How to Fix Launchpad Problems on Your Mac

Rebuilding the Launchpad database fixes most of its ills

Launchpad, the application launcher that Apple introduced with OS X Lion (10.7), was an attempt to bring a touch of iOS to the Mac operating system. Like iOS, Launchpad displays all the applications installed on a Mac in a simple interface of app icons spread across the Mac display. A click on an app icon launches the application.

Information in this article applies to Macs with macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Lion (10.7).

Launchpad on macOS Catalina

Launchpad displays app icons until it fills up the display and then creates another page of icons you can access with a swipe, just like in iOS. If you don't have a gesture-enabled input device, such as the Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad, or a built-in trackpad, you can still move from page to page by clicking the page indicators at the bottom of the Launchpad.

All those icons on a blurred, semi-transparent background take a lot of graphics horsepower to pull off. So, instead of building thumbnails of each application icon every time the app is launched or a page is turned, Launchpad maintains a database. It includes the app icons, their location in the file system, where they should display in Launchpad, and other information necessary for Launchpad to do its job.

When Launchpad Fails

About the worst that happens with Launchpad is that an icon for an app you deleted refuses to go away, icons don't stay on the page you want them on, or icons don't maintain the organization you created. Sometimes, when you create a folder of apps in Launchpad, the icons return to their original location the next time you open Launchpad.

While a problem with Launchpad can be annoying, it's never a catastrophic issue that can cause harm to your data or Mac.

The fix to Launchpad problems involves deleting system data. Before proceeding, make sure you have a recent backup.

How to Fix Launchpad Problems

Forcing Launchpad to rebuild its internal database fixes most of the problems you may encounter.

When you delete the database and then restart Launchpad, it grabs information from the database and discovers that the file containing the database is missing. Launchpad then scans for apps on the Mac, grabs their icons, and rebuilds its database file.

The method for forcing Launchpad to rebuild its database varies slightly depending on the version of macOS or OS X you have.

How to Rebuild Launchpad Database in OS X Yosemite (10.10) and Later

In addition to the Launchpad database, OS X Yosemite and later versions of the operating system also maintain a cached copy of the database kept by the system, which also needs to be deleted.

  1. Quit Launchpad, if it's open, by clicking anywhere in the Launchpad app, as long as you don't click an app icon.

  2. Open a Finder window by clicking the Finder icon in the Dock or by clicking Finder in the desktop menu bar.

  3. Access your Library folder, which is hidden by the operating system by default. It may be in Finder if you opened it before, or you may have to access the Library folder. One way to access it is to go the Finder and hold down the Option key and click the Go menu. Then, select Library.

  4. In the Library folder, locate and open the Application Support folder.

  5. In the Application Support folder, open the Dock folder. The Dock folder holds several files, including one named desktoppicture.db and one or more files starting with a dashed set of capital letters and numbers and ending in .db. An example file name is FE0131A-54E1-2A8E-B0A0A77CFCA4.db.

    A file name in the Dock folder
  6. Select the files in the Dock folder that end in .db and drag those files to the trash. At this point, you've deleted the database but still need to remove the cache.

  7. Launch Terminal, located in Applications > Utilities.

  8. Enter the following command in the Terminal window:

    defaults write com.apple.dock ResetLaunchPad -bool true
  9. Press Enter or Return to issue the command.

  10. In the Terminal window, enter:

    killall Dock
  11. Press Enter or Return.

  12. Quit Terminal and restart the Mac.

The next time you open Launchpad, the app rebuilds the databases it needs. Launchpad may take longer than usual to launch the first time. When it does, the Launchpad display is in the default organization, with Apple apps shown first and third-party apps next. Rearrange the Launchpad apps to suit your needs.

How to Rebuild Launchpad Database in OS X Mavericks (10.9) and Earlier

Earlier versions of OS X don't maintain a cached copy of the database, so the Launchpad rebuild process is shorter. Follow the same process as above through the deletion of the .db files (Steps 1–6) and restart the Mac.