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How to Uninstall on a Mac

Apple new MacBook
Apple unveils a new MacBook Air during an Apple launch event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Oct. 30, 2018 in New York City. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

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Removing programs from a Macintosh can be very easy. In many cases, all you have to do is drag the application's icon to the Trash. Sometimes, though, applications store the files they need to run in other locations on your computer's hard drive, and finding them can take some detective work. If you are used to the uninstall option in Windows, you have a little culture shock — macOS does not have this feature built in.

Why would you want to uninstall a program? For the same reason you occasionally tidy your office or clean your garage. Clutter breeds inefficiency. Applications take up space on your hard disk and can slow your computer. Also, a new version of a program may not work correctly unless you get rid of the old one [source: Ritchie].

Most of the time, uninstalling is this simple:

  1. Exit the program you want to delete.
  2. Open the Applications folder, which you'll find by opening a new window in the Finder, or clicking on the hard disk icon.
  3. Drag the icon of the program you want to uninstall to the Trash.
  4. Empty the Trash.

When files for the application you want to delete are all stored in one location, dragging the icon to the Trash will take care of most of the work. In Mac talk, apps like this are "bundled." To see the files in an application's bundle, click on its icon while holding down the Control key. You should see an option that says, "show package contents." Uninstalling applications downloaded from the Mac App Store is even easier — just delete the application from the Applications Folder and its accompanying folder in User\Library\Containers [source: Tanous].

For some other programs, removal is more complicated. When installed, these programs create files in several locations, often in the System Folder. The first step in removing them is to check the program's documentation to see if there is an uninstall utility. If your program has an uninstall utility associated with it, it may have been installed with the program or included on the disk that came with it. If you downloaded a disk image to install the software, sometimes you'll find an uninstaller there. Running an uninstall utility can make removing a program much easier.

You should be aware that removing an unbundled program by moving it into the Trash can leave behind orphan files on your computer. Preferencefiles are usually small and you might want to ignore them if you're just trying to free up disk space. Background files or support files can be larger, especially for multimedia programs like GarageBand [source: MacRumors]. These files are likely to reside in Library folders in your hard drive or Home folder. They will usually be labeled with the name of the program, like Office or Acrobat, or the developer, such as Microsoft or Adobe. You can search for the relevant names using Spotlight, which is included with the Mac OS. Drag the files you find to the trash to get rid of them [source: Tanous]. .

Check out the next page for tips to make your uninstallation go even more smoothly.

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