Macs and OS X have a carefully crafted reputation — “it just works” — and Apple has historically advertised that Macs simply don’t require the same kind of maintenance, or experience the same kinds of “bit rot,” as their Windows-based competitors. Therefore, software that claims to maintain or improve your Mac has often been met with skepticism by the OS X user base.
There’s good cause for such skepticism, of course; many apps and utilities released over the years have been of questionable value, and some have been downright harmful to OS X and user data. Apps promising to increase memory, prevent viruses, and miraculously double system performance have flooded the OS X software community over the past decade, and savvy users are sick of it.
But is there any need for a system maintenance utility? OS X developer MacPaw sure hopes so, as the company has just released an update to its multi-function app, CleanMyMac. Unlike the questionable peddlers of other Mac maintenance software, MacPaw is an established company that produces quality software. Apps like Gemini, which locates and removes duplicate files, and Hider, which makes hiding or encrypting sensitive data super quick and easy, have been been used extensively at the TekRevue offices for years. In fact, MacPaw apps overall are lightweight, run quickly, and feature great OS X-inspired designs.
And that brings us to CleanMyMac, the one MacPaw app we actually haven’t used before. CleanMyMac 3 has just launched, and we were curious if such a system utility was truly useful. Previous versions of the app have received generally positive ratings from major publications, and our good experience with other MacPaw software led us to give it shot, so we contacted MacPaw and had them send us a pre-release preview, which we’ve been testing for the past few weeks.
Features & Capabilities
CleanMyMac 3 combines many different functions into a single app, with a focus on removing unneeded files and maintaining good performance for your Mac. These two foci are divided into “Cleaning” and “Utilities” sections of the app. Here’s a quick rundown of each section.
System Junk: removes user and system logs and caches, unneeded OS X localization files, the PowerPC code of universal binaries, and unused language files.
iPhoto Junk: empties your iPhoto trash and removes unneeded copies of previously edited images.
Mail Attachments: scans for and removes local copies of mail attachments that are still available on your mail server. For those with large email libraries, this can save a significant amount of storage space.
iTunes Junk: removes locally downloaded iOS apps (the apps remain on your iOS devices after being removed from your Mac), old iOS device backups, old iOS device firmware updates, and any broken iTunes downloads.
Trash Bins: empties all trash bins on your Mac, not just the main system trash that sits in the Dock. This includes external drive trashes, iPhoto trash, Mail trash, and any detectable app-specific trash bins.
Large & Old Files: identifies both the largest and oldest files in a specified folder (by default, the active user folder). You’ll want to be very careful here — just because something is old or large doesn’t mean you should delete it — but this feature can help you identify which files are taking up the most space, or which haven’t been accessed in a while, and make decisions about what to move to external storage in order to save space on your Mac’s primary drive.
Smart Cleanup: the Smart Cleanup function intelligently combines all of the above sections into a single action, but uses what MacPaw calls a “Safety Database” — a list of items, rules, and exceptions that the company has carved out to ensure that no critical system or user files are removed — to minimize the risk of improperly deleting important data. Any data found during a Smart Cleanup that might be important is presented to the user for review before removal.
Uninstaller: removes not only application binaries, but also any associated files that deleting just the .app file often miss.
Maintenance: lets the user run a number of scheduled and manual maintenance tasks, such as rebuilding Launch Services, reindexing Spotlight, and verifying disk permissions.
Privacy: removes history, cache, and cookies from your installed Web browsers and chat applications.
Extensions: displays a list of all installed extensions, widgets, and plugins, and lets you remove or disable them as desired.
Shredder: lets you securely erase files and folders, making them unrecoverable. Again, be careful with this option because you won’t be able to get your data back if you accidentally “shred” the wrong file or folder.
New in CleanMyMac 3 is a nice Dashboard view, which provides an overview of current system status, including available storage space and composition, memory usage, and CPU stress. There’s also a meter that tracks how much total storage space you’ve saved as you run each module of the app over time.
To make monitoring and accessing CleanMyMac 3 features easier, there’s also a new menu bar utility that tracks free space, memory usage, and current trash size. You can set custom alert parameters in the CleanMyMac preferences, enabling you to get a notification when storage space gets too low or the trash size climbs too high. It’s a nice touch, especially for those using MacBooks with relatively small drives.
Finally, CleanMyMac 3 features new “health alerts,” which notify the user when various hardware-related events occur, such as an overheating system, failing drive, or power issue.
Overall, it’s important to recognize that CleanMyMac 3 promises to do a lot of things. The reality, however, is that most users won’t need all of CleanMyMac’s capabilities. Very little of what CleanMyMac 3 offers can’t be found or performed via another, usually free, method, so you’ll want to decide if the app does enough of what you need to justify the price as compared to the convenience it offers by merging multiple tasks into a single interface.
Usage & Effectiveness
Using CleanMyMac 3 is very straightforward. With each Cleaning section, the user starts by clicking the “Scan” button to identify the applicable data. Then, all information that is located by the scan is presented to the user for review, along with the approximate amount of storage space removing each item will save. Users can right-click on any item to access a Quick Look (if applicable) or open the file’s location in Finder. This helps verify any unknown files or folders to make sure they’re eligible for deletion.
On the Utilities side, the options vary by task. The Uninstaller, for example, gives the user a list of all installed software, and clicking on any installed app reveals a complete list of associated files, wherever they are located on your drive. Maintenance, on the other hand, lists 8 common tasks, such as flushing the DNS cache or rebuilding the Mail database, and the user simply checks the box of each task he or she would like to run.
In all areas, the options and features are relatively simple and easy to understand, and there are also ample descriptions and tooltips for each feature which explain their capabilities in detail.
As we’ll mention in the next section, the value proposition for CleanMyMac 3 is not great for every user, but the app does indeed do what it claims to do. The various modules work as advertised; we were able to save about 5GB by removing unneeded universal binaries and language files, and about another 10GB by cleaning up old Mail attachments and iDevice backups.
It’s clear that CleanMyMac 3 works as advertised. The problem, however, is that almost every feature the app offers can be found elsewhere, and often for free. Tasks like verifying and repairing disk permissions can be performed in OS X’s Disk Utility app, and more advanced operations like like rebuilding launch services or reindexing Spotlight can be accomplished in Terminal. Likewise, system maintenance functions can be manually executed via the free utility OnyX, OmniDiskSweeper can locate and remove large files, and free apps like AppCleaner can uninstall OS X apps and associated files.
Therefore, at a launch price of $39.95 for a single Mac ($59.95 for 2 Macs or $89.95 for 5 Macs), you’ll want to make your purchase decision based on the convenience that CleanMyMac 3 can provide, not necessarily its capabilities. There are indeed a few unique and useful features, such as the Dashboard, Health Alerts, and menu bar utility, but the majority of what CleanMyMac 3 offers can be found elsewhere.
That makes the decision to spend at least $40 boil down to the value of your time. You’ll spend a good bit of time launching various apps and OS X system utilities to manually perform each operation that CleanMyMac 3 offers. Think about that time, and possible confusion, versus a single click in CleanMyMac. Your feelings on that comparison will tell you if CleanMyMac 3 is worth it for you.
One final note: like any app that has the capability to remove data, users should exercise extreme caution when using CleanMyMac 3’s “Cleaning” features. Don’t get us wrong, the app does a great job of protecting critical system files and of explaining each removal and action before it’s executed, but mistakes could still be made if the user is not careful, and this definitely isn’t one of those apps where you can get away with ignoring the details and fine print.
CleanMyMac 3 isn’t for everyone, and power users will probably prefer to perform many of its functions on their own via Terminal or other OS X system apps. But if you’re a bit uncomfortable with diving into Terminal, or you just want to save some time, CleanMyMac 3 is about as good as you’re going to find when it comes to apps of this nature. You’ll definitely free up some storage space and maybe even find some huge old files that are just wasting space on your Mac’s drive. If you do take the plunge, you’ll find an app that is attractive, easy to navigate, and light on system resources.
CleanMyMac 3 launches today, and should be available shortly via the MacPaw website. As mentioned earlier, there are three licensing options available:
1 Mac – $39.95
2 Macs – $59.95
5 Macs – $89.95
Existing owners of CleanMyMac or CleanMyMac 2 can upgrade to CleanMyMac 3 at a 50 percent discount, and those who purchased CleanMyMac 2 on or after March 7, 2015 can upgrade to the latest version for free. The app requires OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or higher and about 45MB of free space.
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