How to uninstall Mac software properly and remove all traces

How to uninstall software properly on the Apple Mac and remove all traces leaving nothing behind -

The standard advice to someone wanting to uninstall an app on the Apple Mac is to drag it to the Trash and the job’s done. I will show six different cases where that is bad advice.

Mac users often point out the simplicity of the way OS X (or macOS) handles software, and how easy it is to uninstall it when you no longer want it. They say, open the Applications folder and click and drag the app to the Trash icon in the Dock. That is much simpler and easier than Windows.

This simple technique for uninstalling apps is true only some of the time and it can also get you into trouble, leaving behind files and even causing problems because of items left behind.

1 The installer

To uninstall some software you have to run the installer. That is counter-intuitive and you want to uninstall it, not install it. Yet some installers include an uninstaller. Here is an example - Intego Mac Internet Security X9.

Uninstall Mac Internet Security X9

You must keep the .dmg file that you originally downloaded because when you want to uninstall the software, you must open the .dmg, run the installer and then select the uninstaller. It is not exactly logical.

2 Uninstaller utility

Some applications provide a separate installer and uninstaller. When you open the VirtualBox .dmg download, the installer is VirtualBox.pkg and the uninstaller is VirtualBox_Uninstall.tool. It is easy to miss the uninstaller in the bottom right corner. Drag it to the Applications folder after installing VirtualBox so you don’t lose it.

Uninstall VirtualBox using the uninstaller utility

3 Hidden uninstaller

Now here is probably the weirdest uninstaller of them all. If you have iDrive, the online storage/backup service, and you want to remove the software you will never guess how you do it.

You open the Applications folder, Ctrl+click the iDrive app and select Show Package Contents. Mac apps look like they are a single executable file, but they aren’t. They are really folders and you can open them by right clicking.

Open the iDrive package, then open the Contents folder, open the MacOS folder, and there is

Uninstall iDrive on the Apple Mac

Never in a million years would the average Mac user think of looking there!

4 Use the menu

Some applications have an uninstall option on one of the menus. It could be on the main app menu, the help menu, or hidden away on some other menu. Here is OnyX and the uninstall option is on the Help menu.

Uninstall OnyX on the Apple Mac

5 Download the uninstaller

Some software companies provide an uninstaller that you can download from their website. Drag Parallels Desktop to the Trash and it will remove the app, but this will also leave behind lots of files.

Fortunately, there is a downloadable Parallels Uninstaller app. Unzip it and run it. It deletes the app and all its files (not your virtual machines).

Download the uninstaller for Parallels Desktop

6 Check the preferences

Uninstallers for Mac apps can be hidden anywhere and you really have to serch hard for them. Disk Drill is yet another example of an uninstaller hidden where you probably would not think to look. You have to open the app, go to the Disk Drill menu and select Preferences. There in the General tab is the uninstaller.

How to uninstall Disk Drill app on the Apple Mac

These are just a few examples and there may be more ways to uninstall apps.

With so many different methods, what advice can be given about uninstalling software on the Apple Mac? Google the app using a search term like “uninstall”.

There is no standard method to uninstall software and dragging an app to the Trash may or may not work. At best it might leave junk files on the disk, but it could lead to trouble because of half removed software.

So much for the Mac being simpler than Windows. At least Windows puts all uninstallers in one place. They could be anywhere on the Mac.



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