You know there’s trouble in Mac paradise when your Mac-loving mom asks, “Honey, how do I delete something I downloaded to my Mac?” Ouch.
Mac users of yesteryear had only the need to drag and drop an unwanted app to the trash. Mac OS X makes life more complicated for Mac users. Apps store files all over the place. How do you know which ones to delete?
Delete? Or Leave Alone?
What surprised me most was that mom found an app and decided to download it to her Mac. The surprises continued when she decided she didn’t want to pay for it, and wanted to delete it.
Some apps are easy to delete. Most are not. Does it matter?
That’s really a good question. Mac hard disk drives are huge, so we’re not likely to miss the disk space, right? But neatness counts.
A very few Mac apps comes with an uninstaller which locates and removes all files and vestiges of the app you once loved, but now is banned from your Mac.
App Trashing Tools of the Trade
Fortunately, the Mac has a number of handy utilities that do exactly what you want—they delete apps and their associated files. But in true Mac fashion, you get what you pay for.
TrashMe – One of the more recent apps is TrashMe, a freeware utility that makes deletions easy, if not incomplete.
TrashMe has a smart mode which detects when an app has been moved to the trash. TrashMe can find most other associated files—those from Preferences and from Applications Support.
As with other apps, it will display what’s about to be permanently deleted before you delete. Not bad for free. But not great.
iTrash – This used to be AppTrasher, but in the interests of iEverything, has a new name. Drag and drop an app to iTrash and it finds some associated files to delete along with the app.
iTrash also removes Widgets and Preferences, finds visible and hidden files, and an expert mode to find those hard-to-find files. It even protects your Mac’s default apps like Mail and Safari. Not bad for less than $10.
AppCleaner – By now you get the idea. Apps leave behind Preferences and Support files, sometimes hidden, and finding them all takes some know how. AppCleaner is donationware, and works similar to the above apps.
Again, it’s drag and drop. Whatever related files can be found will be displayed, and deletion is just a click away. As with the others, a History Log is available to show you what’s gone (like that will help much).
These are decent, but they all lack one important feature. How do the apps that delete find all the files which some apps leave behind? They don’t.
CleanApp – By far my favorite Mac app deleter is CleanApp. It’s a slightly more expensive, but far more thorough method to Mac app deletion.
CleanApp has a Logging Service which watches your Mac all the time. When a new app is installed, CleanApp logs where all the files are placed, hidden or otherwise. Since it knows where all the apps files went, it knows what to delete.
Even better, some apps alter your Mac’s Preference files here and there.
CleanApp even knows which ones, but doesn’t automatically select those for deletion.
Deleting is drag and drop, check which files are to be deleted, then you’re a click away from moving files to the trash. It responds appropriately when you drag an app to the trash. And the CleanCommunity feature taps into a database of other Mac users who have deleted the same app and files just to make sure you delete what you should.
But does it matter? Should Mac users even bother to delete unused apps? That’s a different question, which requires a different type of answer, but for those of us with mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a clean, neat, tidy Mac makes us feel better.