How to Completely Uninstall an App on Mac and Remove Residual Files

imac and keyboard on a desk © © Tranmautritram / Pexels

If you’re used to Windows, you’ll probably be looking for the equivalent of the “Add/Remove Programs” feature on your Mac. It doesn’t exist, but uninstalling software on a Mac is easy and, even better, there are several ways to do it.

On a Mac, programs can be installed in two different ways: some apps offer an installer that you have to launch to start the installation, but most of the time, you have to drag the app into the “Applications” folder. In the first case, there is probably an “Uninstall” button included in the app. In the second case, the most common, here are several methods to uninstall an app on Mac and to delete files that may remain after the operation.

Uninstall an app on Mac using the launchpad

1. Launch the launchpad from the “Applications” folder or from the dock

The launchpad displays the applications installed on the Mac. It is accessible by default from the dock. If you have disabled its display in the dock, you can find it in the “Applications” folder.

Click on its icon to launch it.

macos launchpad

Launch of the launchpad © Pascale Duc for Clubic

2. Identify the software to uninstall

Apps in the launcher are not sorted alphabetically by default. You can manually search for the application to delete.

mac launcher

launcher

But you can also use the search box at the top of the screen.

Mac launcher search

Search in the launcher © Pascale Duc for Clubic

3. Uninstall the software

To uninstall the app, you have two options. The first is only available for software that was installed via the AppStore.

First possibility:

Click on the app and hold until a cross appears.

mac launcher cross removal

The cross appears in the launcher © Pascale Duc for Clubic

Click on the cross.

click cross launcher

Click on the cross in the launcher © Pascale Duc for Clubic

The system asks you to confirm the deletion of the app. Click “Delete”.

launchpad removal

Deletion from the launchpad © Pascale Duc for Clubic

Second possibility:

From Launchpad, drag the app icon directly to the Trash.

mac drag trash

Drag the app to the Mac trash © Pascale Duc for Clubic

Here too you are asked to confirm the deletion. Do this by clicking “Delete”.

confirmation mac removal

Deletion confirmation © Pascale Duc for Clubic

Uninstall an app on Mac using Finder

1. Navigate to the app you want to uninstall

From the dock, open the finder.

finder

Finder © Pascale Duc for Clubic

  • Click on the “Applications” folder.
applications folder

Applications folder © Pascale Duc for Clubic

2. Uninstall the app

  • Select the app to uninstall.
app to uninstall

Mac app to uninstall © Pascale Duc for Clubic

  • Drag its icon to the trash.
drag mac trash

Drag to trash © Pascale Duc for Clubic

  • Enter the administrator password and confirm with “OK”.
mdp admin mac

Administrator identification © Pascale Duc for Clubic

Uninstall an app on Mac with an external tool

There are several programs designed to uninstall software on a Mac. Among them, we can note, among others, AppCleaner, which is free and very easy to use.

1. Install and launch AppCleaner

  • After downloading and unzipping it, double-click on the AppCleaner app.

launch app cleaner

Launch AppCleaner © Pascale Duc for Clubic

The AppCleaner window opens.

appcleaner

AppCleaner © Pascale Duc for Clubic

2. Uninstall the desired app

From the finder, go to the “Applications” folder.

mac applications folder

Applications folder © Pascale Duc for Clubic

Drag the app icon to the AppCleaner window.

appcleaner

Appcleaner © Pascale Duc for Clubic

AppCleaner shows you all the files affected by the software to uninstall.

You can select the ones you want to delete and click “Delete”.

appcleaner removal

Appcleaner, file deletion © Pascale Duc for Clubic

Enter your administrator password and click OK to validate the deletion.

appcleaner removal

Confirmation of deletion © Pascale Duc for Clubic

NB: with other methods, some residual files may remain on the Mac. AppCleaner, on the other hand, uninstalls the app and cleans all files in a single operation.

Manually delete unnecessary files after uninstallation on Mac

Even after uninstallation, some files related to the deleted app may remain on the Mac. Unless you have used a tool such as AppCleaner, you must delete these files by hand. In our example, the residual files are those of the TunnelBlick application.

All the files that we suggest you delete are not systematically present, they depend on the uninstalled app!

1. Go to your user’s “Library” folder

This folder is hidden by default.

To access it, open the finder from the dock.

Mac Finder

Finder © Pascale Duc for Clubic

Click “Go”.

Finder Go

Finder/Go © Pascale Duc for Clubic

The user’s library being hidden, you must press the Alt key to reveal the button which allows access to it, between “Start” and “Computer”.

mac hidden library

Hidden user library © Pascale Duc for Clubic

2. Find and delete residual files

In the user’s library, open the “Preferences” folder.

mac user preferences

User Preferences folder © Pascale Duc for Clubic

In the “Preferences” folder, find the file corresponding to the uninstalled app and drag it into the trash.

delete mac file

File to delete © Pascale Duc for Clubic

In the User Library, open the “Application Support” folder.

mac support app

Support Application File © Pascale Duc for Clubic

Identify the folder corresponding to the deleted software and drag it to the Trash.

drag to mac trash

Drag the file to the trash © Pascale Duc for Clubic

The same procedure is to be carried out, if necessary, with the “PreferencePanes” folder.

preferencepanes mac

PreferencePanes file © Pascale Duc for Clubic

As we have seen, if you miss the “Add/Remove Programs” function, available on Windows, on Mac, several solutions exist. However, as is the case with most operating systems, residual files may remain after uninstallation. For this, careful manual removal is always possible, but you can also use a dedicated application, which will take care of the uninstallation and cleaning after the fact.

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