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Clean up Mac - uninstall programs properly

Bastian Gruber

Big Sur is here! The update requires more than six gigabytes of free memory - so clean up before installing.

EnlargemacOS Big Sur is a great time to clean up your Mac

Before installing on macOS 11 Big Sur, you should do two things: Just in case, you need a clean backup, for example created with Time Machine, so that you do not lose any data and, in case of doubt, you can go back to macOS 10.15 Catalina. After that, you should make some space on your Mac, because macOS Big Sur will take up a lot of it, especially during the installation. Read on to find out how to find and remove old files you no longer need on Mac.

Clear space for macOS

Unlike Windows, macOS does not include its own program for uninstalling applications. Here, the user is dependent on the manufacturers themselves, who, however, often do very little to tidy up behind them. In the case of smaller programs, deleting the program package is sufficient, but in larger installations such as Photoshop this is not enough. Tip: Read here how to completely delete apps from the Mac App Store.

Remove unnecessary programs with CleanMyMac

1. Uninstall programs on the Mac

There is a relatively simple process for uninstalling programs. First, locate all files belonging to an application and then delete them. Numerous third-party manufacturers have specialized in this neglected part of macOS, and offer various tools for this task. Just like the supplied uninstall programs from the manufacturer, such software can also cause a lot of disaster.

It's better to do it yourself than to use software

A simple terminal command will save you a lot of time and money. In the line below, replace Application with the software you want. If the manufacturer is not known, the program name is sufficient.

EnlargeAfter executing the search command on the terminal, all paths to the files found are in the created file. After a thorough check whether these also belong to the desired program, you can navigate to the location via Finder or directly via the terminal and delete the file.

So open the terminal in the Utilities folder and enter the command and then your password. When you confirm the Enter key, your entire system will be searched for files with the name within the quotation marks, and the paths will be saved in a text file on your desktop. The asterisks before and after the name indicate that the application name can only be part of a file name. (The search also wants to access contacts and calendar, you can confirm that).

To delete, simply open a new Finder window, press the key combination "Command-Shift-G" (cmd-Shift-G), and copy a line of the text file into the input line in the Finder. Clicking on "Go to" will take you to the relevant point and then delete the file. If you are not sure whether you still need the file, just read on.

Free up storage space with CleanMyMac

Eliminate program tracks in the system

The Applications folder is only the first port of call where manufacturers place their software. Databases, settings and caches are distributed throughout the system and are often not taken into account during deinstallation. Our list of the most important places shows where most program fragments can be found:

Backups, logs or program databases can be found in the “Application Support” folder. Manufacturers create a folder with the program name here and then save the content required during runtime. The "Saved Application State" folder is used by the system to open applications in the state in which they were closed.

Preferences means preferences in German, and exactly these are located, program-specific, in the folder of the same name. All files here have a .plist extension. MacOS uses this format to read out basic settings. Each manufacturer saves different values.

The "Caches" folder is there to keep recurring files and statuses available. For example, if a browser displays the search term “Macworld” for the tenth time per minute, it no longer contacts the Google server, but shows the previously loaded view.

In addition to the places already discussed, there are two other places that you should definitely search when researching for remains of old programs.

Detect program deposits

On the one hand, there is the “Cookie” folder. Browsers or websites called up create user-specific data such as user name and password there. However, caution is advised here: many websites use this to display a user-specific version of the website. If you delete here, you may have to make new individual settings or re-enter your name and password.

EnlargeAll installed printers are located in the printer directory in the library folder of the home directory. Simply deleting the individual packages is usually sufficient. To be on the safe side, you can use the file-finding trick from the first chapter.

Since OS X Lion, Apple has also introduced so-called sandboxing as a security measure. This mechanism ensures program-specific folders in which the user can manage and switch as he wants. These program containers are located in the directory ~ / Library / Container. Again, you should only delete folders from programs that no longer exist on your computer.

The convenience with which Apple allows printers to be integrated into the system also has a price: Over time, many printer installations are stored in the system, and the user quickly loses track of things. The right place to go is the library folder in your own user directory. Open the input window with the key combination “Command-Shift-G” (cmd-Shift-G) and enter “~ / Library” (without quotation marks). This will take you directly to all of the installed printers in the “Printers” folder.

Simply deleting the file is enough to completely remove a driver from the system. Even if each one is often only a few KB in size: All in all, the printer drivers in a Macbook with a few GB of hard disk space can take up a lot of space. The appropriate driver software can be found as in the first part of the article about the terminal command.

2. Local snapshots

Sometimes local Time Machine snapshots can take up space on the hard drive. This happens if the backup volume cannot be reached. The program then switches to the built-in hard drive and saves images of the backup there, which in turn require storage. Apple recommends switching off automatic data backup in the Time Machine (System Settings - Time Machine), but the user does not need to back up the hard drive if the backup volume is not connected.

To find out how to delete "Other" on Mac, click here.

3. Language packs

Applications often offer different language options during installation. But just because you choose your own language doesn't mean that additional languages ​​won't be installed. Even after installation, the interface is available in different languages. This has no advantages for users who do not work on the computer in several languages. Language packs cost storage space. The additional packages for each program can be found by right-clicking (or holding down the Control key) on the program icon in the context menu via the entry "Show package contents".

EnlargeThe key combination "Command-Shift-G" opens an input window that accepts a path as input. The Application Support folder in the library of the user directory contains subfolders for every application installed on the system. This means that it is also the first point of contact after the program package has been removed from the program folder.

In the window that opens, these will then appear under Contents / Resources. All language folders have the extension .lproj. Again, however, caution should be exercised: sometimes removing languages ​​corrupts an application and requires you to reinstall it. However, the storage space gain is sometimes considerable: With the 1Password program, a typical language package is around 500 KB in size.

4. Fonts

Fonts are an underestimated factor when it comes to creating space. macOS offers a wide range of different variations and types as standard. Anyone who works in the graphics area should be aware of the immense amount of data required. An example: The Ubuntu Font (available on the website) takes up around 5MB on the hard drive. Numerous programs reinstall fonts that remain in the system even after uninstallation and block several hundred MB to one GB of space there.

Fonts are stored in different places in the system. The most important locations are in the “Library” folder (~ / Library / Fonts) and in the system's library folder (/ Library / Fonts). The fonts that the user has installed can be found in the user directory. All the fonts installed by macOS by default are located in the system folder. The entire folder is approximately 980 MB after a fresh installation.

EnlargeAfter the first installation, fonts are just under one GB in size. However, applications usually install individual font packages, each of which can be several hundred MB in size. A comparison of the folder size can therefore be helpful in deleting fonts that are no longer used.

However, a detailed research is mandatory before any deletion. As of macOS Yosemite, the system uses the Helvetica Neue font, for example, and it must remain on the computer. Starting with macOS Catalina, San Francisco is included. You should also not remove standard fonts such as Arial from the system. A healthy mixture or an examining eye should provide the necessary balance.

5. Links

If a program starts immediately after the computer has started up, this behavior must be written down somewhere. If there is a program extension prominently in the system settings, there is also an entry for this in the system. These entries often remain in the system after an application has been deleted, so they are also candidates for a spring cleaning.

For a better understanding: macOS has three different library folders. One in the user directory, one directly under the root directory (main system root), / Library, and the last one in the / System directory. Only the first two entries play a role here, as OS X-specific data is saved in the system library folder. With this folder, the good advice is usually: hands off!

The LaunchDaemons and LaunchAgents directories are important in the library folders. There are program files that start when OS X loads. Under LaunchDaemons you can find those that do not have a graphical user interface, but only start a service. Programs that open immediately after the start, or start a customized interface or smaller helpers, are located in the LaunchAgents folder.

6. Orphaned Kernel Extensions

Advanced users come into contact with another group of files: kernel extensions (or extensions). Programs such as Parallels or Virtualbox install their own extensions on the lowest level of the operating system in order to be able to simulate a complete operating system.

EnlargeThe command "kextstat" lists all installed kernel extensions. However, the location must be determined by the user. A file search or working through the paths given in the article can be very helpful at this point.

Get an overview

When uninstalling or deleting the programs, these extensions are often forgotten and continue to load when macOS starts. Incorrect links can cause delays and unnecessary errors. The first step is to get an overview of all loaded extensions.

Check list

The “kextstat” command (without quotations) in the terminal lists all the extensions loaded under macOS. The majority are from Apple itself. A check of the displayed list can, however, provide information about programs that have long since ceased to exist. However, deleting kernel extensions individually is a bit complicated.

Delete old links

Not every application loads its own extensions into a shared folder. Rather, they stay in their own program folder and are loaded from there. The user must intervene himself and search the system. A good first point of contact is the “Application Support” folder in the root library directory (/ Library / Application Support).

7. Delete old files on Mac

macOS can tell you how long you haven't opened a certain file. The easiest way to do this is via the terminal with the following command (the superscripts stand for spaces):

After this entry you will see all files that have not been used for more than 12 weeks. Instead of 12, you can enter any number. The abbreviation behind it stands for the unit, "directory" must be replaced by the path to the folder. The "w" stands for weeks, and can be replaced by "d" for day, or "h" for hours.

However, caution is advised if this query is executed on a large directory with many files. Not only can it take a long time for a result to appear, the number also depends heavily on the combination of duration / file volume. The command also searches all subfolders and program packages. The output of the files found then appears directly in the terminal window.

EnlargeWith a little trick, all files above a certain size can be displayed in the Finder. Entering a * character followed by a click on the plus on the right-hand side opens the desired filter. The asterisk has to be removed in a third step and replaced by a space. Old films or music files can thus be tracked down throughout the system.

8. Uninstall large files

Films downloaded via iTunes, the family video exported from the iPhone, or the music collection that you just wanted to "temporarily store" months ago. All of these files take up a lot of space and are much better located on an external hard drive. The intelligent search in the Finder helps to track down such space hogs.

To do this, open a new Finder window and first enter an asterisk (*) in the search line. A subline then appears in which you can select the entire Mac or just a folder. Select the entire Mac, then click the plus icon on the right side of the window. This causes a new line to appear in which you can specify additional properties using the “Type” drop-down menu.

The menu item "Other ..." leads you to a long list that you can search through again.The size is the decisive criterion here, which can be narrowed down using the second drop-down menu "is greater than" and a number.

Replacing the asterisk with a space now shows all files without exact name restrictions. In the lower part of the window all applications appear which correspond to the entered size criteria. By cleverly narrowing down the search you can find files that have long been forgotten.

The myth of defragmentation

Fragmentation describes a state in which files that actually belong together are scattered in the file system because they are stored where there is free space on the hard disk.

As a result, the operating system needs more time to open individual applications, as it has to search in several places in the system. The file chunks themselves indicate the path to the next chunk until the application is complete. In Windows, defragmentation is a ubiquitous program that takes care of moving these files closer together again.

macOS is no better in this regard. Individual file fragments also occur there. Unlike NTFS, Microsoft's file system