How to Uninstall Apps on Mac — Easy Steps for Efficient Cleanup

BY Stephen Gicharu

Published 30 May 2024

Struggling with clutter on your Mac? Discover How to Uninstall Apps on Mac with our simple, step-by-step guide for a swift and efficient cleanup. 

Whether you’re looking to free up space or streamline your system, our easy-to-follow instructions will help you remove unwanted applications in no time. 

Say goodbye to clutter and hello to a smoother, faster Mac experience!

Delete Apps from the Applications Folder

One of the methods to uninstall apps on your Mac is to remove them from the Applications folder.

This approach is suitable for most programs. You can uninstall Mac apps you’ve downloaded and installed from the internet or other sources.

Using Finder to Uninstall Apps on Mac

Finder, the built-in file manager in macOS, provides a convenient way to locate and delete apps. Follow these simple steps:

  1. You can Open the Finder by clicking on the finder icon in the Menu bar (it looks like a half-blue, half-grey smiley) or by using the keyboard shortcut Command + Space and typing “Finder.”
  2. In the Finder window, navigate to the Applications folder, typically in the Sidebar, or by selecting “Go > Applications” from the menu bar.
  3. Locate the app you wish to uninstall and drag the app to the trash can at the end of the Dock.
  4. Once you put the app in the Trash, right-click (or control-click) on the Trash icon and select “Empty Trash” to permanently remove the application from your Mac.

Alternatively, you can select the program in the Applications folder. To delete an app, right-click (or control-click) on its icon and choose “Move to Trash” from the contextual menu.

Using Launchpad to Uninstall Apps on the Mac App Store

Launchpad app, a feature introduced in macOS Lion, provides a way to manage and uninstall apps from the App Store or other sources. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Open the Launchpad icon in the Dock or use the keyboard shortcut Command + Space and type “Launchpad.”
  2. In the Launchpad window, locate the app you want to delete.
  3. Press the Option key on your keyboard, and the app icons will jiggle.
  4. Click the “X” button in the top-left corner of the app icon to delete apps.
  5. Click “delete” to confirm deletion in the pop-up window.

Once the program is uninstalled, you can click on any space to stop the icons from jiggling.

Uninstall Apps on Mac with Third-Party Uninstallers

Some programs may leave residual files and settings that can clutter your system.

Third-party uninstallers can be a valuable tool for thoroughly removing all associated files.

What are Third-Party Uninstallers?

Third-party uninstallers are software applications you download that remove apps and their files from your Mac.

These tools often scan your system for files, preferences, caches, and other related data. This allows you to delete them with a single click.

Benefits of Third-Party Uninstallers

Using a third-party uninstaller offers several advantages:

  • Thorough Removal: These tools locate and remove all files associated with a program. This includes hidden or system-level files that may be difficult to find when you remove programs.
  • Convenience: Uninstallers provide a process for removing multiple apps on a press command.
  • System Optimization: A third-party uninstaller tool can help optimize your Mac’s performance and storage capacity. It completely removes files and frees up disk space.

Recommended Uninstallers to Uninstall Apps on Mac

There are several popular third-party uninstallers available for Mac users. Here are a few recommended options:

  1. AppCleaner: This free and user-friendly tool allows you to drag and drop apps onto its interface. It displays all associated files for easy removal.
  2. CleanMyMac X: Developed by MacPaw, CleanMyMac X is a comprehensive suite of tools. It includes an Uninstaller module for thorough app removal and other optimization features.
  3. AppZapper: AppZapper is a potent and intuitive uninstaller that scans your system for related files. It allows you to review and remove them selectively.

How to Use a Third-Party Uninstaller to Uninstall Apps on Mac

Here’s a general outline of how to use a third-party app uninstaller:

  1. Download and install the uninstaller from the developer’s website or the App Store.
  2. Launch the application.
  3. Locate the app to remove from the list of applications or drag its icon onto the uninstaller’s interface.
  4. Review the files and folders it identifies for removal.
  5. Select the files and folders you want and press command delete, or choose to remove everything.
  6. Confirm the removal process; it will delete the program and its associated files.

Manually Deleting App Residual Files

Sometimes, you may need to manually locate and delete orphan files left behind after uninstalling an app.

This can be particularly useful when dealing with stubborn apps or if you prefer a more hands-on approach.

What Are Residual Files?

Residual files are the leftover data, preferences, caches, support files, and other files an app creates during installation and usage.

These files can remain on your system even after uninstalling the app, taking up valuable storage space and potentially causing conflicts or performance issues.

Uninstall Apps on Mac By Finding and Deleting Residual Files

To manually delete residual files, you’ll need to navigate to specific folders on your Mac where these files are typically stored. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Open the Finder window and navigate to the following folders:
    • ~/Library/Application Support/
    • ~/Library/Preferences/
    • ~/Library/Caches/
    • ~/Library/Containers/
    • ~/Library/Saved Application State/
    • /Library/Application Support/
    • /Library/Preferences/
    • /Library/Caches/
  2. Within each folder, search for files or subfolders associated with the app you’ve uninstalled. These files may have the app’s name or a similar identifier in their names.
  3. Once you’ve located the residual files, drag them to the Trash or right-click (or control-click) to the upper left corner and select “Move to Trash.”
  4. After removing all residual files, right-click (or control-click) on the Trash icon in the Dock and select the empty button to delete the files permanently from your Mac.

Using Terminal for Advanced Users

Advanced users comfortable with the command line can use Terminal to locate and remove residual files more efficiently. Here’s a basic command to get you started:

  1. Open the Terminal and type ‘sudo rm -rf’. Next, drag the app you want to remove from Finder to Terminal, which will input the app’s location for you.
  2. Press Enter to run the command. Terminal might ask for your admin password; enter it to continue with the removal.
  3. After running the command, check the Applications folder to confirm the app is deleted, and use Finder to look for any remaining files.

However, it is important to exercise caution when using Terminal, as deleting the wrong files can cause system instability or data loss.

Uninstalling System Apps and Built-in Software

macOS Sonoma comes preinstalled with downloaded system apps and built-in software essential for the operating system’s functionality.

While it’s generally not recommended to completely uninstall these apps, as they can be crucial for system operations, there may be instances where you want to remove or disable them.

What Are System Apps?

System apps are applications that are pre-installed by Apple and are deeply integrated into the macOS operating system.

Examples of system apps include Safari, Mail, Notes, and FaceTime. These apps are designed to work seamlessly with the operating system and provide core functionality.

Risks and Considerations

Uninstalling system apps or built-in software can lead to system instability, compatibility issues, or even data loss.

It’s important to exercise caution and understand the risks before removing these apps.

How to Disable or Hide System Apps

While it’s generally not advisable to uninstall system apps completely, you can turn off basic apps or hide them if you don’t plan on using them. Here’s how:

  1. Open Terminal by searching for it in Spotlight or navigating to “Applications > Utilities > Terminal.”
  2. In the Terminal window, enter the following command to turn off a system app (replace app name with the name of the app to disable):
  3. sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
  4. This command will prevent the specified app from launching automatically.
  5. To re-enable the app, use the following command:
  6. sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

Alternatively, consider hiding system apps from your Dock or Launchpad if you don’t plan on using them frequently.

This can be done by right-clicking (or control-clicking) on the app’s icon and selecting “Options > Remove from Dock” or “Options > Keep in Dock.”

Troubleshooting Common Issues

While uninstalling apps on your Mac is generally straightforward, you may encounter certain issues or challenges along the way. Here are some common problems and their potential solutions:

App Doesn’t Appear in Applications Folder or Launchpad

If an app you want to uninstall doesn’t appear in the downloads folder or Launchpad, it may be because it was installed in a different location or is a system app.

In such cases, you can try the following:

  1. Use Spotlight (accessed by pressing Command + Space) to search for the app’s name and press return. If the app appears in the search results, you can control-click it and select “Show in Finder” to locate its installation directory.
  2. Check the ~/Applications folder, a common location for user-installed apps.
  3. If the app is a system or built-in software, refer to the “Uninstalling System Apps and Built-in Software” section for guidance.

Error Messages When Uninstalling

Sometimes, you may encounter error messages when attempting to uninstall an app. Here are some common error messages and their potential solutions:

  1. “The operation can’t be completed because the item is in use.” This error occurs when the app you’re trying to uninstall is running. Quit the app and try again.
  2. “You don’t have permission to delete this file”: This error indicates that the app or its associated files are protected by system permissions. Try uninstalling the app using an administrator account or a third-party uninstaller with elevated privileges.
  3. “The item could not be moved to the Trash because it is locked”: This error can occur if the app or its files are locked by the system or another process. Try restarting your Mac and attempting the uninstallation again.

App Reappears After Deletion

Sometimes, you may find that an uninstalled app reappears after a system update or a software reinstallation.

This can happen if the app is bundled with the operating system or if its associated files still need to be removed entirely during uninstallation.

To resolve this issue, you can try the following:

  1. Use a third-party uninstaller to thoroughly remove all associated files and preferences.
  2. Manually locate and delete any remaining residual files or folders related to the app.
  3. If the app is a system or built-in software, consider disabling or hiding it instead of attempting to uninstall it completely.

Dealing with Stubborn Apps

Some apps can be stubborn and resist uninstallation efforts, even using third-party uninstallers or manual methods.

In such cases, you may need to take additional steps to ensure a complete removal.

Identifying Apps That Won’t Uninstall Easily

Apps that are deeply integrated into the system, have complex installations or are bundled with other software can be more challenging to uninstall.

Examples of such apps include Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office, and certain antivirus or security software.

Force Quitting Apps Before Uninstalling

If an app refuses to uninstall, try force quitting it first. This can help break any active connections or processes preventing the uninstallation.

  1. Open the Force Quit Applications window by pressing Command + Option + Esc.
  2. Select quit on the app you want to force quit and click “Force Quit.”
  3. After the app has been forced to quit, try uninstalling it again using your preferred method.

Using Safe Mode to Uninstall Apps

Safe Mode is a diagnostic mode in macOS that loads only the essential system components and software, bypassing any third-party kernel extensions or startup items. Uninstalling an app in Safe Mode can sometimes resolve stubborn issues.

  1. Restart your Mac and immediately press and hold the Shift key until you see the login window.
  2. Log in to your account, and your Mac will boot into Safe Mode.
  3. Attempt to uninstall the stubborn app using your preferred method.
  4. After the uninstallation, restart your Mac normally to exit Safe Mode.

Cleaning Up Leftover Files

Even after successfully uninstalling an app, some files or folders may be scattered across your Mac’s file system.

These residual files can accumulate over time, taking up valuable storage space and potentially causing performance issues or conflicts with other apps.

Identifying Leftover Files and Folders

These orphan files and folders can be found in various locations on your Mac, including:

  • ~/Library/Application Support/
  • ~/Library/Preferences/
  • ~/Library/Caches/
  • ~/Library/Containers/
  • ~/Library/Saved Application State/
  • /Library/Application Support/
  • /Library/Preferences/
  • /Library/Caches/

These folders often contain app-specific files, preferences, caches, and other data that may have been left behind after uninstallation.

Manual Cleanup Steps

To manually clean up files and folders, follow these steps:

  1. Open Finder and navigate to the folders listed above.
  2. Search for files or folders associated with the app you’ve uninstalled. These files may have the app’s name or a similar identifier in their names.
  3. Once you’ve located the files, drag them to the Trash or control-click and select “Move to Trash.”
  4. After you’ve removed all leftover files, control-click on the Trash icon or delete button in the Dock and select “Empty Trash” to permanently delete the files from your Mac.

Using Cleanup Tools for Thorough Removal

While manual cleanup can be effective, it can also be time-consuming and potentially miss hidden or system-level files.

You can use dedicated cleanup tools or utilities to remove files you want to delete more thoroughly.

Some popular cleanup tools for Mac include:

  1. CleanMyMac X: This comprehensive utility suite includes a “Leftovers” feature that scans your system for residual files and allows you to remove them with a few clicks.
  2. AppZapper: In addition to its uninstallation capabilities, AppZapper also includes a “Zap” feature that locates and removes leftover files associated with uninstalled programs.
  3. AppCleaner: While primarily an uninstaller, AppCleaner also offers the option to search for and remove leftover files after uninstalling an app.

These tools can save you time and effort by automating locating and removing files, ensuring a more thorough cleanup of your Mac’s file system.

Common Reasons for Uninstalling Apps on a Mac

You might want to uninstall programs from your Mac for various reasons. Here are some common scenarios:

Performance Optimization

Over time, as you install and use different apps, your Mac’s performance can suffer due to resource consumption, conflicts, or bloated system files. Uninstalling unused or unnecessary programs can help free up system resources, improving overall performance and responsiveness.


Sometimes, you may find yourself with multiple programs that serve similar purposes. Uninstalling redundant apps can help declutter your Mac and streamline your workflow.

Software Issues

Occasionally, you may encounter bugs, compatibility issues, or other software-related problems. In such cases, uninstalling and reinstalling the app can help resolve the issues.

Security and Privacy

If you have concerns about an app’s security or privacy practices, uninstalling it can be a proactive step to protect your data and system.

Updates and Maintenance

When new versions of programs are released, you may need to uninstall the older version before installing the update.

This can help ensure compatibility and prevent conflicts between different versions of the same app.

Personal Preferences

Sometimes, you may outgrow an app or find that it no longer aligns with your needs or preferences. Uninstalling it can help declutter your Mac and make room for more relevant programs.

Tips for Keeping Your Mac Clean

Maintaining a clean and organized Mac can improve its performance and enhance your overall user experience. Here are some tips to help you keep your Mac clutter-free:

Regularly Review Installed Apps

Make it a habit to review the apps installed on your Mac periodically. Identify any unused or redundant apps and uninstall them using the methods outlined in this guide. This simple practice can help prevent unnecessary clutter from accumulating over time.

Use Built-in Storage Management Tools

macOS includes built-in storage management tools to help you identify and remove unnecessary files, including leftover app data.

The “Storage Management” feature in the “About This Mac” window overviews your disk usage and suggests ways to free up space.

Best Practices for App Management

Adopt best practices for app management to keep your Mac organized and efficient:

  • Research apps on the App Store thoroughly before installing them to ensure they align with your needs and are from reputable sources.
  • Uninstall apps you no longer use or need, following the onscreen instructions to ensure a complete removal.
  • Keep your apps up-to-date by regularly checking for and installing updates from trusted sources.
  • Consider using your own uninstaller app management tool to streamline installing, updating, and removing apps.

Final Note on How to Uninstall Apps on Mac

Uninstalling programs on your Mac is essential for maintaining a clutter-free and optimized computing environment. 

By following the methods outlined in this guide, such as using the delete button to remove apps from the menu bar and pressing Command + Delete on any app, you can effectively remove unwanted applications. 

This applies whether the apps were installed from the Mac App Store, downloaded from the internet, or came pre-installed with your Mac.

Regularly reviewing and removing unnecessary applications can be a best practice for app management, helping to keep your Mac running smoothly and efficiently. A proactive approach to app management can ensure a clutter-free disk image and an enjoyable computing experience for years to come.