How to uninstall macOS applications

Mac application FAQ: How do I uninstall macOS applications?

If you've come to the Mac from Microsoft Windows, you're probably used to having some sort of "application uninstall" process for removing a software application from your computer. On the Mac, things are a little different, but actually easier, once you see how it works.

The Mac application uninstall short story

For most users and Mac applications, if you want to uninstall a macOS application, all you have to do is drag the application icon to the Trash. That's it, that's the Mac application uninstall process.

After that, you can empty the Trash now, or at some point in the future. (I even helped a friend get a Mac application out of the trash when a child had deleted it by accident.)

While this Mac application uninstall process is very simple, it can end up leaving a few bits of the application on your hard drive. If that concerns you, read on for more details.

The longer Mac uninstall application story

The first part of the longer answer is that when you do this, my experience has been that your Mac may still think the Mac application is still on your system, at least for a little while.

For example, every time I right-clicked on a file, a Mac application named Aatrix Top Pay Canada kept showing up in the "Open With..." list of available applications. After digging through the Applications folder I found that this application came with a demo version of QuickBooks. So I deleted Aatrix, then right-clicked an icon just to test ... and it was still in the "Open With..." list. However, when I right-clicked the same icon 10 minutes later Aatrix was gone. I don't know how this works -- what that delay was about -- but it was gone.

Uninstalling MacOS applications & application preferences and data

The second part of the longer answer is that some Mac applications are harder to get rid of. If I remember right, BBEdit and TacoHTML took more work to get rid of. I deleted their application icons, but they kept showing up when I right-clicked on files. After reading several postings I dug around through these directories and deleted all references to those two Mac applications:

  • /Users/Alvin/Library/Application Support
  • /Users/Alvin/Library/Caches
  • /Users/Alvin/Library/Documentation
  • /Users/Alvin/Library/Preferences

(I should mention that my name is Alvin. Unless your name is Alvin, your directory name will be different, lol.)

I also looked in these folders at the system level:

  • /Library/Application Support
  • /Library/Caches
  • /Library/Preferences

It's been a while now since I deleted those, and I don't remember all the details, but I think most of the leftover crud was in /Users/Alvin/Library/Preferences.

I think this is rare, though. Usually all you have to do is delete the application icon. But if that doesn't work there may be other files laying around. As usual, just be really careful when you delete things like this. If you have any question about deleting one of these files don't do it, and find someone near you that can help.

My next mission is to figure out where that "Open With..." list of programs comes from when you right-click a file. I hope to have an answer on that soon.

Summary: Uninstalling MacOS applications

I hope this "Mac application uninstall" tip has been helpful. As mentioned, for most casual users, just dragging the Mac application icon to the Trash is usually all you need to do. But if you like to keep your system really clean, you can follow the other Mac app uninstall steps shown here as well.