How to uninstall Mac OS X .pkg packages

pkg installerMost applications on OS X are distributed using either a .DMG disk image file or a .pkg installer. Installing using a DMG is the easiest. Just drag the application from the mounted image to the Applications folder and you’re done.

The .pkg installer, on the other hand, works like a traditional installer. Double click the program, go through a couple of steps using a Wizard and the application is installed. Unlike other operating systems, though, Apple doesn’t provide a simple method to uninstall applications.

In the case of a DMG based install, all you have to do is drag the application from the Applications folder into the Trash and it’s gone. A pkg based installer, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any such luxuries. The user depends on the developer to provide an uninstaller for their application, which is often not the case.

So, how do you uninstall applications installed using a .pkg installer ?

Well, the truth is other than using third party applications to handle uninstallation there really is no way … unless … you know which files are installed by the installer in the first place.

Since, there is no registry to take care of on Mac OS X, you only need to delete all files belonging to a particular application to remove all traces of the app.

OS X keeps track of all installed packages using receipts stored in the /Library/Receipts folder. Launch the Terminal application and list the contents of the Receipts folder using the ‘ls -al’ command.

pkg installer receipts

Suppose, I want to find out the list of files installed by the Mobile_Connect_Drv_App.pkg installer.

Use the cd command to browse into the above mentioned folder.

cd /Library/Receipts/Mobile_Connect_Drv_App.pkg/Contents

pkg bom file listing

The file that we’re interested in is BOM stands for bill of materials and this is the file which contains the list of all the files installed by the pkg installer.

To read the file, we need to use the lsbom utility.

lsbom -pf | less

pkg BOM listing

The -pf options tells lsbom to only display the file names.

Now, you can just go ahead and delete all the files that lsbom lists. That should get rid of the package for good !

17 thoughts on “How to uninstall Mac OS X .pkg packages

  1. Hm, I went into /Library/Receipts and there was only an empty BSD.pkg file and a InstallHistory.plist file. I know I have installed several .pkg files recently, but there is no record of them there.

  2. And I just found one more way to do this :)

    To get a list of installed packages:

    pkgutil --pkgs

    Then, you can get a list of files in the package with:

    pkgutil --files packagename

    1. That’s pretty cool Bob. I upgraded (from Tiger) last night and can see now that pkgutil is a much better way to view details about all the packages installed. I think the pkgutil –unlink command can also be used to perform an uninstall instead of manually deleting files.

  3. Cool.

    Now suppose a file, let’s say a library, is listed in a bom, but that file was already present in the system because some other app was installing the same library, following this method you will delete a shared library and you will break dependent programs relying on the file you have just deleted.

    My approach is now changed to: if a program is provided with .pkg format, don’t install it unless strictly necessary or it provides an uninstaller.

    Also read here:

    Notice that, in my case the files listed in the bom was with relative path:

    I found out that those files where where installed under /usrl/local
    At first I decided to go for removal, but after I tought that some shared libraries like
    could be used by other apps.
    So I reinstalled the application, and I am gonna keep it, just to prevent breaking other apps.

    Coming from Linux and apt packages, I’ll seriously think to punch in the face the next guy who tells me that OSX installs are cool.

    1. I agree Luigi. Apple should really come up with something like an apt installer. My post was only to make a point and teach the readers a little about how the .pkg files work.

  4. Thanks for this! I wasn’t able to find the package receipt for the program I installed but, if you look in the .pkg file that installed the app, you will find all the necessary BOM files and, from there, the process is the same.

    Thanks a million!

  5. Beware, pkgutil doesn’t detect everything installed.

    I was trying to get rid of a Lame component for Quicktime and pkgutil didn’t find anything. Fortunately in the installer I was able to show all files and track them on my hard drive.

    OSX deserves a decent uninstaller system.

  6. I deleted all old receipts from 2010 and older. Is that a bad thing? I booted up apps and they seem to be fine.

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