How to Completely Uninstall Programs on macOS Sierra

Key Takeaways:

  • There are multiple ways to uninstall apps on macOS Sierra, including using Launchpad, Finder, and third-party uninstallers
  • Simply dragging an app to the Trash may leave behind leftover files and folders that take up space
  • Using a dedicated uninstaller app is the most thorough way to completely remove all traces of an application

As a long-time Mac user and technology writer, I’ve had plenty of experience uninstalling applications on various versions of macOS over the years. With the release of macOS Sierra (10.12) in 2016, the process remains largely the same as previous versions, with a few minor differences and new features to consider.

First, let’s look at the simplest method – uninstalling apps via Launchpad:

  1. Click the Launchpad icon in your Dock (the rocket ship)
  2. Locate the app you want to uninstall
  3. Click and hold the app icon until it starts wiggling
  4. Click the X button that appears in the top-left corner of the icon
  5. Click Delete to confirm[3]

Note that not all apps can be uninstalled this way – generally only those downloaded from the Mac App Store.

The next option is to uninstall apps using the Finder:

  1. Open a new Finder window
  2. Navigate to the Applications folder
  3. Locate the app you want to remove
  4. Drag the app icon to the Trash in your Dock
  5. Right-click the Trash and select Empty Trash[1]

While this method works for most applications, it’s not always ideal. Some apps may leave behind preference files, caches, plugins, and other data in various Library folders on your drive. Over time, these leftover files can start to add up and occupy valuable disk space.

To ensure a more complete uninstall, you can manually hunt down an application’s associated files:

  1. In Finder, hold Option and click the Go menu
  2. Select Library
  3. Look in folders like Application Support, Caches, Containers, Frameworks, Logs, Preferences, Saved Application State, WebKit, etc. for files/folders related to the app
  4. Drag any relevant items to the Trash[7]

Be very careful when deleting files from Library folders, as removing the wrong item could cause issues with other apps or macOS itself. When in doubt, leave it alone.

For the most thorough uninstallation, consider using a dedicated third-party uninstaller app. These utilities can scan your entire drive and safely remove all traces of an application with minimal effort. Popular options include:

  • AppCleaner (free)
  • AppZapper ($12.95)
  • Hazel ($32)
  • CleanMyMac X ($34.95/year)

I’ve used AppCleaner for years and find it strikes a good balance between effectiveness and simplicity. Just drag an application onto AppCleaner and it will find all related files/folders and move everything to the Trash in one step.[10]

A few other things to keep in mind when uninstalling apps on macOS Sierra:

  • Some apps include their own uninstaller tool, usually located in the app’s folder or disk image. Run this first if available.[1]
  • Deleting an app’s preferences (.plist files) will reset the app to its default state if you later reinstall it. This can be useful for troubleshooting.[4]
  • Apps installed with package managers like Homebrew or MacPorts should be uninstalled using their respective commands to ensure a clean removal.
  • If an app came with a kernel extension (.kext file), you may need to restart your Mac after uninstalling it for the changes to take effect.

Hopefully this gives you a good overview of the various ways to uninstall applications on macOS Sierra. Whether you prefer the quick-and-easy approach of Launchpad and Finder or the surgical precision of hunting down individual files, there’s an option to suit every user’s needs and comfort level. When in doubt, using a reputable uninstaller app is a great way to cover all your bases and reclaim disk space from unused programs.[2][6][8][9]