How to remove all Adobe software from your Mac

No AdobeAdobe likes to take over your computer, especially if you have installed a number of products, or enrolled in Creative Cloud. There will be many Adobe processes running all the time and various ones running at startup or login. Adobe is well known for creating buggy products with security vulnerabilities, like Flash, and running many processes that bog down your machine. I just wanted to be rid of them altogether. Here’s what worked for me on a MacBook with OSX 10.13.4.

The goal is to get the following results at the terminal command line: find ~/Library | grep -i adobe returns no results; ps aux | grep -i adobe returns only the ps command itself; find /Applications | grep -i adobe returns only other applications that reference Adobe in some passive way (in my case Xcode has some Flash related libraries); and most importantly launchctl list | grep -i adobe returns no results.

The first thing that I personally had to do was to pay over $100 to terminate my Creative Cloud contract with Adobe. Hopefully you don’t have to do that.

To begin this journey, ensure that no applications are running except for a finder window and a terminal window, and maybe this blog entry copied to a text file (not PDF), or printed.

As a precaution I would unplug any external USB drives when you do the steps below – sometimes spotlight can index libraries on external drives which can create issues if they were Adobe libraries that might somehow get loaded instead of the local ones. I’ve had similar problems before with other software. I’m not sure how important this actually is, but I would recommend disconnecting from external drives, and possibly also disconnecting from the internet to avoid issues associated with any Adobe updates that might try to run while you are messing with the configuration.

If you have anything Adobe such as Creative Cloud shown on the top menu bar of your machine you should exit those background applications.

I did not personally do this, but it might be worth first checking if there are some Adobe specific uninstall scripts in any Adobe folders under Applications/Utilities. However I don’t think I would trust them anyway to really uninstall everything.

Next go to the Applications folder and remove any Adobe products by sending them to the trash. Also check Applications/Utilities for additional stuff – there were multiple Adobe folders there in my case. Make sure that after this you also empty your trash.

Remove the Adobe PDF reader and check that stand-alone Flash is not installed. (Browsers now contain built-in Flash which can be enabled if needed.) You can install Adobe PDF reader later if you really have to, but you can also use the built-in OSX preview app for PDFs, as well as third party PDF readers.

Moving on, and assuming you no longer have obvious signs of Adobe applications present or running on your machine, you now have to check out a list of secret daemons and agents that Adobe starts up by typing launchctl list | grep -i adobe at the command line.

One of the main things to do is to get rid of the launch process com.adobe.GC.Scheduler-1.0 because if it is running it will not allow you to stop it from being launched at login, even if you delete its launch file, and it will try to restore a whole bunch of Adobe shit back into ~/Libraries, even if you have already meticulously deleted everything from there.

The plist file that starts this launch process is normally ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.adobe.GC.Invoker-1.0.plist – I would check in that folder to see if it is present, or a similar named version. This plist tells the OSX launcher to start up com.adobe.GC.Scheduler-1.0, and once it’s going it seems to prevent the plist file from being deleted. So you need to get ahead of this scenario by unloading the running agent by typing the following at the terminal command line:

launchctl unload ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.adobe.GC.Invoker-1.0.plist

(You might have to prefix this with sudo depending on how your security is set up.)

Then you need to stop all the Adobe agents from ever being launched at startup or user login.

First go to System Preferences, then to Users and Groups, and then click on your username, and look on the top right for Login Items. If you see any Adobe stuff on this list, use the ‘-‘ button to delete it. That’s the sort of friendly UI way to start removing things.

After that remove all the Adobe files from your home ~/Library/LaunchAgents, and the root /Library/LaunchAgents, and /Library/LaunchDaemons, using the rm command from the terminal. Don’t touch anything under /System/Library/Launch* because those locations should just contain OSX specific stuff. Mostly the Adobe files start with com.adobe and are plist files.

This should leave you in a position where nothing Adobe is going to get launched on reboot or on user login. (There are also some deprecated ways of starting things up, but focusing on these locations was sufficient for me.)

Now you need to delete all the Adobe application related data files from wherever. You might find that Adobe installed some shortcuts on the side bar of the finder. Those are easy to delete with the menu item “Remove from Sidebar”.

So what normally remains is a whole bunch of Adobe files stored under ~/Library. To list them and their full paths, type the command:

find ~/Library | grep -i adobe

(Actually later I realize this can be done also with find ~/Library -iname “*adobe*”)

You will get a whole list of paths to files and directories that Adobe created and you need to delete. However I would check them quite carefully to ensure you aren’t deleting some third-party items that merely reference Adobe. This was not really the case with me, except for one third-party plugin item which didn’t seem critical. Most of the Adobe files are stored in the directory tree under ~/Library/Application\ Support/Adobe, but there are also many others including Cache files and Log files, mostly thankfully organized under Adobe named folders, or under folders names starting with com.adobe. This is where you have to be really careful, and I can’t tell you exactly what to remove because I’m sure your file list will be different from mine.

From the terminal, type the command cd ~/Library just to get to the right place, and then make use of rm -r some_path/*, or rm -r some_non_empty_folder, or rmdir some_empty_folder, to progressively remove the Adobe data files and folders.

Here some_path is the relative path from ~/Library to any containing folders that only have Adobe stuff in them, as listed using the find command above. For example you might type

rm -r Application\ Support/Adobe

This will remove the Adobe folder and everything under it within the Application\ Support folder. I kept running find ~/Library | grep -i adobe over and over to see how I was doing.

There are some Adobe files that you can’t delete like this because of permissions, so you have to use a sudo rm -r file_or_folder. You have to all the above very carefully and slowly to avoid accidentally deleting non-Adobe related files or folders by typing the wrong rm command. To be safer, I recommend against ever typing rm -r *, but instead use the containing folder name and not the wildcard.

You also need to repeat the same work for the folders under /Library. However notice that some Adobe related stuff is part of third-party software or browsers so I would only recommend deleting /Library/Application\ Support/Adobe, /Library/Preferences/com.adobe.*, /Library/PrivilegedHelperTools/com.adobe.*, and /private/var/db/receipts/com.adobe.*.

With any luck when you are done, find ~/Library | grep -i adobe returns no results.

Lastly check in /Users/Shared for anything Adobe; often there will be a /Users/Shared/Adobe directory which you can delete with rm -r /Users/Shared/Adobe.

Then reboot the machine.

Now the moment of truth is to run that find command again and see if there are still no results. If that is the case then you are cherry! You can then check with launchctl list | grep -i adobe and the other searches I recommended at the beginning to make sure nothing remains.

If some Adobe stuff is still present, check the launch locations ~/Library/LaunchAgents/Library/LaunchAgents, and /Library/LaunchDaemons. You could find, like I did that, one item is sticky and needs to be specifically unloaded with the launchctl unload path/file.plist command prior to deleting its plist file. Note that the launched items may have a slightly different name from the plist file. I didn’t bother to individually unload all the running Adobe launch items, but that may be the smarter thing to do before deleting all the plist files.

I tried to find everywhere that Adobe had placed files, but depending on what products you have installed there may be yet more places. So if your configuration is very different than mine you might have to make some changes, but hopefully this blog article helps by giving you the tools.  Please don’t blame me if you brick your computer. I am still writing blog updates from mine, and managing even without Adobe software. Wait… how do you annotate an image??

Interested to hear if there are other problems and solutions that people have. Comments below.

One thought on “How to remove all Adobe software from your Mac

  1. Thanks Simon. Timely, I cancelled my subscription last month and reading this makes me even more happy I did. I still have plenty of files but at least all the processes have been cleared. What a mess.

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