How to Uninstall Mac Applications

Uninstalling applications from Mac OS X is probably the easiest method of removing apps from any operating system, and it’s far easier on a Mac than anything you’ll encounter in the Windows world. It’s so simple that some new Mac users are left wondering what else they’re supposed to do, I have received several family tech support questions where they are determined to find an “Uninstall Programs” control panel like in Windows – this is not the case on a Mac, it’s dead simple.
Uninstalling applications from Mac OS X is probably the easiest method of removing apps from any operating system, and it’s far easier on a Mac than anything you’ll encounter in the Windows world. It’s so simple that some new Mac users are left wondering what else they’re supposed to do, I have received several family tech support questions where they are determined to find an “Uninstall Programs” control panel like in Windows – this is not the case on a Mac, it’s dead simple.


First up we’ll cover the traditional method of just deleting the application. Then we’ll show you the even easier way that is new to modern versions of Mac OS, including OS X El Capitan, Yosemite, Mavericks, Lion, Mountain Lion, and beyond:

How to Uninstall Applications in Mac OS X the Classic Way

This is the same classic method of uninstalling a mac app that has been around since the dawn of the Mac. All you need to do is select and delete the application in the Finder, like so:
Go to the Finder in OS X if you haven’t done so already
Navigate to /Applications folder and select the app you want to uninstall
Either drag the application icon to the Trash, or right-click and select “Move to Trash”


    Uninstall a Mac Application by putting in Trash 

    Right-click on the Trash can and select “Empty Trash”

    Uninstalling an application on Mac OS X by moving it to the Trash and emptying it
If you prefer keystrokes, you can also just select the app icon and then hit Command+Delete to move the app to Trash, then empty the Trash and the app will be removed. 

This method of uninstalling apps works in quite literally all versions of Mac OS X, from modern releases like OS X El Capitan (10.11.x) and prior to Snow Leopard as well, going back to the earliest releases of Mac OS. Now let’s move onto Lion and onward, which makes uninstalling apps from the Mac App Store as simple as doing the same on the iPhone.

Uninstalling Apps from the Mac App Store through Launchpad

Despite the already incredibly simple app uninstall process on a Mac, Lion and Mountain Lion onward makes it even easier by taking the iOS method. This works on apps installed through the Mac App Store, but not for apps installed manually through third party developers
  • Open LaunchPad
  • Click and hold on the icon of the app you want to uninstall
  • When the app icon starts to jiggle, click on the black (X) icon that appears
  • Click on “Delete” to confirm the removal of the app
Uninstall a Mac App

You can also use the the drag-to-Trash method in Mac OS X, but LaunchPad is quickest for apps installed through the App Store
Using LaunchPad in Mac OS X 10.11, 10.10, 10.9, 10.7, 10.8, and newer does not require you to empty the Trash afterwards, it’s all handled immediately. This should be familiar to anyone who has used an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, since the interface and tap-and-hold method is identical to what is in iOS. This is yet another reason that upgrading to Lion is compelling, it makes the Mac experience even simpler while still retaining the full power and potential behind Mac OS X. Deleting apps from LaunchPad wil

Removing App Library Files, Caches, & Preferences

Some applications will also leave behind some preference files and caches, generally these don’t harm anything to leave around, but if you want to delete them it’s just a matter of locating the apps support files and removing those as well. If you’d rather not dig around in these files yourself, you can turn to a utility like AppCleaner to delete the application along with all of it’s respective scattered preference files, but for those who would like to do this on their own, you can typically found these type of files in the following locations.

Application Support files (can be anything from saved states, preferences, caches, temporary files, etc):
~/Library/Application Support/(App Name)
Preferences are stored at:
~/Library/Preferences/(App Name)
Caches are stored in:
~/Library/Caches/(App Name)
Sometimes you will need to look for the developer name rather than the application name, since not all app files are identified by their name.

Again, these generally don’t do any harm to leave be, but they can take up some hard drive space, so users with smaller SSD’s might want to be pay more attention to the cache and support files that some applications generate. The biggest offender here is Steam, where if you play a lot of games it tends to gather a very large Application Support folder.

Note about applications that include separate uninstaller utilities

This is somewhat rare on a Mac, but some applications include their own uninstaller apps to remove all traces of an application. These are typically from Adobe or Microsoft because some of those applications will install more apps that aid the program, or place library files and associated application dependencies elsewhere in OS X. For example, Adobe Photoshop might install the Photoshop application in addition to Stock Photos, Help Viewer, Adobe Bridge, and others. In this case, you can either manually delete all the accompanying apps, or just run the uninstaller application that comes on the original installation method, whether it’s from the web or a DVD. If the app you wish to uninstall does include a dedicated uninstaller application, it’s generally a good idea to go that official route of removing the app so that the other associated items are removed from the Mac as well.

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