How to Uninstall Mac Applications Without Leaving a Bunch of Junk Behind

The Mac operating system is elegant and simple, and the same goes for its process for installing and uninstalling applications -- right? After all, to install an application, you just drag an app to your "Applications" folder, and to uninstall it, you just drag it to the trash. Simple. But the dirty secret with OS X is this simplicity comes at a cost: when you drag an application to the trash, you're leaving a bunch of associated files scattered behind on your hard drive, and they'll never go away. As I've recently been migrating my old laptop files to my new hackintosh, I've discovered a ton of old, orphaned files. Luckily, there are a number of simple ways to get rid of them.

Note the following solutions are ways to ensure you remove leftover junk at the time of uninstalling an application -- if you've already got a OS X install littered with leftover files, your best bet is to search your User : Library : Application Support and User : Library : Preferences folders for directories named after your uninstalled apps, and delete them; the same goes for files in the Hard Drive : Library : Application Support folder. If everything is working properly and you have plenty of extra hard drive space, you might be better off ignoring the leftover files and forgetting they're there -- if you do try to remove them manually, make a backup first!

If you really can't stand orphaned files, you can use Find Any File to dredge the nether regions of your hard drive. But for the rest of us, simply installing a free or cheap app will do the trick from this point on. Here are some options, from most expensive (a whopping $13) to cheapest (free):

First up is AppZapper. Note that every application to follow does basically the same thing, which works like this: you install AppZapper, drag it to your dock, and then use it as an applications-only trash can -- just drag apps onto AppZapper instead of the trash, and it will pop up and show you the associated files it's about to remove. AppZapper is the most expensive at $12.95, and there are two factors that justify this price: one, it includes a bunch of extras (see their site for more), and two, it actually finds associated files in the Application Support folder, which the others don't seem to do consistently.

AppDelete looks like a complete AppZapper rip-off (unless AppDelete came first... ), but to justify its existence it comes in at half the price ($7.99). Worth a look if you want a 64-bit utility that's actively supported... but don't want to spend $13.

The freeware AppCleaner does basically the same thing as the two aforementioned apps, and it's free (on the positive side) but it hasn't been updated since Max OS X 10.4 (on the negative side) -- whenever that was. Also, it doesn't seem to find all associated files.

Which leaves us with the free AppTrap, demonstrated by the very exciting screenshot at left. I used AppTrap a few years ago but found it had some sort of memory leak that would cause it to hog system resources. However, this has since been fixed, and AppTrap stands out from the crowd by keeping a lower profile. It's not an application that you keep in your dock; instead, it's a preferences pane that lives inside System Preferences. AppTrap pops up automatically when you drag an application to the trash can, which is nice if your dock is overcrowded as it is. In this way, it's an uninstaller that's more integrated into the operating system, like, say, Windows.

Anyone using any of these, or do you have your own method of getting rid of orphaned files? Do you even care that your discarded Mac apps are leaving behind scattered files all over your hard drive?

Your Comment


My Application Support folder is 20 gigs. I'm sure not all of that is actually being used. Will look into it, thanks

August 24, 2010 at 12:28PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I own AppZapper and tried using it once or twice, but became paralyzed when I realized that I simply did not know what most of the files were that it was finding (I went looking for duplicate files) and was worried that I might erase something important. My new method? Buy more hard drives. For good or for bad, I think that's the way the world's going (it's Google's philosophy...granted they've got good reason to want you to hold onto your data!)...hard drive space will grow closer and closer to free...and hopefully Apple's Spotlight will become increasingly sophisticated...

August 24, 2010 at 7:11PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Ha -- well, that's certainly one solution! The main reason I found myself even concerned with trivial matters such as this: my new machine has a SSD as the system drive. So I went from having a 250GB laptop drive to having a much smaller, but much faster, 60GB desktop drive (it's for apps and the OS only -- there is a separate 1TB drive for documents, etc). Suddenly I was concerned with space...

August 24, 2010 at 10:32PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

There is an app that deletes the leftover app junk (or Prefs) it's called CleanMyMac ( It isn't free but it finds the stuff. Hope it helps.

June 12, 2011 at 8:53PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Although, it's an old post but still very informative till today. after usage over time, Mac tends to behave slow and we usually take a Speed up tool to boost the performance of slow running Mac. I have one good tool in my mind which is available online with free demo version to remove the junk, cache and unwanted data.

October 29, 2014 at 1:28AM, Edited October 29, 1:28AM


If you want to fast scan and find your duplicate files and remove them, you'd better to try this tool duplicate file remover . Hope it helps.

July 18, 2011 at 5:51PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


There is a smart file duplicate finder that would help you fast scan your computer and remove the unwanted files.

July 18, 2011 at 6:05PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM