Whenever I install a program via MacPorts, it gets and installs lots of dependencies. When I uninstall said program, how do I make MacPorts recursively remove all unused dependencies with it?

7 Answers 7


To avoid accidentally cutting leaves that might be things you requested you should install the port_cutleaves package then run sudo port_cutleaves https://guide.macports.org/#using.common-tasks.keeplean

MacPorts 1.9.0 added the sqlite portdbformat and MacPorts 2.0.0 dropped the old flat format. The sqlite port DB format is the default for new installations; old installations that were upgraded to 1.9.x will continue to use the flat format1. You can convert a 1.9.x flat system to the sqlite format by upgrading to MacPorts 2.0 or by changing the portdbformat value in /opt/local/etc/macports/macports.conf and then issuing a port command as root (e.g. sudo port installed).

One of the features of the new format is that it keeps track of “requested” versus “unrequested” port installations. An unrequested port is one that was only installed because some other port depends on it. The leaves pseudo-portname expands to all the unrequested ports upon which no other installed port depends. You can use this to “clean up” unneeded ports even if you did not originally uninstall them with sudo port uninstall --follow-dependencies portname (which will do what you want, but only if you remember to use it every time you uninstall something).

You should examine your existing leaves before uninstalling any of them.

port echo leaves

Some common leaves (automake, gperf, libtool, pkgconfig) are build-time dependencies of common ports, so you may want to “request” them (sudo port setrequested port1 port2 port3 …) to avoid uninstalling them just to have to reinstall them later.

You can uninstall any remaining leaves quite easily:

sudo port uninstall leaves

Note: Before pruning your leaves, you may also want to uninstall old versions of ports that are no longer “active”. This may reveal a few more leaves (i.e. ports that are dependencies of ports that are installed, but inactive):

sudo port uninstall inactive

There are several sections in the MacPorts Guide that also describe the process of using leaves to uninstall unneeded ports.

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    Thanks. This is quite helpful. It seems that you may have to run echo leaves and uninstall leaves back to back multiple times to make sure that all leaves are cleaned. I ran both commands at least 4 times before echo leaves return empty result
    – Antony
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 20:23
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    You could say something like while sudo port uninstall leaves; do :; done to automate that. Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 10:30
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    @ChrisJohnsen sudo port uninstall --follow-dependents portname is incorrect, because --follow-dependents will "recursively uninstall all ports that depend on the specified port". The correct option here is --follow-dependencies, which will "recursively uninstall all ports that the specified port depended on. This will not uninstall dependencies that are marked as requested or that have other dependents." Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 15:51

From the docs:

The uninstall action will uninstall an installed port.

%% sudo port uninstall vile

Note: To also recursively uninstall the ports that the given port depends on, use the ‑‑follow‑dependencies flag. This will not uninstall dependencies that are marked as requested or that have other dependents.

To recursively uninstall all ports that depend on the given port before uninstalling the port itself, use the ‑‑follow‑dependents flag.

If a port is a dependency of another installed port, uninstall will not remove it unless you remove the dependent port(s) first. To override this behavior, use the -f (force) switch. This will obviously break the dependents. Don't force uninstall ports unless you know what you are doing.

%% sudo port -f uninstall vile

Note the major caveat in the last paragraph. Dependencies are exactly that—dependencies—and different apps can (will) require the same dependencies.

  • I don't think this answers the question. The OP wants to remove a program and the things that it requires, not remove a program and the things that require it.
    – user588
    Commented Mar 13, 2011 at 16:25
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    @mankoff: ‑‑follow‑dependencies vs. ‑‑follow‑dependents; the quoted passage describes both, but only the first applies to the question Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 6:27
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    Personally, I think ti is great that Philip explains both parameters, so we are fully aware of the parameters and their implications upon issuing such command
    – Antony
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 20:40

There's also a script in MacPorts' contrib directory called port_cutleaves you can run to remove unneeded dependencies: http://trac.macports.org/browser/contrib/. It'll ask you for each to-be-uninstalled port and allows keeping some, should you want to.

This script is available as a port itself. sudo port install port_cutleaves to install and then sudo port_cutleaves to run.


The command to remove a port and its dependents is:

sudo port uninstall --follow-dependents foo

However, if the port you are uninstalling has dependents it will not uninstall without the -f (force) flag.

Of course you should start by reading over the MacPorts Guide specifically looking into the Uninstall guide section.


I have written some scripts to automate port cleanup: https://github.com/vasi/macports-tools

The 'macportsfoster' script will output a list of all ports not required by anything in the requested-list, ordered such that 'port deactivate $(macportsfoster)' will remove all of them in one shot.


I think the other answers, and the --follow-dependents flag, do not do what you want. If you install A, and A requires B, then thanks to the wonderful package management systems, B will be installed for you. You can uninstall B and the --follow-dependents flag will be aware of and remove A. But what if you uninstall A, which is more likely, because A is what you manually installed in the first place? In this case, B is left behind.

If you use fink, the debfoster package is designed to clean out your system and remove unused dependencies.

Debfoster will help you get rid of packages (libraries for example) get left behind on your system when the program that required it was removed or upgraded to a version that doesn't have the dependency.

While debfoster will not work for MacPorts, there appears to be ports of debfoster, for example, portsfoster, although it seems to be discontinued...

Perhaps no solution currently exists for MacPorts.

  • But isn't debfoster for deb files on Debian based system? How do I use it for MacPorts ports on Mac OS X?
    – hpy
    Commented Mar 13, 2011 at 16:44
  • It has been ported to OS X and MacPorts and fink are based on the apt system which is used by Debian. I don't use MacPorts, but I did a fink install debfoster and it worked just fine for me.
    – user588
    Commented Mar 13, 2011 at 19:08
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    MacPorts is not related to the apt system and does not use deb files. The idea of MacPorts is related to FreeBSD ports or NetBSD pkgsrc, but the implementation is very different. Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 3:56
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    OK. Thanks for the correction. Regardless, debfoster has been ported to work fine through fink. Further searching shows that it does not work with MacPorts, but there are clones, for ex, see portsfoster
    – user588
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 4:22

I had a lot of py36-* packages. As currently Python 3.6 is older, I uninstalled all these packages uninstalling its dependents as:

sudo port uninstall --follow-dependents python36

I hope it helps

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