How To Fully Uninstall Mac Programs

How To Uninstall Mac Programs

If you have an OSX/Mac computer then you probably know how easy it is to uninstall programs. Simply dragging and dropping a file to the trash bin is all it takes with most programs, and that’s about as easy as it gets on any operating system ever. Unfortunately, not all developers want you to easily remove their software, and some of them try to leave files behind to remind you to reinstall it, or are just too lazy to set up everything so that it drags and drops to the trash when you’re done with it. In other cases, applications can save files to different parts of your Mac, which might not be removed with a simple uninstall. If you want to keep your Mac in good shape, keep unnecessary files off, and ensure that everything you uninstall is fully uninstalled, you can use the following steps.

Uninstalling Program Files

The first step to uninstalling a program is, of course, going to the Finder, clicking “Applications”, scrolling down to find the app you want, and then dragging it to the trash bin. This deletes most files, and is sufficient for deleting and fully uninstalling many programs. If you left click on this before dropping it in the trash and click “Show Package Contents” you can actually see everything that you are about to delete. Unfortunately, not all programs keep everything in one place, so you might have to go through and manually delete it. One of the easiest ways to check is using the search bar, but this won’t always help. Use the search bar in finder to search for the developer name and the program name, and if anything comes up, drag and drop that to the trash.

Library – Your Mac has two file locations named Library, and it is important to remove file extensions from both of them to fully uninstall your program.

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Hard Drive Library – Open Finder, Click on your Computer drive from the sidebar (should say “your name + your device with default Mac settings), and choose your hard drive (or your main drive if you use more than one). Click the arrow on the file to show additional folders, and then select “Library”. Look for the developer name or the program name, and then simply delete any folders you find with that name (unless you have other programs from the same developer). You can usually find files under the main Library folder, and then sometimes in folders inside of the Library folder. These can include Preferences, Startup Items, Application Support, Preference Panes, and Launch Items.

User Library – You can access your User Library by clicking on your device, scrolling down to ‘Users’ opening that, opening the user of choice, and then selecting “library’ from that. This Library can have app files stored in the same locations as the hard drive library.

Kernel Extensions and Hidden Files

Kernel Extensions and hidden files are typically left behind by programs that have to access the kernel, which typically means antivirus programs. Because most Apple apps don’t allow Kernel access, this shouldn’t be an issue, unless you’ve had Norton, MacKeeper, or another antivirus program on your computer. Some non-antivirus programs like printer software and syncing programs will create similar issues, but they are often difficult to fully delete because the files are non-standard and difficult to locate through normal means.

You can find these in the folder Systems/Library/Extensions, where you should look for the name of your program or the developer with the .kext ending. You can drag and drop these to the trash and reboot your computer to ensure that everything is still working properly, and that you don’t have to restore the file.

Why Do Some Apps Access the Kernel?

Any app that has to provide security or cleaning has to access the kernel in order to perform those functions. The kernel manages operating system requests, so most apps don’t need access, which means that the standard uninstaller does not remove Kernel access files. When you install an antivirus, it does access those files, because it has to send system requests.

Removing Kernel Access Files

Whether you’re using a new antivirus, hate your old one or just want to clean up your computer, removing these programs can be difficult. The first thing you should do is delete the program the normal way by going into Apps, finding it, and dragging it to the trash bin. This will delete most of the files, as well as the actual program.

Search – Use the Spotlight function to run a search for the name of the program to see what comes up. You might still have your initial download file, you might still have the uninstaller, and you might still have the actual program coming up. One consideration is that some programs install in multiple places, so you will have to drag each instance to the trash. You should also check for shortcuts on your desktop and your toolbar.

Once you’ve done that, search for the program developer, and repeat the process dragging all options to the trash (unless you have other software from the same company). For example, “Symantech”.


If you’re not sure you want to go through all of the steps to remove software manually, don’t worry. There are actually programs that can help you, the two most famous of which are Mackeeper and CleanMyMac. Both of these programs serve the sole purpose of keeping your Mac clean, but unfortunately, neither are free. If you want something free, the Mac version of CCleaner from Piriform is a good alternative and has a free version.

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About The Author
Proliferate writer, sesquipedalian, techie, Apple fangirl (don't judge),tree hugger, yogi, tea drinker, zombie hunter. Into philotherianism & philomathy. Love my job. Visit me on Google +

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