4 steps to clean up your apps and accounts


A great year-end task: Take time to review all of your apps and accounts on your devices for simplicity and security.

Photo of a left hand with an Apple pencil poised over an iPad mini with an on-screen checklist: Review apps, Review browsers, Check subscriptions, Peruse passwords

Photo: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

If you use a phone, tablet or computer you likely have apps on those devices that you no longer need. Maybe there’s a bookmarked site you signed into but don’t use. That app you downloaded to get a discount. A niche product that solved a particular problem you had once. Or, if you’re like many people in the tech sector, a slew of apps you tested but that failed to become tools you or your team trust.

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As the end of the calendar year approaches, I recommend you review all of your apps and accounts on each of your devices. Don’t need an app? Uninstall it. Has your usage changed? Adjust your subscription. No longer need an account? Cancel or delete it. These actions can reduce app clutter and costs. Fewer apps and accounts also means fewer places for potential security concerns.

This process can take awhile, especially if you’re fortunate enough to have multiple devices. Start with the device you use most often. For most people, I suggest the following review sequence: smartphone, tablet, laptop and then desktop. When you have a bit of time, select your device and use the prompts below for your review.

1. Review apps on each device 

Consider your apps in sequence, from those most to least prominently displayed. While the sequence varies by system, the question you consider remains the same: Is this an app I still want, use or need? Leave it, uninstall it or take steps to delete your account, as you choose. (Remember, uninstalling or deleting an app doesn’t necessarily also delete your account. The account deletion process often requires you to sign in and go through the vendor’s specified process to close out an account.)

On smartphones and tablets, check each app on every home screen. If you use folders, make sure to check every app in every folder. Tap and hold on an app for options either to remove it (on iOS) or to access app info and then uninstall (on Android).

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On a Windows system, press Windows key + I then choose Apps (and, if needed, select Apps & Features from the left menu). Select an installed app on the list, then choose Uninstall to remove it, as shown in Figure A. In some cases, the uninstall process may recommend or require a reboot.

On a macOS system, select Apple Menu | About this Mac | Storage | Manage … then select Applications from the left menu. This displays your apps, sorted by storage used from largest to smallest. To remove an app, click on it in the list to select it, then choose the Delete … button.

On a ChromeOS system, select the Launcher (circle, typically in the lower left corner) then the ^ icon to display apps. Make sure to scroll down through all available screens as you review your apps. Hold the alt key down as you click on an app to display a menu, then choose the Uninstall option.

Figure A

Screenshot of Windows Apps & features list, with Microsoft Solitaire Collection selected and Uninstall button displayed.

First, review all installed apps on each of your devices (Windows system shown). Remove apps you no longer need or want.

2. Review bookmarks and extensions

For each browser installed on your system (e.g., Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox, etc.), review both your bookmarked sites (e.g., on Chrome, enter chrome://bookmarks in the omnibox) and installed extensions (e.g., on Chrome, enter chrome://extensions, as shown in Figure B). Since some extensions may have access to every web page you visit, remove extensions you no longer need or trust.

Each bookmark typically represents a site (and often, an account) you wanted to save to make it simple to visit again. If you have placed bookmarks into folders, make sure to review every bookmark in every folder. Remove bookmarks and consider closing accounts as appropriate.

Figure B

Screenshot of extensions on Chrome OS, extensions displayed: Google Docs Offline, Google Input Tools, Keep Awake, Lastpass, Omnibox Twitter, Social visual alt text, Twemex, Twitter account detector, uBlock Origin, and Chrome apps: Calculator, Chromebook Recovery Utility, and Docs.

Next, check bookmarks and extensions (Chrome extensions shown) in every browser you use. Remove bookmarks and corresponding accounts, as appropriate, and uninstall extensions you no longer need or trust.

3. Check subscriptions

I recommend you check for subscriptions:

  • On Android devices, tap Play Store | your account icon (in the upper right) | Payments & Subscriptions | Subscriptions. 
  • On iOS and iPadOS devices, tap App Store | your account icon (in the upper right) | Subscriptions, as shown in Figure C.
  • On macOS, select the Apple Menu | System Preferences | Apple ID | Media & Purchases (left menu) | Manage … to access your subscriptions.

In any case, this displays a list of subscriptions along with renewal or expiration dates. Tap on an app to manage your subscription.

You also might review your credit card and other payment systems (e.g., PayPal) for recurring charges. Small monthly payments can total significant amounts over time.

Figure C

Shows 6 apps, with 1 of those set to expire (Dec 3, 2021), and the others, each with a Next billing date in the future (dates vary).

Manage app subscriptions (Apple subscriptions shown on an iPad) to ensure that subscriptions you need renew and that those you don’t use are set to expire.

4. Peruse saved passwords

If you save passwords—either in your browser or with a password manager—check each of your saved account sign-ins. This can help you identify accounts you created at one time but may have forgotten about. 

Browser password access varies:

  • In Chrome on desktop and mobile devices, go to passwords.google.com. 
  • In Microsoft Edge, go to edge://settings/passwords. 
  • On macOS, select Apple Menu | System Preferences … | Passwords (as shown in Figure D).
  • On iOS and iPadOS, tap Settings | Passwords. 

Figure D

Screenshot of macOS System Preferences | Passwords, with 9 accounts displayed, and the author's aadl.org account name (awolber) and obscured password dots displayed, with last modified date of 2/1/18.

Check the list of saved passwords to identify accounts you may wish to close (macOS Passwords list displayed).

What’s your experience?

In late November 2021, I went through the above process and deleted at least 20 apps on different devices and closed about 15 different accounts. Some of the apps and accounts were easy to remove (e.g., a simple uninstall or select of a Delete account button). Other systems required me either to have a live chat with a customer service representative or an email exchange.

How often do you review your apps and accounts? If you work in IT, do you encourage people in your organization to go through this type of process? How do you systematically ensure that you only keep apps and accounts you need active on your systems? Let me know how you review your apps and accounts, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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