Uninstall apps on the Mac

After my recent issues with the Adobe AIR runtime component in OS X, I started thinking about the uninstallation of apps on the Mac in general.

Sure, it’s simple, right? Find the app in The Finder, drag it to the trash and **poof**, it’s gone. Except that it really isn’t.

Over on Windows, MS made developers include a uninstallation routine with the installer. Sure it was hit or miss until Windows XP, but it was still there. And, it was there for many reasons, least of which is that uninstalling applications in Windows without it is practically impossible unless you are the original developer of the app. There are folders. There are .dll files. There are registry entries. Log files. Mold, mildew and soap scum. When you install an app on Windows, it gets everywhere.

Not so on the Mac. You open the .dmg, drag the icon out and that’s it. Everything that app needs contained inside of a nice package.

Until you run the app.

Suddenly .plist files are created and stuck in one of 37 /library folders, buried 4 or 5 folders deep from there. But not just in 1 folder, in multiples. Places where I’m sure normal computer user folk would not dare to go. These are also files that, when you uninstall an app, **do not** get uninstalled. You might have noticed this if you unstalled an app, then reinstalled only to find that your settings are still there. I thought that was odd the first time it happened to me.

Sure there are apps that you can get for the Mac that will help you to uninstall applications, including getting rid of all of those pesky preference files. But should I have to pay $15 or so for this? Sure I could go through and start deleting preference files, but what if I delete the wrong one? I could mistakenly remove the files for Transmit when I thought I was removing transmission. That could be a serious nightmare for me. Made even worse by the fact that I’m not using Time Machine (but that’s for another post).

Just don’t think that when you drag an application icon to the trash that it’s all the way uninstalled. If you do want to make sure an application is 100% uninstalled, go over and _purchase_ AppZapper. That will do the geek stuff for you.

Speaking of the /library folder, is there a definitive guide that tells me what the difference between ~/ folders and / folders are? It would be keen if said guide also explained the hieroglyphics that are everywhere in this damned OS too. It’s been more than 2 years and I still don’t know which is which.

By Don

Lead bottle washer at donburnside.com, host at whiteroofradio.com and tech guru for the MotoringFile family of sites.


  1. /library is for all users.
    ~/library is for individual users.

    Basically they don’t make a difference if you don’t have multiple user accounts on your Mac.

  2. I found the same thing with regard to uninstalling a program on the Mac OS. I saw on CNET that there is a free application called ap cleaner (shareware). Try it, you might like it. BTW-new Clubman S owner and I love my car! Thanks for MotoringFile!

    1. thanks for stopping by Anthony! I will check out that app for sure.

      No thanks needed for Motoringfile. But really, the thanks should go to Gabe. I just help out there.

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