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Posted on July 28, 2015 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

Recently, in trying to make my phone more efficient, I deleted some apps I didn’t use. Then, a few hours later, one of them popped back up in the same spot in my app lineup, like a hard-to-kill zombie.

After some research, I realized that I wasn’t alone. Many people have trouble when attempting to permanently delete unwanted apps.

The problem is more than an annoyance. Since some apps can harbor unwanted “features” —which could collect data on you without your knowledge—it’s important to know how to completely uninstall apps so that they no longer pose a security threat.

How to Uninstall Apps

There are two main types of apps on a smartphone or tablet: the kind you install yourself, and the ones that come pre-installed from the device manufacturer.

For the latter type, sometimes called “bloatware,” it’s likely that you can’t delete them—or at least, not easily. If you try, you’ll get a message letting you know it was “disabled” and not uninstalled. There are tactics that will let you remove them permanently, as long as you’re willing to get your hands dirty, and potentially void your warranty. In general, though, it’s easiest to disable these apps, since that will stop them from taking up system resources and running in the background.

In terms of reducing security risks, you’ll want to focus most on apps you’ve downloaded, this is because the manufacturer apps (originally installed on your device) are designed to stay put. The process will depend on what kind of operating system you have: iOS, Android or Windows. Here are some good guides that can walk you through the steps for each:

  • iPhone or iPad — These have a basic deletion process, where you press and hold the app icon for a few seconds until it “wiggles,” and then you can hit the “X” that appears in the corner of the app and delete it. But for more advanced deletions, check out this advice, which also covers deletion of pre-installed apps.
  • Android devices — For these, you navigate to the settings menu and find the apps submenu. From there, swipe right to the “all apps” list and choose the ones you’d like to uninstall or disable. Google offers a guide for how to uninstall apps specifically for Android devices.
  • Windows devices — To uninstall apps and games, go to the Start menu and swipe left to get to the app list. Tap and hold the icon, and the system will give you the option to uninstall. Just choose “yes” and it should remove the app.

Don’t Forget Your Synced Devices

In addition to deleting apps from your phone or tablet, keep in mind that if you sync your device to a computer, the apps might live in both locations, which is why a seemingly “uninstalled” app might pop back up later. Make sure that when you’re deleting apps, you’re scrubbing the program from every system. Delete the app from each device separately, and double-check the devices to make sure you’ve completely removed the app from all digital locations.

The best protection, though, is a healthy dose of prevention. That means you should thoroughly research apps before installing them, so you know what you are placing on your system. Read user reviews to uncover any security concerns and always download from a trusted site.

Even with good security practices, though, malicious apps can sometimes still infiltrate your systems. Because of this, consider enrolling in a product like IdentityForce’s UltraSecure, which monitors your personal information 24/7 and notifies you quickly of any suspicious activity. If any identity theft damage does occur, IdentityForce will be with you every step of the way to help you restore your identity.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Cristiano Betta.