If searching through obscure corners of your computer for what could be hundreds of files sounds like something a machine could do better than you, you're right. There are plenty of software programs that do just that. They're usually your best bet for really cleaning an app off your Mac, and some of them are free. Popular examples include AppTrap, Appcleaner, AppZapper and RAW App Remover [source: Raw Computing].
Some of the files that a program might create on your hard disk are invisible. It may be tempting, especially for neat-freaks, to find and delete these files. But the reason any file is hidden on a Mac is because it may be essential to the computer's operating system. Deleting the wrong file could land you in deep trouble [source: cnet]. The best advice is not to go where even experienced techies fear to tread. Uninstall utilities can search out and destroy these files, but doing so on your own invites trouble.
Another important thing to do is empty your trash when you're finished uninstalling. Moving a program's icon to the trash doesn't actually remove the files from your hard disk or clear up any space. Only when you empty the trash is the application really gone.
Here are some other important tips:
- When you install a program, check to see how to uninstall it. Make a note if it has its own uninstall utility or instructions.
- Before you begin any uninstalling process, check to make sure your trash is empty or contains nothing you might want to save.
- Log on as your computer's administrator whenever you uninstall. If you're uninstalling at work and don't have administrator privileges, you'll have to consult with your tech people [source: Ritchie].
- If you opt for a third party uninstall utility, look at the features. Some developers charge for their software, but you may not need the bells and whistles. Free utilities can work fine.
- It often makes sense to leave preference files alone. If you ever reinstall the same software, you won't have to set the preferences.
- Suites of software from a developer, such as the Office suite from Microsoft, often share files. Be careful when removing the files of one component -- they may affect the others [source: The X Lab].
- If, after you remove a program, the icon is still in your dock, you can get rid of it by simply dragging it off the dock and letting it go [source: Tech-FAQ].
Removing software from your Mac is a lot less of a hassle than cleaning your office or garage. But clearing away computer clutter and making space on your hard disk can be just as satisfying.
- cnet. "Tutorial: Now you see 'em, now you don't: Invisible files in Mac OS X," cnet.com, May 19, 2004. (July 28, 2011) http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10344207-263.html
- MacRumors. "Uninstalling Applications in Mac OS X," MacRumors.com. (July 28, 2011) http://guides.macrumors.com/Uninstalling_Applications_in_Mac_OS_X
- Norton. "Removing all Symantec programs for Macintosh," Norton Support. (July 28, 2011) http://us.norton.com/support/kb/web_view.jsp?wv_type=public_web&docurl=20080427024142EN&ln=en_US
- Raw Computing. "Uninstall Mac OS X software properly," RawComputing.co. (July 28, 2011) http://www.rawcomputing.co.uk/macuninstall.html
- Ritchie, David. "How to Uninstall Mac Programs," TheMacLawyer.com, October 13, 2010. (July 28, 2011) http://www.themaclawyer.com/2010/10/articles/guest-posts/guest-post-how-to-uninstall-mac-programs/
- Tech-FAQ. "How to Uninstall Programs on a Mac," Tech-FAQ.com. (July 28, 2011) http://www.tech-faq.com/how-to-uninstall-programs-on-a-mac.html
- The X Lab. "Uninstalling applications," TheXLab.com. (July 28, 2011) http://www.thexlab.com/faqs/uninstallingapps.html