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Home » Products » Reviews » The Very Ugly

AppZapper 1.8.0: A Fairy Tale?

Brian Ball/Austin Sarner
Rating: (four burnt toasts)

Brian Ball
7559 Hansom Dr
Oakland, California 94605
US


Collateral damage:
Chump change

The uninstaller Apple forgot.
 - AppZapper tagline

AppZapper is for people who want to confidently try new apps while knowing they can uninstall them easily. Drag one or more unwanted apps onto AppZapper and watch as it finds all the extra files and lets you delete them with a single click.
 - AppZapper website product description

The graphics in this one are alone worth the price of admission (chump change). But don't kid yourself for a moment that AppZapper is going to do anything more than a peremptory search for possibly related files. It's not tracking things and so it's not going to find them either.

And you don't have to steer far off the beaten path to see this. What follows is a fairy tale - in pictures and data lists only. Safari was run for four minutes ten seconds (and tracked) and then was exited and dropped on AppZapper. The AppZapper results were then compared with the full tracking session.

There's a world of a difference: AppZapper does not and by definition cannot 'find all the extra files' as the authors claim.

AppZapper doesn't even come close.

1. Start the Safari Tracking Session

This is done by running the Rixstep ACP application Tracker which will by definition find everything that's been done to your disk. This will be used to compare with AppZapper when the test run of Safari is completed.

2. Run Safari and Exit

Safari is run for four minutes ten seconds; the Rixstep site, the AppZapper site, and the Google Images site are visited.

3. Drop Safari on AppZapper

As suspected AppZapper has a simplistic algorithm and finds mostly nothing.

4. Activate Tracker

Two scans were performed simultaneously (one depicted here) to see what Safari did in the user home area and what - if anything - it did in the root library hive (/Library). As can be seen the path ~/Library/Caches/Metadata/Safari was not picked up by AppZapper.

5. The Compleat Track, The Bottom Line

Safari was run a mere four minutes ten seconds. AppZapper would get the files in ~/Library/Caches/Safari because that's one of the three standard places it looks. But it doesn't look in ~/Library/Caches/Metadata: that's a lot of files for AppZapper to miss. And it doesn't get Safari's 'history' file (~/Library/Safari/History.plist) either.

For just over four minutes of use AppZapper was already overlooking nearly 150 files.

 Start: Fri Jul 20 18:37:46 2007
  Stop: Fri Jul 20 18:41:56 2007
Target: /Applications/Safari.app
  Root: ~

Accessed
--------
~/Library/Keychains/login.keychain
~/Library/Preferences/.GlobalPreferences.plist
~/Library/Preferences/ByHost/.GlobalPreferences.0017f2df26c0.plist
~/Library/Preferences/ByHost/com.apple.HIToolbox.0017f2df26c0.plist
~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.quicktime.plugin.preferences.plist
~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.recentitems.plist
~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.universalaccess.plist
~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.WebFoundation.plist
~/Library/Syndication/Database3

Changed
-------

Modified
--------
~/Library/Caches/Metadata
~/Library/Caches/Metadata/Safari
~/Library/Caches/Metadata/Safari/01DEE7E1-3633-11D9-9F63-000A95DA4200.webbookmark
~/Library/Caches/Metadata/Safari/01DEEA1A-3633-11D9-9F63-000A95DA4200.webbookmark
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6. Where AppZapper Looks

AppZapper will look throughout your home area for anything related to the name of the application you want to remove but it does not check dependencies in executables (and is wise not to).

And unless the files your app strews around all have the same name AppZapper isn't going to find them because that's not the way it works.

AppZapper basically looks in three locations: Application Support, Caches, and Preferences. That's it.

AppZapper also has a 'genie' facility but unfortunately it crashes on Tiger 10.4.6 or later.

Apple didn't forget an uninstaller. Uninstalling is rocket science. Applications have dependencies that cannot be dealt with lightly.

If all you want is a 'more or less uninstall' that's not going to actually track what your suspect application does and not going to do more than can be comfortably done from a command line anyway - and if you like the dazzling graphics effects - then the chump change this popular app sets you back isn't going to hurt much.

But if you someday regret your purchase (those lifetime updates haven't amounted to much) you can always see if AppZapper can pull off the ultimate trick: zap itself.

7. Appendix: AppZapper Crash Log

AppZapper goes south when trying to run its 'genie' on Tiger 10.4.6 or better.

Thread 2 Crashed:
0   com.apple.Metadata       	0x91135ffc MDItemCopyAttributes + 244
1   com.appzapper.appzapper  	0x00018ea4 -[AZAppWizController _findApps] + 714
2   com.appzapper.appzapper  	0x0000c9e1 -[ThreadWorker runPrimaryTask:] + 135
3   com.apple.Foundation     	0x9263f36a __NSFireTimer + 199
4   com.apple.CoreFoundation 	0x9082b822 CFRunLoopRunSpecific + 3341
5   com.apple.CoreFoundation 	0x9082ab0e CFRunLoopRunInMode + 61
6   com.apple.Foundation     	0x9262ddc6 -[NSRunLoop runMode:beforeDate:] + 182
7   com.appzapper.appzapper  	0x0000c919 -[ThreadWorker startThread:] + 386
8   com.apple.Foundation     	0x925f836c forkThreadForFunction + 123
9   libSystem.B.dylib        	0x90023d67 _pthread_body + 84

Thread 2 crashed with X86 Thread State (32-bit):
  eax: 0xffffffff    ebx: 0x91135f19 ecx: 0x00000000 edx: 0x00000001
  edi: 0x003edd40    esi: 0x00000001 ebp: 0xb019f7a8 esp: 0xb019f350
   ss: 0x0000001f    efl: 0x00010246 eip: 0x91135ffc  cs: 0x00000017
   ds: 0x0000001f     es: 0x0000001f  fs: 0x00000000  gs: 0x00000037

Postscript: The AppZapper Package

A lot of software reviews in The Very Ugly showcase the substandard ('sub-Apple') packaging in use. But although there's no further mention of packaging in this review AppZapper is no exception: scores of junk files are included to enhance the user's suffering and consternation. AppZapper could do worse than trying to first clean up its own act.

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