We’ve all seen photos of Mac desktops covered with unorganized document icons, folders sprawling across the screen, and file names that are virtually unclickable because they’ve been buried.
Equally bad is a cluttered menu bar — with the addition of each new icon, you get unnecessary notifications, clutter at the top of your screen, pop-ups, and other annoying features that you probably don’t want.
You can generally remove these icons by clicking them and selecting “Quit” or a similar option in their menus. This quits the application running in the menu bar, so you don’t want to do this if you actually need the functionality provided by the icon. Depending on the application, you may be also able to hide the icon from its settings.
This can be particularly frustrating when you thought you had already deleted an item, uninstalled an app, or have icons you actually want in the menu that are being buried by third-party apps.
Here’s how to remove those pesky icons once and for all!
Why Do Third-Party App Icons Show up on Mac Menu Bar?
By default, the menu bar doesn’t contain very many icons. You’ve got the stand clock, internet connection indicator, and battery tracker to start. If you’ve customized a bit, you might also have Bluetooth, Time Machine, or AirPlay turned on as well.
However, certain applications will come with menu bar integrations that automatically launch every time you open your Mac computer, regardless of whether or not you’re currently using its associated program. This can be great if it’s something you actually want to see — but if it’s not, you need to do some digging to turn this capability off.
Sometimes programs will leave behind their plugins even if you’ve already uninstalled the application. For example, Adobe’s Creative Cloud software doesn’t uninstall the launch agent, even if you delete all of the programs associated with it. In order to get rid of it, you have to actually uninstall the software using the built-in uninstaller — not just dragging it to the Trash.
Finally, third-party icons may show up in your menu bar simply because they don’t offer a built-in way to be removed. In these cases, you can use a program like CleanMyMac X to forcefully and completely erase them from your computer.
We’ll go over the solutions to all three types of icon issues below, so don’t worry if you feel lost!
1. If the App Launches on Login: Disable via System Settings (Login Items)
Is the offending menu bar icon showing up every time you log in to your Mac even if you haven’t opened the associated application?
If you’re still interested in keeping the icon/application but just don’t want it to start up without your permission, you need to change a few settings.
First, go to “Settings” by clicking on the Apple logo in the top-left of the menu bar and choosing “System Preferences”.
Next, pick “Users and Groups” from the grid. It should be near the bottom, and feature a silhouette logo.
Now choose “Login Items”.
Lastly, use the “+” and “-” buttons to disable any applications that you don’t want automatically starting, or to add the ones that you do want to.
You should notice a difference the next time you log out and log back in.
2. If It Has an Uninstaller: Remove with the Uninstaller
Although it’s less common on macOS than Windows, some programs have custom uninstallers that must be used if you want to get rid of all the associated files. These programs are usually pretty hefty in size, and the uninstaller is capable of finding all the dispersed parts — whereas simply dragging it into the Trash only removes the main chunks.
As we mentioned, Adobe Creative Cloud is one such app. It uses menu bar integration to help you manage your account, but even after you remove the actual programs this icon will remain.
You’ll need to locate the uninstaller in Finder, which you can do by selecting “This Mac” for your search, and either searching the program’s name, or for “uninstaller”.
When you find the uninstaller, double-click to run it. Every app will have different instructions, but you’ll likely be asked to confirm the uninstall, enter an administrator password, and then wait while the uninstaller removes all relevant files and then itself.
3. If It Has No Uninstaller: Use CleanMyMac (Optimization > Launch Agents)
Some apps are trickier — or more poorly developed — than others. Often for security reasons (for example, preventing users from exploiting free trials), they don’t ever completely remove all of the data from your Mac, including integration with the menu bar.
Since these apps don’t have their own uninstallers like Adobe, and the program files are usually buried in obscure folders you could never find manually, you’ll need a Mac cleaner app in order to disable or remove them.
Here’s how to do it:
First, download CleanMyMac X and install it on your Mac. Open the app and go to Optimization > Launch Agents.
Note: a Launch Agent is usually a small helper or service application of the app. Many app developers set helper applications to autorun when you start your Mac, but often this is not necessary. In most cases, you can disable or even remove the helper app.
Select the agents you no longer need, and CleanMyMac will completely erase them for you.
Keep in mind this is will completely remove the icon, so if you just want to disable it, check the settings of the parent app or disable the “launch at login” option we mentioned earlier.
Icons can be incredibly annoying, but luckily they’re simple to remove regardless of the program they come with. When tossing the main application in the trash doesn’t do the trick (or if you only want to get rid of the icon but not the app), there are several ways to prevent clutter on your menu bar.
With all the extras out of the way, you can make room for the tools you use on a regular basis, reduce the load on your Mac, and streamline your day-to-day activities. All these methods should take no more than a few minutes to successfully execute, and once you do, you’re well on your way to a more enjoyable Mac experience.
Make your Mac invincible
Without a doubt, the menu bar is one of Mac’s great features. It’s condensed, easy to tap into on the fly, and displays much-needed information in real time.
But, with every new icon app added, things become a little more cluttered and usability takes another hit. Fortunately, it’s possible to edit the menu bar to rearrange and remove icons so that it’s able to suit your needs at any given moment. Read on for the best ways to make the menu bar on Mac truly yours.
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How to rearrange items in menu bar
How much freedom you have to rearrange items in menu bar depends on which version of macOS you’re running. The users of macOS Sierra and later definitely have more creative license here than others. And if you are not there yet, it’s time to upgrade to the newest macOS anyway.
Rearranging menu items in macOS
To move an icon in the menu bar, hold Command (cmd), then click and hold the icon to drag it across the bar. Simple.
There are no restrictions here — feel free to move icons anywhere you see fit. Don’t like the clock all the way over there on the right-hand side? Drag it to somewhere more suitable. Want to place the Setapp icon over to the area of the bar once reserved for first-party apps? Do it!
The only icon that cannot be tampered with is the Notification Center. Apple has decided this must remain in the far right corner of the menu, which is fair enough — it looks good there.
Rearranging menu items in OS X versions (El Capitan and older)
Movement of icons in old versions of macOS is reserved for selected apps only: Bluetooth, audio, Time Machine, WiFi, battery, clock, and user switching. Spotlight and Notification Center must stay put, as must all third-party apps.
To move icons around within the designated area, once again hold Command, then click and hold the icon to drag it.
How to remove icons from the top bar on Mac
If there are items in the menu bar that you feel don’t belong there, hold Command, click on the icon, and drag it outside of the menu bar.
Note: this only works for first-party icons.
It is possible to remove third-party icons from the top bar on Mac by clicking on them and selecting “Quit” or “Close,” but this will stop the app from working until you reopen it.
Some apps give the option to remove icons from the top bar on Mac in their settings: [chosen app] > Preferences. However, a lot of apps won’t. To fully customize which icons appear in the menu bar, you should use a third-party app like Bartender.
If you’ve removed the first-party app and you’d like it back on the menu, it can be re-enabled in System Preferences.
How to add icons to the top bar on Mac
If you’re missing a specific system icon in the Mac’s menu bar, you can add it through System Preferences. For instance, to enable the Language icon, select Language & Region in the preference pane, click Input Sources, and check the box next to “Show Input menu in menu bar.”
Add menu bar extras
Because the menu options like Clock and Ink can’t be found in System Preferences, you might need to use the System folder as well:
- Open Finder.
- Select Go > Go to Folder from the menu bar.
- Type a path: /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras.
- Double-click an item and it will instantly appear in your menu bar.
You can easily remove any of the icons by holding Command and dragging it outside of the menu bar as described above.
How to customize and tidy Mac menu bar
It’s possible to change the look of the default menu bar items in System Preferences and third-party apps’ ones in their respective preferences. Most of the time, you’ll be able to at least switch the color to black and white.
Change how the date and time are displayed in the menu bar
In the right corner of your menu bar, click on date and time to Open Date & Time Preferences. Go to the Clock tab and unlock the preferences by entering your administrator password, so that you can make changes. To customize the look of the clock, choose between two different time display options: Digital or Analog. You can also tick the boxes for “Show date” and “Show the day of the week.”
To instantly toggle between different display options, click on date and time in the menu bar and choose “View as Analog” or “View as Digital.”
How to use your battery status on Mac
Keeping track of your battery life from the menu bar takes a few simple actions and yet is vital to Mac’s performance.
Click on the battery icon and tick Show percentage to see how much battery power you have left. In the same drop-down menu, you can check the programs that are using significant power in case your battery is draining too fast. To optimize battery usage, select “Open Energy Saver Preferences” and adjust sleep settings.
Toggle between fast user switching icons
There are three different options on how the Fast User Switching menu can be displayed in your Mac’s top bar – as a full name, account name or icon. Here’s how you do the customization:
- Click on the icon and open Users & Groups Preferences.
- Enter your password to unlock.
- Select Login Options in the bottom left corner of the Users & Groups.
- Go to “Show fast user switching menu” and pick one of the options.
- Untick the box if you prefer to remove the icon from the menu bar.
Show Wi-Fi status in the menu bar
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To enable the Wi-Fi icon in your Mac’s top bar, go to System Preferences and select Network. Tick the box next to “Show Wi-Fi status in menu bar.”
How to replace menu bar app icons
If you want to have custom icons in your Mac’s menu bar, there’s a way to replace the default ones. To change the icon of a third-party app, find it in Applications, right-click to open a context menu, and choose “Show Package Contents.” Go to Resources folder to find the defaults – these can be used as templates for the new icons. Once you have a custom icon ready, simply copy it into the same Resources folder.
While the app is flexible, it is a little buggy on High Sierra, and the interface is very dated looking. This includes ePub as well as MOBI, PRC, AZW, and PDF. Best app to read books on macbook.
The same works for system icons, except you won’t find all of them in Applications. Here’s the path for you to take: Hard Disk > System > Library > CoreServices > Menu Extras. Once you’ve found the item you need, click on “Show Package Contents” and navigate to the icon via [MENUITEM.menu] > Contents > Resources.
In both cases, it’s a good idea to create backups of the default icons before replacing them – just in case you’ll need them later.
Hide menu bar items
One low-key feature on Mac is the ability to auto-hide menu bar. To do this, open System Preferences > General. Check the option to “Automatically hide and show the menu bar” and the menu bar will immediately disappear.
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To get the menu bar to show up again, simply move the cursor to the top of the screen and hold it there for a second. Now you can access the menu whenever you need it and enjoy an extra bit of screen real estate when you don’t.
Customizing the menu bar with Bartender
If you want more control over how the menu bar looks and what it does, you should consider using the Bartender app.
Bartender lets you hide icons without quitting and rearrange icons in a way that better suits how you use the menu bar — something particularly useful if you’re running an older version of macOS.
App icons can be displayed when updating, shown in the Bartender Bar only, or hidden completely and accessed easily using a built-in search function. It’s even possible to toggle through and activate items using keyboard navigation.
If you’re someone that prefers a minimalist look, the app gives you the option to remove the Bartender menu item, leaving you with a crisp, clean menu bar.
Overall, the Mac menu bar is there to help you improve your productivity by giving you quick access to the apps and tools you need. Using the tips above, you can customize the menu bar in a way that works for you. Best of all, you can get full access to Bartender and over 150 more high-quality macOS apps on Setapp, with a 7-day free trial to get you started. So why not get your menu bar organized now?