Ask LH: How Can I Uninstall A Mac App That Just Won’t Go Away?

Ask LH: How Can I Uninstall A Mac App That Just Won’t Go Away?

Dear Lifehacker,
How I can uninstall something that I’ve downloaded to my Mac that won’t just go away when I delete it, but also doesn’t have a built-in uninstaller; I downloaded Hotspot Shield and now I’m having trouble uninstalling it. Help!
Be Gone Hotspot

Dear Be Gone,

I’ve been there, specifically with Hotspot Shield. Hotspot, specifically, doesn’t delete when you drag and drop it into the trash bin; the icon in the applications folder stays where it is after you’ve attempted to drag it to the Trash. Here’s how to completely uninstall pesky programs like that:

For programs like Hotspot Shield that don’t necessarily uninstall when you simply delete the .app, you have a couple of options. Most of the time, your best bet is to go with a third-party uninstaller that permanently deletes any program. A couple of good (and free) ones for Mac are AppCleaner and AppTrap . Both are straight forward and easy to use: Simply run AppCleaner or AppTrap, then drag the pesky program (in your case, Hotspot Shield) to your new uninstaller’s trash.

Image What’s Happening Here?

What you need to understand about uninstalling is that there are essentially two types of Mac apps: bundled and unbundled. The former is easily uninstalled by dragging the app to the Trash; the latter can be deleted the same way, but can leave behind some files on your hard drive, and can be tougher to completely get rid of.

Many third-party uninstallers aren’t actually apps, but rather system preference panes; they run in the background and when you delete a program, they will prompt you to delete all files that are associated to it. These files can be hard to hunt down yourself, which is where the uninstallers come in so handy.

Uninstallers won’t necessarily be able to hunt down every file every time, but in my experience, they generally do the job very well. Ideally, hard-to-remove apps will come with an uninstaller. Often they’re on the same .DMG file that the app’s installer was on, and sometimes you can find an official uninstaller by simply downloading the app again.

So there you have my two cents. Hope that helps!


P.S. Got some extra advice on the subject? Let’s hear it in the comments.


  • After using AppCleaner, AppZapper and TrashMe, i would have to say TrashMe is by far a favourite of the 3. Purely because you can select multiple apps to uninstall. Its search is just as thorough as the rest, but has a clean interface and is much easier to use!

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