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Finding && Removing Zombie Apps From A Mac



Zombie apps, lurking in the digital shadows of your Mac or iPhone, can consume valuable resources, compromise, performance, and be a security threat. Inactive apps shouldn't consume resources, but can. And really, anything that shouldn't be on a device should just get removed. Let's go through how to find and get rid of these dormant applications, ensuring your devices run smoothly and efficiently.


First up, let's find Zombie Apps on a Mac in a few easy, pretty non-technical steps:


1. Check Activity Monitor:

  • Open Activity Monitor (find it in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder).

  • Look for applications with high CPU or memory usage, especially those that aren't actively used. Be careful not to remove anything unrecognized that came from Apple, though. That can cause unwanted issues.


2. Review Login Items:

  • Navigate to System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items.

  • Eliminate apps that shouldn't be called at startup, as they may be lingering in the background without your knowledge.


3. Explore Storage Usage:

  • Go to Apple Menu > About This Mac > Storage.

  • Review the Applications section to identify rarely used or unfamiliar apps.


4. Use an Anti-virus:

  • There's no real silver bullet here. Most endpoint protection software packages exist for a reason. One may protect better against corporate threats or another might have detection for data to escape the environment. They're mostly useful to find junk installed by bad actors.

  • The most important thing, anything that's found to be infected with a signature of a known piece of malware should be removed. Review any findings and get rid of unfamiliar or familiar-but-infected apps.


Next, to removing Zombie Apps on Mac:


1. Uninstall Unused Applications:

  • Access the Applications folder and delete apps that are no longer need.

  • Use a third-party uninstaller for a more thorough removal, ensuring associated files are also deleted.


2. Clean Up Login Items:

  • Remove unnecessary items from System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items to prevent them from launching at startup.

  • Use a tool like Lingon to identify LaunchDaemons or Extension Manager to surface any apps that install Extensions, as those wouldn't show up in Login Items but might be consuming resources.


Now let's turn the attention over to the iPhone and find any Zombie Apps on that device:


1. Review Battery Usage:

  • Check battery usage in Settings > Battery to identify apps consuming excessive power, especially those seldom used.


2. Inspect Storage Usage:

  • Navigate to Settings > General > [Device] Storage.

  • Evaluate the storage usage of each app, focusing on those rarely opened.


3. Manually Scroll Through Screens And Just... Look:

  • Just look at the apps on the device (and make sure to expand every folder and look in there)

  • It's not likely that there's an app that's been installed by a bad actor; however, some pretty crappy apps can deeeestroy the amount of free space on a device. Especially apps built on popular compile once, run on many types of frameworks. Javascript and rust bloat is a thing, especially with how many modules or other packages can get imported. Any app that's gone dormant should be removed and have a picture of a cloud to install it. Just remove them if they're not being used to get rid of other cruft, which doesn't even consume space or memory, but might slow down other processes. Like the URL of app:// shouldn't work to try and re-install the app once it's been removed.


Removing Zombie Apps on iPhone:


1. Delete Unused Apps:

  • Press and hold the app icon until it wiggles, then tap the "X" to delete unused apps.


2. Adjust Background App Refresh:

  • In Settings, go to General > Background App Refresh.

  • Disable this feature for apps that don't require constant updates, conserving battery life.


And don't forget to just scroll through the phone and delete crap that's no longer needed!


Maintaining the health of a Mac and iPhone involves periodic checks for zombie apps that may be sapping resources. Make a calendar reminder to help ensure optimal performance and a clutter-free digital environment. Regularly revisiting and cleaning up devices then contributes to a smoother, more efficient, and ultimately to a safer user experience.

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