Remove Unwanted Software From Mac

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Pop-ups can be ads, notices, offers, or alerts that open in your current browser window, in a new window, or in another tab. Some pop-ups are third-party ads that use phishing tactics—like warnings or prizes—to trick you into believing they’re from Apple or another trusted company, so you’ll share personal or financial information. Or they might claim to offer free downloads, software updates, or plugins, to try to trick you into installing unwanted software.

Unless you’re confident of an ad’s legitimacy, you should avoid interacting with pop-ups or webpages that seem to take over your screen. Here are additional tips that can help you manage pop-ups and other unwanted interruptions.

Check and update your software

Always make sure you install the latest software updates for all your Apple products. Many software releases have important security updates and may include improvements that help control pop-ups.

The safest place to download apps for your Mac is the App Store. If you need third-party software for your Mac, and it isn’t available in the App Store, get it directly from the developer or another reliable source, rather than through an ad or link.

Check Safari settings and security preferences

Remove Unwanted App From Mac

Make sure Safari security settings are turned on, particularly Block Pop-ups—for pop-up windows—and the Fraudulent Website Warning.

On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, go to Settings > Safari and turn on Block Pop-ups and Fraudulent Website Warning.

On your Mac, you can find these options in Safari > Preferences. The Websites tab includes options to block some or all pop-up windows, and you can turn on fraudulent site warnings in the Security tab.

Pop-ups and ads in Safari


If you see an annoying pop-up ad in Safari, you can go to the Search field and enter a new URL or search term to browse to a new site. If you don’t see the Search field on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, tap the top of the screen to make it appear.

Some pop-ups and ads have fake buttons that resemble the close button, so use caution if you try to close a pop-up or ad. If you're unsure, avoid interacting with the pop-up or ad and close the Safari window or tab.

On your Mac, you can also update your settings to prevent windows from opening again after you close Safari, or just press and hold the Shift key when you open Safari.

If you might have installed adware or other unwanted software on your Mac

If you see pop-ups on your Mac that just won’t go away, you might have inadvertently downloaded and installed adware (advertising-supported software) or other unwanted software. Certain third-party download sites might include programs that you don’t want with the software that you install.

If you think that you might have malware or adware on your Mac, update to the latest version of macOS. If your Mac is already running the latest version, restart it. macOS includes a built-in tool that removes known malware when you restart your Mac.


Check your Applications folder to see if you have any apps that you didn’t expect and uninstall them. You can also check the Extensions tab in Safari preferences to check if you installed any unnecessary extensions that you'd prefer to turn off. If you continue to see advertising or other unwanted programs on your Mac, contact Apple.

Learn more

  • How to safely open software on your Mac
  • How to recognize and avoid phishing and other scams

When installing desirable software for good, it’s nice to be kept advised of updates. One way to do that is through a Mac OS X mechanism called launch agents. They activate a request to check for updates. However, after you’ve deleted experimental software, those update checks can linger and consume system resources. Here’s how to delete them.

Sometimes those software update agents are innocuous. But other times, they’ll leave behind remnants of themselves, for example Menu Bar items. Or they’ll constantly pop up in Little Snitch, if you use that, begging for permission. It can get a little annoying. At the very least, it’s messy to leave these persistent messengers around (that phone home) after you’ve deleted experimental software.

The first place to look for remnant agents is in System Preferences -> Accounts -> Login Items to see if any agents are still being launched at login. If you don’t see anything suspicious there, look in:

  • ~/Library/LaunchAgents (local)
  • /Library/LaunchAgents (global)

In the case of Google’s Chrome, it installed a launch agent on my system in my local Library.

Google’s Chrome Launch Agent

Unwanted Apps On My Computer

If you see something like this, and know you don’t want it around anymore, you can just delete the file. In this case: Then, at your convenience, restart to reset the tasks for launchd.

How To Remove Unwanted Software From Mac

In general, when a new application comes with a .pkg installer, one must be on guard because an installer will often install other files, in addition to the app in /Applications. One tip: it asks for an admin password. If you want to be extra cautious, you can inspect all the files that will be installed by looking at the installer’s File menu -> Show files.

How To Remove Unwanted Programs From Macbook Air

However, some apps, simply dragged to /Applications, when launched, can also sneakily insert files into other locations in your system, for example, Chrome. Vigilance (and a tool like Little Snitch) can smoke out these unwanted tidbits of code in your system after you’ve deleted the primary app.