Uninstallers: AppZapper vs Hazel


Update 2 (2008-12): MacApper posted a review of CleanApp 3, which has been released a month ago, and it looks even much more interesting than it did before. I’m yet to try it, though.

Update 1 (2008-04): Someone else compared many uninstallers, reaching similar conclusions.  Hinted at CleanApp possibly being the perfect solution.  Reviews on MacUpdate are fairly positive.  Cleanapp’s rating would be almost perfect if it wasn’t of some performance bugs that might get fixed when version 3 is released.

In the past few months, Hazel, an application that’s useful to automate your organization of files and folders, started lending a hand when you want to uninstall software from your Mac.

This move from the author is a really wise one, as it widens Hazel’s target market into the uninstaller utilities category of applications.  And indeed, that’s what convinced me to buy it, because first, I needed a good uninstaller, and second, I might someday want to build myself an automated workflow for my files and folders organization.

Now, the main question is:

How good is Hazel at uninstalling applications,
compared to the leader of this category, namely AppZapper?

I started my tests a month ago with the hypothesis that neither one would be really sufficient as a uninstaller, because unless I’m wrong, they both solely rely on Spotlight to find which files should be trashed when you uninstall something.

To verify this hypothesis and find an answer to the main question, each time I needed to uninstall an application, I would both use AppZapper and Hazel to see which one fares better.  It’s easy to do.  First, drag your doomed application to AppZapper.  Then, drag it to the trash.  You will end up with both AppZapper’s and Hazel’s suggestions as to what should be deleted along the application package.

The Short Answer

Neither one is that much better.  Neither one is sufficient.  Use both.

The Long Answer

To my surprise, I found out Hazel was often times better than AppZapper at suggesting files that need to be uninstalled.  Hazel often finds more of them, so your system is left a bit cleaner after.  But often, AppZapper finds some files that Hazel didn’t.  And finally, even after running both, you will sometimes step on unwanted remnants.

Let me give you two examples.

When comparing the results, please remember it’s normal that Hazel doesn’t suggest to delete the application package, because it brings you its suggestions as a reaction to your actual trashing of the application package.  I love this way of working better than AppZapper’s ways of working.

In the first example, we see how Hazel is usually better than AppZapper:


In the second example, we see that this time, AppZapper is a bit better, but even after using both, we’re left with incomplete results:



More Concerns

To be fair towards AppZapper, please remember that we sometimes need to uninstall other things than applications.  Regarding this matter, Hazel can’t do anything for you, while AppZapper can uninstall Preference Panes, Dashboard Widgets, some other kinds of Plugins, and finally, custom Screen Savers.  I don’t know how cleanly it performs these uninstallations, though.

Also, if you wonder why I didn’t test any other uninstaller out there, it’s because I believe they wouldn’t perform much better.  Unless I’m wrong, they all rely on Spotlight.

My Final Word

Shame on Apple for not providing in OS X what Microsoft started providing more than 12 years ago in Windows 95: a standard (un)installation framework.  If Apple would provide the fully working equivalent of what Hazel is partly successful doing, I believe we’d be into something really great.


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