app you want to remove, and drag it to the Trash icon on your dock. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Command+Delete. Since Mac applications are all packed into bundles (that’s the icon you drag to the Trash) just deleting the bundle removes the app.

However, there is one catch. A lot of apps leave behind external files, such as preference files, dotted around your system, which don’t get deleted when you send the application bundle to the Trash. You could hunt around and manually delete those files, but it would be very time-consuming and there’s no guarantee you’ll find every one. Luckily, there are some third-party apps that will handle this for you.

AppZapper is one of those apps. When you want to uninstall another app, fire up AppZapper. Instead of dragging the application to the Trash, drag it to the AppZapper window. AppZapper looks through your hard drives for any files related to the app you’re deleting. It presents you with a list, and you can uncheck any items you’re not sure you want to delete before finalizing the process. All files are sent to your Trash bin, too, so if you have second thoughts you can also recover them there.

Version 2.0 of AppZapper introduced a new feature called Hit List which lets you see all your installed apps, and filter them according to when you last used them and how much space they’re taking up on your drive. It’s a great addition for those who’ve neglected their Applications folder for a while and aren’t sure where to start cleaning up.

AppZapper isn’t the only ‘uninstaller’ for the Mac. There are others, such as AppDelete. Whichever you choose, it’s a good idea to use one to make sure your Mac is clear of potential ‘bloat’ left behind from apps you don’t even have any more.

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  1. Political Custard Friday, January 14, 2011

    I use TrashMe for uninstalling applications, but I haven’t always used an uninstaller and so probably have lots of left-overs junk on my hard-drive from previous uninstalls. My question is: are you aware of anything that hunts through hard-drives for stuff that was used by old applications but is no longer needed?

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  3. I’ve used a number of app removers and have had very good luck deleting all of a program’s files using CleanApp. It actually logs all of the changes during the install making it easier to locate and remove everything later.

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  4. There’s also Hazel, which installs as a Preference Pane. Among its many features is AppSweep which sits in the background and watches the Trash for when an application is thrown away. Then it pops up a list of associated files and asks whether you’d like them added to the trash. The fact that it’s in the background, you don’t have to think about it, and it just does its stuff (with your permission) works for me.

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  5. Another method of navigating to the actual application is to go to the App’s Icon in the Dock, hold the mouse button down for longer than usual, and choose Options->Show in Finder. This works with any App in the Dock. This avoids the need to search through the applications folder.

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  6. AppZapper has been my uninstaller of choice for quite some time now. It works as advertised, and very well.

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  7. “You could hunt around and manually delete those files”.

    Or you could just ignore them.

    I’m as much or more of a neat-freak / obsessive compulsive as anyone, but at some point you need to balance the cost of cleaning these files with the benefit. A 1TB hard drive cost maybe $100 or $200 now. Having a few thousand unneeded files is basically free in terms of storage costs.

    The other costs (in addition to the storage costs) of leaving these files:
    1. They may have some incriminating information;
    2. They offend your sense of neatness;
    3. ??

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    1. Good points on the zero costs. There is a real cost on the time spent of locating and deleting a few thousand files though.

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    2. Mac systems notoriously become slow after years of installing and removing apps. Might this have anything to do with all the excess files left behind in the library folders?

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  8. Vaughn S. Cordero Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Simpler yet: Mac App Store (MAS) development guidelines actually restrict where any auxiliary files are placed: writing files anywhere else will get the app rejected.

    In essence the program must be self-contained and preference files must be written in ~/Library/Application Support/ and be clearly named with the bundle identifier (‘com.company.myprogram’) or include the app name (‘MyProgram Prefs’).

    Anything created elsewhere by a MAS app must have been user-specified (e.g. as a result of a ‘Save As’ dialog) or be a temp file (in the stock system location and purged periodically.)

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  9. This helps answer a question that I’ve been having. I posted it in a different article. Thanks.

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  10. AppTrap (free) does the trick. It’s a Preference Pane which monitors any apps that are deleted and shows a dialog box asking if you want to delete the associated preference files. I’ve been using it for a few years and it works very well.

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    1. The price is right on AppTrap, Raj. I think I’ll google that one and see if If I find it and give it a whirl.

      Thanks.

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