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One of my favourite parts of using a Mac is how easy it is to uninstall a program. On a Windows computer, uninstalling often involves opening up “Programs & Features“, clicking the program, waiting patiently for the program to uninstall, and then having webpages opening up, asking me why I uninstalled the app (where’s the “none of your business” option?).

Today, we will go over the super-simple way of uninstalling a program from your Mac, before moving on to mass uninstallers and bloatware. If you love recovering hard drive space, the fun times are about to start.

The Dead Simple Way

As always, I like to start with the dead simple way, because who doesn’t like easy, right? In fact, this is so easy that you will probably wonder why we even bothered mentioning it.

Say for example you would like to uninstall VLC Player from your Mac — here’s how you would go about it.

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Go to the Applications folder and find the VLC icon. This is the installed program. The first thing you would need to check though is whether or not the program is closed. If you have it running, you can’t uninstall it. So close it first.

Then with your mouse or trackpad, drag the program’s icon from Applications to the Trash. Depending on the user permissions you have set for yourself, you may need to enter a password to proceed with the uninstallation. Once the program has been fully moved to the Trash, empty the trash can. Job done!

“But…what about the Registry?!” you may cry out. That’s the nice thing about Macs. They don’t have a Registry! Instead, the preferences for each program are stored in the Preferences folder in the Library section, which you can find by opening a Finder window and pressing command+shift+g. This opens up the “Go To Folder” box, and then in the box, type /Library/Preferences/.

Each program has what is called a PList (Property List), which is a text file, containing your preferences. Since each file takes up a couple of kilobytes (if that), then there isn’t any real point removing them. But you can if you want to, for the sake of neatness.

Kernel Extensions

Kernel extensions are necessary for the operation of your Mac, therefore they should not be removed, unless you absolutely know what you are doing. Kernel Extensions are used by other apps to place settings panels within your OS X System Preferences.

If you feel confident, Kernel extensions are located in /System/Library/Extensions and have the extension .kext. Drag the files you feel need deleting to the desktop which will make a backup copy, then move the original to the trash. Don’t empty the trash yet – reboot and see if the computer is still running smoothly. If not, restore the file.

Hidden Files

To make things slightly more of a hassle, there are also hidden files on the system Hide & Find Any File On Mac OS X Hide & Find Any File On Mac OS X There's no straightforward way to quickly hide or reveal hidden files on Mac OS X as there is on Windows – but it is possible. Read More . These have a period (.) in front of the title, and they can be found by typing into Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles YES

then shut down Finder by typing :

sudo killall Finder

If Finder does not restart by itself, type into Terminal :

open /System/Library/CoreServices/Finder.app

You will then find the hidden files in their respective folders. But again, only delete if you know what you are doing. To make these hidden folders hidden once more, run the initial “AppleShowAllFiles” command above except change YES to NO.

Mass-Delete Apps From Mac OS X

Now it may be that you are an impatient soul, who needs to uninstall many programs quickly. No problem. Here are some programs that can help out with that.

AppCleaner (free)

AppCleaner is a small application which allows you to thoroughly uninstall unwanted apps. Simply drop an application onto the AppCleaner window. It will find for the related files and you can delete them by clicking the delete button.

AppDelete Lite ($3.99)

AppDelete Lite will help remove not only Applications but also Widgets, Preference Panes, Plugins, and Screensavers along with their associated files. You can drag any item that can be uninstalled onto AppDelete Lite: Applications, Widgets, Preference Panes, Plugins, Screensavers, etc.

Advanced Stuff

Uninstall Using The Command Line

This is probably where the regular guys and girls (like me) get nervous and start looking for a software solution. Something about the command line just seems to get people agitated, as if coughing on it will be enough to start a nuclear missile launch. Relax — I can happily report that using the command line for uninstalling apps is very easy.

Open up Terminal by going to Applications > Utilities > Terminal. Steady now, don’t hyperventilate.

Type the following:

sudo uninstall file://

Next, drag the app icon from Applications to the Terminal window. All this does is insert the path to the file into the Terminal window, so if you wanted to uninstall VLC player it would look like this :

sudo uninstall file:///Applications/vlc.app

Note the third slash before Applications. This is normal. Hit enter to send the command, insert your password and let Terminal do the work.

Bloatware

It isn’t just Windows computers that come complete with bloatware. Macs have bloatware too. So how easy or difficult is it to free up space on a Mac Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac Your Mac only has a limited amount of available disk space – even more so if you're using a laptop. It's time to fight back and free up some serious space. Read More ?

Safari

It is not recommended to remove Safari. To completely remove it, you will need to remove files which are needed for the Mac to work properly. Removing it is possible, but very risky. However, if you feel the overwhelming urge to get rid of the browser, this page will help you out.

GarageBand

It is much easier to remove GarageBand if you don’t need it, and it’s a great way to recover a few gigabytes of space. To remove it, navigate to the following folders and delete them. It is strongly recommended to make a (Time Machine) backup first in case disaster strikes.

  • Macintosh HD/Applications/GarageBand.app (1.16GB)
  • Macintosh HD/Library/Application Support/GarageBand (995MB)
  • Macintosh HD/Library/Application Support/Logic (880MB)
  • Macintosh HD/Library/Audio/Apple Loops (up to 10GB)

iMovie & iPhoto

These two can apparently be uninstalled using the drag and drop method, mentioned in the first section. Or for a more thorough uninstalling, use one of the software apps mentioned above, such as Appcleaner.

If you take a bit of extra time and do it properly, uninstalling unwanted apps from your Mac is a pretty simple affair.

Do you know of any other methods which would simplify the process even more?

Image Credit: Computer Freak – Shutterstock

  1. Johny Why
    November 9, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    "sudo uninstall file:///Applications/vlc.app"
    you don't say what that actually does. Does it delete preferences etc too?
    thx

  2. Glen McAllister
    July 5, 2016 at 3:15 am

    Your Terminal option (uninstall) doesn't seem to be available to me (no man entry or return on "which"). Does it require Developer Tools to be installed?

  3. Koen
    January 1, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    You still think this is easier than the Windows uninstall Panel? You must be kidding

    The obvious a lot of stuff that is easier on the Mac.

    Uninstalling programs is not one of them

    • Dave
      February 7, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Wow. If you think uninstalling in Windows is easier than right clicking on an app and choosing move to trash then please explain. I can't imagine anything easier other than doing it telepathically.

      • ArdoPullo
        February 16, 2016 at 10:18 pm

        He's right, for uninstalling Safari is an arduous task if you do not know how to use UNIX /Linux Commands at the Terminal. Mac OS X is not easier than Windows. to fully use either or at max potential, I would say OS X is harder, but it's more rewarding to be a master UNIX/Linux user than a master Windows user.

      • dan
        May 24, 2016 at 1:59 am

        WOW. If you actually think moving the app icon to the trash actually does something, you must also still believe in Santa an the tooth fairy.
        OS X uninstall process is a joke, just spent a few hours cleaning up an install. Such a waste of time. Give me windows uninstall process any day!

  4. kuro chan
    July 25, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    i need help, please, my mac have a box in a corner, it's ZABA search, i want to uninstall it but i can't because i don't find it! please how can i uninstall that program? somebody help me

    • Yuki
      August 25, 2015 at 5:37 am

      Try MacClean (http://www.imobie.com/macclean/), it has the app uninstaller in it and may help. Don't worry about the payment, it's a free program. Hope it works for you.

    • Yuki
      August 25, 2015 at 5:39 am

      Try MacClean. It has an app uninstaller in it and may help. Don't worry about the payment, it is a free program. Hope it works for you.

  5. Helen
    March 22, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Do these work for an Ipad. I got one (a4) because my daughter said it would be just what I want. I am having a heck of a time with it.

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 22, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      Deleting an app from an iPad is totally different. It's just a case of pressing long on the app icon, and when it starts shaking, press the X in the corner, and confirm the delete when it asks you.

      As for removing bloatware, such as iTunes and Safari, I am not 100% sure, but my gut tells me that it is impossible for iOS. For a start, iOS doesn't give you access to all of the installation files, like the Mac does.

  6. Mark O'Neill
    March 21, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Well......yes and no. Everyone likes to bash iTunes, and I agree that it is seriously bloated. Apple could bring out a lightweight version, just for playing media. But I think that iTunes remains the easiest way to back up iOS devices to iCloud or to your computer.

    Thanks for pointing out that I missed it in the article. I am seriously kicking myself for missing the obvious!! :-)

  7. likefunbutnot
    March 20, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    You missed the most important one, itunes. itunes is an abomination that should not be tolerated on any computer.

    What you basically need to do to make it go away is to set permissions on itunes in the Applications folder to Everyone Read and Write (chmod a+rw from the terminal). Once that's done, it comes off like any other piece of software filth.

    Yes, OSX works fine (I would say better) without it.

    • MK
      March 21, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      ditto on the itunes as cluster of crap. using swinsian, works great!
      http://swinsian.com/

    • Hildegerd
      March 23, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Thank you, I didn't know that.

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