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New To Mac: App Install and Uninstall

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I’ve got a lot of friends who have recently purchased their first Macs. I’m always more than happy to help them get up and running and answer questions whenever they have them – I mean, I do that here for you people and I don’t even know most of you! But I’ve found that quite often I’m asked by Mac Newbies, about installing and uninstalling programs.

Over at Noodlesoft, Paul Kim has penned some interesting thoughts on the topic, and it’s clear he sees the problem that ‘Switchers’ are up against. It’s worth a read if you’ve got some minutes to burn. But until Paul’s ideas take the OS X software world by storm, here’s a rundown of how you handle the installation and uninstallation of programs if you’re new to the Macintosh platform.

The Windows way of doing things is usually a lot more complicated (read: more hoops to jump through than necessary) than it needs to be. Welcome to Macintosh! Clearly this is for the relatively new users to the platform, so please don’t leave comments saying this isn’t useful information – it’s bound to be helpful to someone out there.

Formats You Can Expect to Encounter
dmgWhen you download software from the internet, you’ll get it in either the typical zip format or a dmg. Dmg stands for Disk Image. Sometimes the zip will contain the dmg which you’ll need to open. When you open the Disk Image it will mount it as a temporary drive on your Desktop. So when you’re done with the stuff that’s on the Mounted Disk Image, you can eject it and delete the dmg from your system. (The same goes for any zip file that you may have encountered in this process.)

pkgSo what’s on the Disk Image? Usually this will be the application to install. But sometimes there will be an installer pkg. An installer pkg looks like a cardboard box with a yellow block inside of it. You can double click the installer pkg right from inside the disk image. It will install the program and any related resources it requires on your system. When it’s through installing, you just eject the Disk Image and you’re all through. You just go to your Applications folder and you can launch your newly installed application.

Dragging and Dropping
As I mentioned above, sometimes the Disk Image will just contain the program itself. Don’t launch the application from the Disk Image! The Disk Image is only temporarily mounted to your system, and is only meant to hold the software for you until you copy it to your Applications folder on your system.

So how do you copy it to your system’s Application folder? Drag the application to the Applications folder. Drop it there. Yes, it’s really that simple. In fact here’s a mini-screencast to show you the quick and easy way I perform this action…

So anyway, much of the time on Macs, the software and all of its resources are self-contained. They don’t [usually] install things all over your system, leaving you wondering what’s where and taking up space. Nice eh? So now that you’ve dragged that application to your hard drive’s Applications folder, you can eject the Disk Image and throw it in the trash can. Now you can go to the Applications folder and launch your new program from there from now on.

Getting Rid of The Riff Raff
So the time has come that you’ve realized that installing every single news reader client wasn’t necessary. How do you uninstall the unwanted programs from your system? In most cases – or rather, where you installed the program by dragging it directly onto your system – you can just delete the program from your Applications folder (dragging it to the Trash Can is the same thing). It’s really just that simple.

However, there are those times when the program was installed using one of those Installer pkgs… It’s kind of hard to say where all that program’s support files have been placed. I could go deeper into those places, but seeing as this is aimed at the beginner crowd, we’ll save that talk for another day. So how to cleanly uninstall everything that came along with one of those programs… Well, you can use Spotlight to attempt tracking down all the files for the program, but that can be risky if you mistakenly delete files that shouldn’t be deleted.

appzapperMy recommendation is to pick up AppZapper. I feel I need to mention that I gain nothing by making this suggestion. It’s just truly, the app uninstaller that OS X is missing. Plus it’s kinda fun – I know you don’t get how it could be fun, but try it and you’ll see what I’m talking about. AppZapper tracks down all the files that pertain to a certain program and zaps them into oblivion, keeping your hard drive as clean as possible. It’s nice to keep things clean, isn’t it?

So there you have it friends. The steps necessary for installing and uninstalling software on your Mac, really are quite simple. Your days of over-thinking how to do things on your computer are at an end. Just keep in mind these important details:
– Disk Images are temporary
– Copy the App to your Hard Drive and run it from there, not the Disk Image
– When you’re done, clean up! (Delete the zip/dmg/etc from your Desktop/Downloads folder)
– Come uninstall time, just delete it from Applications and you’re set

Hope this has been helpful for those who are new to this great platform. Things are easier than you realize, and we’re here to open that world up to you a little bit at a time. If there are other New to Mac tips that you’d like us to cover for you, please don’t hesitate to let us know!

28 Responses to “New To Mac: App Install and Uninstall”

  1. I’m new to Mac, and (stupidly) had problems with this. I was fairly sure that you did the drag-and-drop-into-applications thing but it didn’t seem to be working. I now think it was just the program. Ooops. Well, know i know. Thanks for your help.

  2. thanx…my knowledge is shrinked on using windows i beleive…i was running the application directly from the downloads…thanx for ur help…i was wondering how come a app comes to desktop and get mounted and not installing on my system..

  3. I’ve got a question, I have installed MAMP and I would like to uninstall it. However I have a website copied into the htdocs folder which is also connected to a database.
    How do I uninstall MAMP and save the website and the database?

    I’m worried that if I uninstall as you have suggested I will loose everything.

  4. macbook white

    Thanks for this, I had no idea what ‘mounting’ or ‘dmg’ files were, didnt understand the concept of them being temporary etc..Basically it was all new and I got it wrong. Few days later I’ve seen this article – it should come with the macbook!

  5. I am so glad I got a mac. On Windows this is way too complicated – you have to actually click on “Settings”, “Control Panel” and then “Uninstall.” And if you forget how to do this, you are actually expected to know to click on “Help” and type in “Uninstall” … what nerve! To make matters much worse, some programs even have uninstall executables right in their folders!

    Now mac makes this so much easier. First, you click on “help” and type in “uninstall” to find two irrelevant hits. Then you get to go online and search for “apple uninstall” and hope to find a hit. Then you find out that it really depends on the program. You have to figure out if it’s a package or an older installed program. If it’s the older type, mac was generous enough to let you fish for all of the files to remove by yourself. Sometimes this is even true with package programs. Sometimes you’re expected to re-run the install package (usually from the CD) to uninstall it… and there really is no warning as to which of the above applies to which installed program. How sweet it is!

    If for some weird reason you want to do things the stupid Windows way, you can go buy AppZapper. How generous it is of apple to make us pay for something that comes free with Windows! :)

  6. I also deleted the Flash CS3 demo folder the other day and when I tried to install the final app the installer says Flash CS3 is already on my mac but I deleted everything i could find with a spotlight search that said adobe flash cs3. How can I track down a unknown file since I’ve already deleted the main app from my computer. HELP ME!!

  7. I’m a switcher to and after spending a few weeks on my new macbook pro I’m converted. However I do think it’s easier to uninstall ALL files from a third party program in the windows world. Downloading third party apps to do the trick sounds to me like something is missing in os x.

  8. Ihave recently swiched to “Leopard” and tried to leinstall back some software.Every time
    I try to open “Office” or any other Microsoft ddo. , I get repeatedly the message “Relaunch” . Any Ideas . I need HELP

  9. I highly recommend an installer called cleanapp. This program is shareware but is definetly worth the money and it is the best on the market. The reson this app is so good is it allows you to select the files you want to delete. Furthermore you have a decision to either delete the app permenetly or to the trash.Lastly you can clean up cache with this app.

  10. I am 1 day into my new Mac and still have my Windows expectations, I offer my sincere thanks for this article. I couldn’t figure out how to get things into the applications folder or why the icons on my desktop looked so weird. Reading this I had my big ‘Aha!’ moment and it all makes sense.

  11. I wrongly deleted the “disk utility” folder in the applications folder, and now when I try to open any .dmg or .pkg file I get a “open with…” type dialog box.
    Does any one know a solution for this problem?

  12. I deleted the Flash CS3 demo folder the other day and when I tried to install the final app the installer says Flash CS3 is already on my mac but I deleted everything i could find with a spotlight search that said adobe flash cs3. How can I track down a unknown file since I’ve already deleted the main app from my computer.

  13. saurav

    Hi i just bought a new mac and i installed anti theft software from orbicule now i don’t knnow hw to uninstall it can anyone help me with it please

  14. Hi,

    I don’t know if you can help, but everytime I drag files to my applications folder from a temporary drive, they fail to work. Why might this be happening to me!?

    – desperately trying to download

  15. Brett Burney

    Just wanted to say thanks for this handy write-up. I’m a “switcher” now for about 3-4 weeks and I just needed someone to provide this information succinctly like you’ve done. I wish I could have easily found something like this a few weeks ago.

  16. This is digressing a bit from the original article, but for the “Read Me”s and manuals, I have a folder in my Documents folder called “Hints & How tos”. All manuals go in there, as well as Read Mes that contain anything useful, plus any useful hints from web pages. I copy and paste them or print the web page and use the make PDF option on the print page to save them as PDFs. Very useful adjunct for this sort of filing is “Finder Pop” a piece of freeware that adds a heap of useful and powerful options to contextual menus. Among other things, Finder Pop allows the user to set folders to move items to and retains that information in the contextual menu so that you can use the same ones repeatedly instead of having to navigate with the mouse.

  17. I don’t know if this is really the right way to do things, but I usually open the “Read Me” file if there is one, and if it looks like I might have any need for it I drag it to a folder in the Documents labeled “app docs”. I used to label these files (control click or right click on the file and click on the color of your choice to label any file) with the application name and “docs” on the end, but when it amounted to too much data that I never used, I placed it on an external drive and then eventually deleted it all.

  18. What do you do when the disk image includes other files as well as the application (eg Readmes, but some come with 4 or 5 other files that have no obvious purpose or place to go).

  19. It’s not just the Installer packages that are scattering files about. You mentioned installing every news reader under the sun, this is the perfect case. Most of the newsreaders i’ve used keep a cache of all the items that you have downloaded from each of the feeds. Just dragging that newsreader app doesn’t get rid of it’s cache files.

    Almost every app installs at least a couple files on your computer when you run it to save your preferences, etc. And if you installed Second Life there is probably a huge amount of data sitting in your Library folder :) I noticed this one day using Omni Disk Sweeper trying to clear out some room. AppZapper is definetly worthwhile (I wonder if Apple will ever implemnt that kind of behavior into OS X natively)