Do I Need a Mac Cleaner?
For many of us, Macintosh is a great system that has a lot to offer including fewer viruses, an easier interface, and drag and drop everything. But, you might think that your computer needs a little something to help you with maintenance. This is especially pertinent if you’re migrating from Windows, which needs a lot of maintenance, to OS X, which requires significantly less maintenance. The most common software marketed to Mac owners is a Mac cleaner, which promises to clean out junk files and things you don’t need to speed up your Mac. But, do you need them? Let’s find out.
What Do Mac Cleaners Do?
Mac cleaners typically delete junk files, programs, app files, disk memory, and permissions, which take up a lot of space and can slow your computer down. Most also access the disk repair utility and run that to help boost speed and ensure that you’re getting the most out of your computer.
They also access files that you can’t access on your own without a significant amount of computer knowledge and work to delete those, which can also speed up your computer. By automating these processes (files left behind in app deletion, cleaning the cache, etc.) you can save time, while ensuring that you don’t accidentally delete anything you don’t want to.
So What Are Junk Files Anyway?
Junk files accumulate on your computer over time and would normally be deleted, but are not. These can include your cache, which eventually creates errors when it isn’t cleaned, app files left behind when you drag and drop apps to the trash, language files which are downloaded onto your computer each time your computer gets an update, cookies which accumulate in your browser cache, files you don’t need anymore, and much more.
All of these can accumulate and can take up quite a bit of space. In the case of your cache, it can slow your computer down a great deal, because your computer is trying to run them in the cache.
Regularly cleaning your cookies can help you to alleviate privacy concerns, such as Facebook tracking or Google tracking. However, it won’t eliminate them entirely and you can delete these cookies manually. A Mac cleaner is great for allowing you to delete all of your cookies quickly with one step.
What do Mac Cleaners Clean?
Most Mac cleaners are designed to clear out specific types of data which build up on a computer and can cause problems, take up space, or become corrupt over time. Let’s take a look at what any Mac cleaner you choose is likely to actually delete.
Caches exist in your system and in your web browser. A cache is a condensed, stored version of an application or website, which allows you to load the app or website more quickly the next time you visit.
For example, if you were to go to a new website, your computer must contact the website server to request a page, and then bring it back to you. Once you have cached it, this process goes much more quickly, as the server only has to transfer new data – meaning that your page will likely load in tenths of a second.
So why clean it? Sometimes you visit websites that you don’t intend to visit again, you store search data that you don’t need, you store your downloads, and you store multiple copies of cached websites, which do take up space. Over time, these caches can become quite large and can even become corrupt. However, you don’t want to delete your cache too often. Once a week or even once a month is usually more than enough to solve any storage problems you might have with caches.
Log files are records kept on your computer of computer actions, applications, and other items – these can be used to diagnose problems and to check where something went wrong. Unless you’re a computer tech, these files likely mean very little to you – so you might think they’re worthless. Mac cleaners often delete these files to clear up space, however, OSX automatically does this on its own after a certain period of time.
If your log files are growing out of control and taking a large portion of your hard drive space, it is likely indicative of a much larger problem. Deleting the files will simply allow them to grow again, because the problem hasn’t been fixed. If your log files take up a significant portion of your hard drive, either take the computer to a tech, use a service like Geek on Demand, or post screenshots of your log files on a forum to ask for help.
Most of us know something about cookies and have heard horror stories about them, but at their most basic, cookies are designed to help websites remember your preferences and data so that you don’t have to keep filling it in between visits. Cookies are harmless, cannot be accessed from one site to another, and have no impact on your browsing. However, some do store a great deal of your information. For example, Facebook cookies typically track all of your browsing data for ad purposes. Deleting them won’t improve your system performance, but it may improve your privacy if you care about who’s tracking your browsing habits.
Some Mac cleaners will help you to delete unnecessary data like mail attachments that you’ve unknowingly downloaded (many of us really do have gigabytes of downloaded mail), duplicate photos, replacing RAW with JPEG (if you’re a photographer, that sounds like a nightmare, we know), removing unused data, cleaning out old updates, deleting language files you don’t use, and even helping you to review old files that you haven’t touched in a long time to ensure that they are still necessary. This can be a very valuable service, especially if you don’t have the time to spend hours doing it yourself.
Fully Deleting Applications
While OSX is considerably better at deleting applications than Windows, it isn’t perfect. Many installers leave files in unknown places, leave hidden files, and you might find that you still have files from a program you deleted years ago. Mac cleaners can help you to permanently delete applications, so that all of these files are gone, and you save the disc space.
What About Defragmentation?
Many Mac cleaners offer defragmentation, which works to correct fragmented hard drives. However, defragmentation should only be run when the drive is actually fragmented, and doing so when it is not could cause real problems for your computer. OSX actually works to physically prevent fragmentation, so you largely do not need this service. When you do need it, Apple’s own Disc Utility First Aid will provide adequate defragment for your OS X.
DIY Mac Cleanup
DIY Mac cleanup is also an option, and OSX makes it possible to manually clean up most of the things that Mac cleaners handle. However, this will take longer, and you can’t clean everything.
So, a Mac cleaning program can be a great way to make cleaning your Mac easier and more efficient. But, you don’t necessarily need a top of the line high-end program to do it. You can achieve similar results with the Mac cleaning program CCleaner.
You can also choose to upgrade to a more expensive program like Clean My Mac, Mac Cleaner, Norton, AVG Internet Security, or similar, which offers more features, but costs money. In some cases, these programs also offer antivirus protection, but this is largely unnecessary, as most Macs only get viruses through Trojan horse downloads or malware that is installed on your computer in the guise of a friendly program. This is because OS X only allows kernel access with your permission.
So, do you need a Mac Cleaner? No. But they can save you a lot of time and can make speeding up your computer easy, especially if you’re not technical enough to understand how to clean it up on your own.