We all know about those annoying nag screens that shareware/trialware programs pop up on program startup. I was wondering how these programs register their existence in my OS X system. When I delete trialware from my system and install again, the software intrinsically knows that I have installed the software already in the past and that I have X number of days left in the trial. How does it know this? I've tried searching for relevant application preferences and settings in /Library and ~/Library before with no success.

I ask in an attempt to understand the technology behind these piracy protection systems, and not in an attempt to dodge the protection schemes.

Actually perhaps this discussion should be about all OS X applications that write to Library/settings. If I install programs X, Y, and Z, I could potentially have files for X, Y, Z in my Library/settings. These files remain even after I delete a program. How does the average user deal with the extra baggage left by unwanted programs?


The average user has someone else deal with it ;-)

Now, us power users find a way around it... When you install a program (expecially when it's done on Windows) it writes data all over the hard drive. I found one program in OS X left a high score table (and count down) somewhere (I can't remember where) on the hard drive. Once that file was deleted, the days counter reset.

If you want to use count down timers, make them good for 30 USES and not 30 contiguous calender days. I don't often use the same program (other than Mozilla) two days in a row, so I feel I get cheated by that aspect of some shareware. (That's also why I constantly look for freeware to replace shareware. There are some excellent freeware programs out there.)

Let me reiterate that I don't mind spending money on good shareware programs. I've run into a great many good shareware programs that I enjoyed greatly and paid for.

What I realized one day was that some software is worth buying. The programmer spent much effort making the software and I honor that. I am amazed at how much good shareware is out there that I end up trying everything. Now after many installs and uninstalls of the programs that I don't want, I am bound to have a ton of config files left over.

And even for a power user, casual browsing of the disk for these unwanted files doesn't get them all! This is evident in the shareware programs that I installed long ago and thought I had completely removed from the system. Installing it for a second time, I find that it still knows that I did in fact use the program for X number of times, or that I have 0 days left in my evaluation period.


The BEST way to get rid of all those unwanted config files is to format and reinstall. With any system, due to the baggage left by uninstalling programs, it has to be done every few years.

Some software is worth paying for, I agree. However, I find most software is more costly than I'd like to spend. For example, I only need one part of a suite, but have to buy the whole thing. So rather than paying $50 for a good CD-writing program, I have to pay $100 for the extra junk that won't be installed (If I can help it.)

Don't be afraid to open files in a text editor. Usually, you'll see some human readable text telling what it is somewhere. The only way to find the hidden files is to do this, or have a program do it for you. (I'm primarily a Windows user, but am familiar w/ Macs and Linux.) I don't believe Macs have a registry, which may be a good thing.

Actually Mac does have a registry. Have you ever tried 'defaults read'?
Do a 'man defaults' for more options.

Defaults allows users to read, write, and delete Mac OS X user defaults
from a command-line shell. Mac OS X applications and other programs use
the defaults system to record user preferences and other information that
must be maintained when the applications aren't running

Also, all files including binaries can be scoured using the command line program 'strings'.

IMHO reformatting is not an option for most users. Even if I did reformat, I would backup everything in my home directory including Library and restore it on the formated disk. This would preserve all the settings I want, but retain all the orphaned files as well.