Avast Academy Performance Software How to Uninstall Apps on a Mac

How to Uninstall Apps on a Mac

Uninstalling programs on a Mac requires more than simply dragging them into the Trash. In this article, we’ll show you how to permanently delete apps on Mac — along with their corresponding files and other digital leftovers — so they’re truly gone. Learn the manual steps or do it automatically with a dedicated Mac optimization tool right here.

Written by Nica Latto
Published on January 7, 2021
Reviewed by Sandro Villinger

Manually delete apps on a Mac

Whether you want to free up space or just streamline your machine and keep it more organized, learning how to uninstall apps on a Mac properly is a helpful skill for any Apple user. And though it’s a good first step, if you want to permanently uninstall an app on Mac, you can’t just drag its icon to the Trash, unfortunately.

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    Putting the app in the Trash alone does not remove all the other service files that come bundled with the app: cache files, temporary files the app needs to run, installation files, preferences, saved states, containers, and so on. 

    It can be hard to uncover all of those files from where they’re hiding on your system. But if you want to be a Mac detective, we can help you sleuth out most of them.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to remove unwanted apps from your Mac:

    1. Open Finder and select Applications.

      The applications folder in macOS Catalina.
    2. Select the app you want to uninstall and either drag it to the Trash or select Move to Trash.

      The applications folder, with the application menu open, in macOS Catalina.
    3. Now you need to remove the app’s residual files. To do this, open up the Library, which Apple keeps a bit hidden. To find your Library, hold down command and the space bar to open up Spotlight Search. Then enter “Library” and open the folder.

      Opening up the Mac Library using Spotlight Search.
    4. Now you can search the Library for any leftover files. Type the app’s name into the search field to see if there are any leftover files scattered across different folders.

      Searching Library to find an app's left over files.
    5. More advanced users probably know that the Library houses lots of folders, many of which contain leftover app data and service files.

      To more thoroughly search for leftover files, check the following subfolders in the Library to find any lingering app remains: Application Scripts, Application Support, Caches, Containers, Cookies, Logs, and Preferences. Just be careful not to delete anything other than leftover app data, because you could break something by deleting other essential files in your Library.

      All the Library subfolders which might contain leftover app data.
    6. Move all the leftover app files you can find to the Trash.

    7. And don’t forget to empty the Trash.

    Delete Mac programs using provided uninstallers

    If you download apps from the internet, they might come with a built-in uninstaller from the developer. These uninstallers don’t show up in the Applications folder, so you have to look in Spotlight Search to see if it’s an option. Here’s how to use a developer-provided uninstaller if one is available for the app you want to delete.

    1. Hold down command and the space bar and enter “uninstall” to see what options you have.

      Searching for developer provided uninstallers in Spotlight Search.
    2. Open the uninstaller.

    3. Click Uninstall

      An uninstaller for Cisco AnyConnect.

    The uninstaller will now remove the app and some of its corresponding files and leftover data — but uninstallers aren’t always very thorough. To truly root out all the digital leftovers, you’ll need to either hunt around in the Library (see steps 3-7 in the section above) or use a dedicated cleanup app.

    Uninstall programs from Mac with an optimization tool

    Fiddling around with the Mac Library, where you risk breaking something if you’re not careful, can be a bit daunting. That’s where a specialized Mac cleaning tool comes in — it can help you uninstall apps safely and easily:

    1. Download Avast Cleanup for Mac.

    2. Open the app and follow the setup instructions.

    3. Under Uninstall apps, click show.

      The home screen for Avast Cleanup shows that you can clean clutter, find duplicates, find photos, and uninstall apps.
    4. Avast Cleanup will quickly scan and analyze all the apps you have.

      Avast Cleanup quickly scanning to find all apps on your system.
    5. To help make the deletion process quick and easy, Avast Cleanup creates three buckets for your apps: apps you use, unused apps, and your largest programs. Sort through each bucket and tick the boxes for all the apps you want to remove. Then click Uninstall.

      Avast Cleanup shows you a breakdown of your apps: commonly used, uncommonly used, and large.
    6. A window will appear asking you to confirm that you want to uninstall these programs. To confirm, click uninstall.

      The confirmation screen before deleting an app in Avast Cleanup.
    7. Avast Cleanup will quickly delete all the apps you chose, including — crucially — all of their service files, hidden logs, and other leftover files.

      The confirmation screen showing that an app has been removed using Avast Cleanup.

    And that’s it! Avast Cleanup is the fastest and most thorough way to clean up your Mac and permanently get rid of Mac apps and all their scattered leftover files.

    Do I really need to remove apps from Mac?

    What’s wrong with letting old apps hang around on your hard drive? Shouldn’t you keep old apps around, in case you ever want to use them again? Actually, a lot can go wrong when old apps linger in your system:

    • Cluttered machine: Keeping old apps, along with their unnecessary junk files, can eat up your storage space. If your hard disk gets really full, this can cause slowdowns and crashes. That’s why removing apps is a nice way to tidy up and streamline your Mac — and a cleaner Mac generally makes for a faster Mac, too.

    • Security risks: Old apps you never use can become security risks if you don’t keep them updated. Developers issue updates to plug security holes. If these vulnerabilities are left open to exploit, they can become entry points that hackers can use to infect your computer. (Yes, Macs can get malware infections just like Windows machines do.) No one wants to update apps they don’t use, so just remove them instead.

    • Wasted resources: Some apps run silently in the background, even if you haven’t opened them in a long time. These background processes can eat up your CPU power and RAM. Deleting the app will free up resources for what you actually care about.

    • Inability to download a new version of an app: Some new apps won’t work properly if you have an old version of them on your hard drive. In such cases, you’ll need to uninstall the old Mac app and start with a clean slate.

    Deleting old apps you no longer use is just one part of regular Mac maintenance. To keep your Apple machine running optimally, you should also periodically:

    Clean and optimize your Mac the easy way

    If you’re not sure how to begin manually uninstalling apps and cleaning your computer, you can let a dedicated tool handle the work for you. 

    With Avast Cleanup for Mac you’ll get automatic maintenance that cleans and optimizes your hard drive, uninstalls apps easily, and gets rid of temporary files when they’re no longer needed. Plus, our specially built-in photo cleaner feature will find all of your duplicate and blurry photos so you can delete what you don’t want and free up tons of space.

    Download Avast Cleanup today and turn your computer into a lean, mean, Mac machine.

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    Nica Latto