Uninstalling apps – don’t rely on just using the Trashcan



Installing apps under OS X Leopard is in many cases a simple task of dragging an application in to the applications folder, and there is a school of thought that uninstalling apps is equally as simple. In a few cases that is true, but it’s an approach that can leave your hard disk littered with unwanted folders and .plist entries, and worse can cause OS X to waste time logging problems.

A while back I installed a backup program called QRecall. At the time I thought it might be usefull because it silently takes differential backups and stores them ‘in the cloud’ (outside the Mac to you & me). Nothing against QRecall but I eventually decided that it wasn’t for me and I decided to uninstall it. I dragged the application to the trash folder and thought that was that. Wrong…

A while later I happened to be looking at the console for another application and I saw masses of error messages appearing at regular intervals for QRecall. The messages seemed to relate to various startup agents so I fired up my trusty Lingon utility and went and had a look. Sure enough there were three QRecall processes that were set to start automatically when my Mac started. (Note – these items didn’t appear under the Login Items section in my user preferences). So I used Lingon to disable the three agents and thought no more of it… until I next happened to look at the console!

30/12/2008 06:44:37 [0x0-0xf00f].com.apple.finder[172] QRecall CM PlugIn cannot connect with monitor

…and this was happening every 30 seconds or so. Time to take stock and to clear this up once and for all. Turning to Google I searched for ‘QRecall uninstall’ and found a link to the QRecall Support Forum where I found a post from someone equally as hasty as me who had simply trashed the application. I followed the steps shown below to finally remove all traces of the application:

– Stop all running actions and Quit the QRecall application.
– Delete the QRecallMonitor Login Item from your account preferences (Mac OS X 10.4 only)
– Delete any files beginning with com.qrecall from the /Library/LaunchDaemons, /Library/LaunchAgents, and/or ~/Library/LaunchAgents folders.
– Restart your computer.
– Delete the /Library/Application Support/QRecall and/or the ~/Library/Application Support/QRecall folders.
– Delete all files in ~/Library/Preferences that have names beginning with com.qrecall.
– Delete the ~/Library/Preferences/QRecall folder.
– Delete the ~/Library/Contextual Menu Items/QRecall CM plugin item.
– Delete the QRecall application.

It is important to note that there is a ‘proper’ way to uninstall QRecall that should avoid these problems, and that is to hold down the Option and Shift keys and select QRecall > Quit and Uninstall, and to be fair this is all documented in the QRecall help… which I had stupidly never bothered to read!

So, the lesson I learned is that when it comes to uninstalling apps under OS X you should do the following:

  1. Check the applications ‘Help’ facility to see if there are instructions for uninstalling it, and follow them! Applications that don’t simply use drag & drop to install are more likely to fall into this category – applications that install from a ‘pkg’ file for example.
  2. If the application comes bundled with an uninstaller – use it.
  3. If in doubt, do a quick Google search for ‘(name of your application) uninstall’.
  4. If none of the above seems to apply, then use one of the generic uninstallers like the excellent AppZapper or one of the paid/free alternatives.
  5. Only as a last resort should you simply drag an application to the trash can, and remember that doing so is likely to leave at least some traces of the application behind.

While we’re on the subject of AppZapper – did you know that not only does it let you uninstall an application by dragging the application’s icon on to it’s window, it also lets you uninstall screensavers, preference panes, widgets and some plugins simply by selecting them from a drop-down list? Neat.

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