How to reset glitchy Mac apps

Don't let macOS prevent you from starting fresh.
MacOS doesn't make it easy, but there's an app to reset your apps. Michail Sapiton / Unsplash

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Your favorite Mac app won’t load. You tried re-installing but it didn’t help. Panic ensues. 

I’ve run into this problem a few times, and the culprit is typically an issue with the cache or one of the settings, causing the program to crash or otherwise not work properly. The easiest fix is to wipe the cache and reset the application back to its default settings. 

This would be easy to do if macOS offered a clear and easily accessible settings option for every app. Alas, there’s no such button, and the settings aren’t remotely easy to find, either. What’s even worse, uninstalling an application doesn’t delete its settings, which means that in some cases, removing and re-installing an app doesn’t fix the problem. 

Luckily, we know where all the right files are and a program that will do all of the hard work for you. 

Find application settings on your Mac

There is a hidden folder on your Mac called Library, where all of your applications’ settings and cache files live. You can open it in the Finder by clicking Go on the menu bar, going to Go to Folder, and typing ~/Library.

Going down the Library folder rabbit hole can certainly be frustrating.

To reset an app, all you need to do is select all the files related to it and wipe them all out of your computer. Sounds easy, but the problem is that the Library folder is anything but user-friendly, so there will be nothing remotely straightforward about the process. 

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If you don’t know what you’re doing, one look at the directory is enough to realize that there seems to be no easy logic behind the way files are organized. So, instead of finding a single folder for each app containing everything related to it, you’ll find files containing cache and settings for a specific app scattered around in the depths of different folders within folders. Unless you have a background in Mac software development, finding all the files you need to remove is definitely a daunting task, and missing one could be enough to keep the faulty app failing, rendering your efforts useless. 

But don’t panic: that’s nothing that a little help won’t fix. 

How to find and delete settings instantly

AppCleaner is a free application we’ve called a game-changing utility capable of completely deleting an application—including the hidden settings in your computer’s inscrutable Library folder. 

The trick is that you don’t have to use this application to completely delete an app: You could just use it to delete its settings, saving you from having to download and install the program all over again.

To start, download and install AppCleaner. Open the tool and type the name of the app you want to reset into the search bar to find it. 

You’ll recognize the entry for the app by the “.app” extension at the end of the filename.

As you type, AppCleaner will show you all of the files in the Library folder related to the faulty app, including the tool itself—you’ll recognize it by the icon and the .app extension in the filename. To delete the files while still keeping the application, simply uncheck the entry for it and finish by clicking Remove

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After that, load the program and it will be as good as new—all settings and changes you made will be gone and you’ll see welcome messages as if you were opening the app for the first time. 

I can’t tell you how many times this little trick has brought a seemingly broken application back from the dead. It can also help when a program is too slow, though if that remains an issue be sure to read up on how you can fix a slow Mac.