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My Mac still runs processes from a program I deleted. How do I delete an application entirely and prevent this from happening? My Mac still runs processes from a program I deleted

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Its not possible for an operating system to run a process where the file doesn't actually exists. THis question makes no sense. – Ramhound Oct 28 '12 at 3:04
@Ramhound Some applications keep executables for helper processes in the Application Support folder. – user495470 Oct 28 '12 at 15:27
@Ramhound Of course it is. If you start a process and the delete the executable file, the program will still run. Until you stop the process or reboot it will continue to run. – Matteo Jan 12 '13 at 7:07
@Matteo - Your example is silly since if the executable file's process is running you wouldn't be able to delete the file itself since it would be used by a process. – Ramhound Jan 12 '13 at 18:22
@Ramhound You can delete the executable without any problem: cp /usr/bin/yes . ; ./yes > /dev/null & ; rm yes. File deleted, process still running. – Matteo Jan 13 '13 at 11:53

There are several different ways that applications can be automatically started on Mac OS X. Some applications install some of their components, which may themselves be executable, in locations other than the main application folder. Tracking these down can be somewhat difficult if you don't know they exist, but once you do it's reasonably straightforward.

If the application doesn't have a built-in uninstall option, then you're left with tracking down the files and startup detritus. You can use the handy GUI application:

/Applications/Utilities/Activity Monitor

  • Launch the Activity Monitor, then select the process of interest;
  • click the blue (i) button to inspect it;
  • select the Open Files and Ports tab;
  • then click the "Sample" button to get a list of open files used by the process, which should show you its configuration and startup files, as well as the application executable itself, and potentially many other files).

    % lsof

If you prefer a UNIX command line, you can use the unix command lsof in a shell window. (Google lsof examples for details on lsof).

Other handy tips:

When you find the application configuration file, read it. This may have hints which will help you track down the non-typical locations of application components.

See if the application has a log file, and look in that log file or in the system log for hints about the location of startup configuration or files. Use the, or poke around in the directories and files with the unix command line. Most application logs will be in one of these places, on Mac OS X Mountain Lion.

  • ~/Library/Logs
  • /Library/Logs
  • /var/log

Knowing a little about the various startup methods can help you, too. Keywords to help in Google searches:

  • cron ("crontab -l" in a window, to show a user's crontab)
  • launchd ("launchctl list" in a window to show a list)
  • SystemStarter (deprecated, the binary is not present on Mountain Lion)

Some but probably not all locations where startup scripts or configuration files may be found:

  • /System/Library/LaunchAgents
  • /System/Library/LaunchDaemons
  • /Library/LaunchDaemons
  • /Library/LaunchAgents
  • ~/Library/LaunchAgents
  • /Library/StartupItems
  • /System/Library/StartupItems
  • ~/Library/StartupItems
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I usually use AppCleaner to uninstall Mac applications. It's pretty good about grabbing all of the files that are required by an app. You may have to reboot after an uninstallation to see the effects.

If that doesn't work, you can always use Activity Monitor (or the command line) to kill the offending process, then use a little rm -rf /usr/bin/offending_file action on it, then reboot. Unfortunately, this option isn't very elegant; I wouldn't recommend it unless you have no other method for killing the rogue process.

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