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reliable Uninstall technique for Mac OS X

Posted on 2004-10-09
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Last Modified: 2013-11-17
Is there any reliable and not too difficult way of removing programs and their components after they have been installed on Mac OS X?

What I'm looking for is something similar to the "add/remove programs" functionality of windows xp.

thanks.
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Question by:Hessianator
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Author Comment

by:Hessianator
ID: 12269282
I have read through this old question:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Operating_Systems/Macintosh/Q_21003045.html

however, I must comment that "A properly written OS X app" isn't always what gets installed.

maybe I'm just ignorant, but isn't there some way to use the log files or something to trace where every file gets placed by an installation app?

I'm not talking about just the drag and copy into the applications folder type of installer.
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ClassicMac earned 100 total points
ID: 12271050
    As was stated in the response in the thread Hessianator referred to a properly written OS X application will install itself only in the Applications folder.  There are a few exceptions to this such as applications that need to install special system components.  Most applications that install additional components will either include an Uninstaller or include information in a ReadMe file on additional components that are installed and how to remove them.
     The bottom line is that for 99% of OS X applications you simply need to drag the application from the Applications folder to the trash.  If you want to be extra "clean" you can also look for the preferences file the application creates to store it's settings.  It should be located in your home folder in Library/Preferences.  For 99% of applications the preference file and the application in the Applications folder are the only files created on your computer.  Also leaving the preferences file on your computer does no harm at all and the size of the file is usually negligible.
     In response to Hessianator's question there is a way to see what files are installed by an installer.  Open the installer and hit continue and agree to the license agreements.  When you get to the section that asks you to choose the destination drive go to the File menu and choose Show Files.  A window will appear telling you what files are being installed and where they are being installed to.  This only applies to applications with installers though.  If you dragged the application to your Applications folder to install it just drag the application to your trash to uninstall it.
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Author Comment

by:Hessianator
ID: 12272328
ok, that was some very good information, I like the "show files" command, I never knew about that.

I guess I was always suspicious of programs placing files all over my hard drive, but if the drag and drop to install type only create a preference file, then that's no big deal.

So, what about a program that uses an installer, but doesn't have an uninstaller?

Say for example that I install Norton SW (which does have an uninstaller), but what if it didn't have an uninstaller?   Is there a way to use the data in the "show files" list to write a script or something that would remove all the added files?

I think I have installed a few programs of this type and it would be valuable to know a relatively easy way to remove them completely if needed.

thanks.
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Expert Comment

by:ClassicMac
ID: 12273203
    If an application installs additional components the two most likely places they will be installed in are /Library/Application Support and /System/Library/Extensions.  You can also check your home directory in Library/Application Support for files too.  Even if it does install files in to these locations they should not affect your computer.  The extensions in OS X do not perform like they did in OS 9 and below where they load at startup.  OS X extensions are dynamically loaded when they are needed.  Files in /Library/Application Support should have no effect on the operation of your computer.  
     So check in /Applications, /Library/Application Support, ~/Library/Application Support, ~/Library/Preferences, and /System/Library/Extensions and you should be able to remove just about anything that is installed.  If the application installed a preference pane also look in /Library/Preferences Panes, and ~/Library/Preference Panes to delete the preference pane.  The ~ in a path referes to your home directory and paths beginning with / mean the root of your hard drive.
     The bottom line is that to my knowledge there is no easy way to do a complete uninstall of an application if there is no uninstaller included with the application.  The good news is that the files left behind are usually very small and usually do not affect the performance of your machine.  This is a big contrast to Windows where files are placed and modified anywhere and everywhere on your machine and you cannot figure out what happened.  The Windows registry also becomes a big mess after many applications are instlaled making your computer slow.  It is also very difficult and time consuming to clean up the Windows registry.  To make things worse on Windows even though they do include uninstallers the uninstallers often times they do not uninstall everything that was created by the application.
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Expert Comment

by:Andrew Duffy
ID: 12297299
One brief point - Mac apps don't generally come with a discreet uninstaller applet. Most of the time you need to run the installer itself and when you get the option to do 'standard' or 'custom' install for example, there might be an 'uninstall' option. I know this was a fairly common feature in OS 9 but I'm not sure about its employment in the OS X platform. Generally what ClassicMac says is true - most programs aren't very intrusive.
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Expert Comment

by:Dennis Burnham
ID: 14716892
SYMANTEC SUGGESTS:

Thank you for contacting Symantec Online Technical Support.
 
I understand from your message that you have uninstalled Norton Utilities for Macintosh from your computer. Even though you receive the following message at startup:
 
"Norton Utilities has detected a new version of Mac OS X"
 
Dennis, I acknowledge your concern on the issue and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Please note that this issue can occur due to the remnants of pervious installation. In order to resolve this issue, I suggest that you please run the NortonUninstall utility to remove all the files associated with Symantec  products.
 
Please note that NortonUninstall utility will remove all versions of Symantec Mac OS X products. This utility should be used only when there is a problem that requires the complete removal of all Symantec Mac OS X products. NortonUninstall removes all folders created by Norton installers and any files within those folders. You will lose all  files that reside in those folders, including any that you have created.
 
Please refer to the section "To download and run NortonUninstall.command" provided in the document linked below:
 
Title: 'Uninstalling all Symantec Macintosh programs using the NortonUninstall removal utility'
Document ID: 2002110814042611
> Web URL:
http://service1.symantec.com/Support/num.nsf/docid/2002110814042611?Open&src=con_ols_nam <http://service1.symantec.com/Support/num.nsf/docid/2002110814042611?Open&amp;src=con_ols_nam>
 
Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance to you in using the Symantec product.


MY RESPONSE:


NONSENSE!

Why don’t you just tell people the truth instead of giving them this ridiculous runaround.  I’ll be damned if I am going to install OS9 Classic just to be able to run your Uninstaller, which you could at least publish for download instead of making people read your cryptic online document.  Your web page discusses how to manually uninstall, but it doesn’t tell the truth.  For example, the page you referred me to has a link called How to manually uninstall Norton Utilities for Macintosh 7.0.  When you get to that page, you find out that you actually have to go to a different page to learn how to uninstall LiveUpdate and Norton Scheduler in Moc OS X.

Moreover, you instruct people to boot from the Norton Utilities 7.0 CD which cannot be done on modern Macs that do not boot into Classic.

The fact is that the following folders have to be deleted from the User’s Library/Preferences folder:

Norton Utilities Preferences
SymDClnit
NUMCompatibilityCheck
TrackDelete
VolumeAssist
Norton Utilities Preferences 16-05-27

Maybe in other user’s systems the folder(s) are differently named.  If you people would at least put them in a folder called Symantec or Norton then people might have an easier time locating them.  Your OS-X Symantec Uninstaller should also look for these items and delete them instead of reporting that there is nothing to be uninstalled.

After spending $500+ on your products last week I am more than a little bit annoyed at how you (don’t) support them.

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Author Comment

by:Hessianator
ID: 14717905
That sounds like quite an ordeal!  In fact, that is precisely why I asked this question to begin with.

How did you finally discover the folders that needed to be removed?

Overall though, I am sooo much more happy with my Mac than my Windows PC;  the small difficulties are well worth it.
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