by Anthony 

May 30, 2022

According to Apple there are two recommended ways of uninstalling apps. If you downloaded the app from the AppStore chances are you can delete it from Launchpad by accessing Jiggle mode and clicking on the X in the corner of the app. You’ll notice, however, that not all apps have the option to be deleted from Launchpad. Some will not have an X.

Deleting apps from LuanchPad

Whether an app can or can’t be deleted from Launchpad seems to be based on whether it was installed from the App Store or from the internet. Apps from the App Store can be deleted from LaunchPad, whereas those downloaded and installed from the internet, cannot. 

Internet apps require Apple’s second recommended uninstall method which is to simply drag the app from the Applications folder to the trash can, and then empty the trash.

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The problem is that both these methods do a terrible job of removing all the files associated with a deleted application. Resulting in all sorts of random files being left on your Mac, clogging up space. 

Let me demonstrate this problem using this imaginatively named tool called App Cleaner and Uninstaller, which does an excellent job of locating all the files associated with an app and deleting them. 

For this example, I’ll delete an app called The Unarchiver, which I downloaded from the App Store. I’ll first delete it from Launchpad by long pressing on it to access Jiggle mode, and clicking on the X. If I now go back into App Cleaner and Uninstaller, and check Remaining Files, all of these files associated with The UnArchiver still remain on my computer. Remaining Files is a feature of App Cleaner and Uninstaller which  identifies the files left over after an application has been deleted.

Remaining files

It’s the same problem, using the trash can method. If I reinstall The UnArchiver and delete it again (this time by dragging it to the trash can), again I have files remaining that should have been deleted. If I didn’t know any better these files would just remain on my mac forevermore simply clogging up disk space. 

This may not be too much of an issue in this instance, since the remaining files don’t even add up to a megabyte in size. However, compare that to say GarageBand, which I deleted a while back because I never use it. Uninstalling Garageband using the Trash Can method left nearly 1Gig of files associated on my Mac. Just sat there using up valuable storage space.

Files left over after deleting garage band

So what is the solution? Well there are lots of 3rd party apps like App Cleaner & Uninstaller, which will delete apps properly. Another good alternative I’ve tested is CleanMyMac X by Macpaw. However, unfortunately, neither of these are free.

The free alternative I’ve been using for many years is called AppCleaner which you can download from freemacsoft.net. Once downloaded simply copy the app from Downloads into your Applications folder.  AppCleaner has a nice feature called Smart Delete that you can enable by going into the preferences.

Smart Delete in AppCleaner Preferences

Once enabled, whenever you drag an application to the trash can, AppCleaner is automatically activated. To ensure it finds all files and folders associated with an app you’ll need to allow it full disk access in the Security settings of System Preferences.

Full Disk Access on Mac

If you’re happy to pay for App Cleaner and Uninstaller, then you can do so from here for a one-time fee of 20 bucks. However, if you’d rather not pay, you can still download the app and use it for free. It will just mean the uninstall feature isn’t available but you can still use it to identify those extra application files that need deleting. You can then manually navigate to, and delete them, using Finder.

If the files that require deleting are located in your Library folder, you’ll need to ‘unhide’ the Library folder. You can temporarily do this by opening Finder, clicking on Go in the file menu and pressing the Alt key. You should then be able to navigate to folders such as Application Support, where a lot of the redundant files are located.

display library in Finder

With each file or folder that you delete, App Cleaner and Uninstaller will update its list of remaining files. It’s then just a matter of going through the list one by one until nothing of the deleted app remains.

Clearly this manual solution isn’t ideal and for the sake of $20 dollars, I’d prefer to just pay for App Cleaner and Uninstaller knowing it will uninstall everything correctly. However, I’ve been very happy and will continue using the free AppCleaner app. But, I recommend using the free version of App Cleaner and Uninstaller to at least see how many files are left-over on your mac from apps you’ve previously uninstalled and how much disk space you might be able to reclaim.

So that is how to uninstall apps on a Mac properly. If you found this post useful, you might also be interested in learning how to hide messages on iPhone or how to quickly convert images using Finder.

Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for lots more tips and tricks on all your favorite apps.

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