Product Review: CleanMyMac

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Periodically, we all need to clean out the crap that collects in any OS. OS X (in my case Lion) is no exception. I noticed a lot of left-behind files and daemons from software I thought I had deleted, as well as various caches and leftover files. So, I went looking for ways to go through and clean up the detritus and came across about five hundred different pieces of software that claim they can do it.

Being the cynical type, I didn’t take any of the claims at face value, and did a bit of research to find a tool that could do what it said without destroying my Mac in the process. Many tools that provide automatic cleaning can remove things you may actually want to keep, causing more problems than they fix. I have had that particular problem with Windows-based “speed up” tools, and didn’t want to get bitten by that bug again. Others are thinly-veiled malware, looking to take advantage of desperate users trying to clean up their systems by serving up ads and solicitations for services you don’t want, don’t need, or can’t use.

In my searching, I found CleanMyMac by MacPaw. The software received generally good reviews from folks across the web, and so I felt secure in at least installing it and trying it out. What I found was a great piece of software that was flexible enough to let me do what I wanted, without forcing me to do *everything* at once.

The interface is pretty simple, you install the software from the DMG file, then run the app and are presented with a one-time dialog box asking what languages you routinely use on your Mac. I selected a few, and then was taken to the main screen with the ability to run scans, delete apps, shred files, etc. I clicked “Scan My Mac” and let it roll.

About 7 minutes later, the scan was done, and CleanMyMac had found a ton of different things I could get rid of. The problem is that I might have a bunch of things that CleanMyMac thinks are worthless that I really want to keep. Thankfully, the software doesn’t just go and automatically remove things by default.

Clicking on each category (Caches, Logs, Language Files, etc.) brings up a list of what the tool found in a right-hand pane. You can check/uncheck items to either confirm you want to get rid of them, or keep them. There is also a setting to permanently ignore anything you don’t want CleanMyMac to even check for in future. So I unchecked what I wanted to keep (or those things I wasn’t even sure about, just to be safe) and watched as the system efficiently cleaned up everything that I told it to.

While that alone is a great help, what I needed was to pick through the system to find left-behind preferences and extensions from apps I had deleted before I learned that you really need to use something like AppDelete and not just drag apps to the Trash. There were quite a few, and they all showed up on the various tabs of the Manage Extensions section. I was able to pick just those I had definitely tried to uninstall in earlier days, and let the software then go through and remove them for me. This section works the opposite of the main scan, with files being de-selected until you manually check the boxes of those you want to trash. That’s a huge thing, as you’re talking about the guts of your applications here, and don’t want to accidentally rip out a preference file for something that’s still installed.

Right below Manage Extensions are sections for *properly* deleting applications and securely or quickly erasing unwanted files. This keeps you from getting stuck with the left-behind preferences and extensions in future. Yes, there are many tools (some free, some paid) that can also do this, but it’s nice to see them included in once tool with the rest of the cleanup functions I’d want to run.

Overall, I give CleanMyMac 4 out of 5 stars. The one-star ding is for very sparse information on the info panel that slides out to the right when you select and item and click the “i” icon in the lower-right. Native and built-in plug-ins, for example, are not listed with any detail. This required me to do some web searching to find out what the preference or extension was, to determine if it was safe to delete or not. I can completely understand that info not being available for 3rd-Party tools, but those tools that are part of OS X should have some details there.

There are – as I mentioned – free or lower-cost apps that can individually do all these things (including removing unused languages and cache files). For me, having all these tools and controls for handling them in one piece of software is worth shelling out a few bucks.

CleanMyMac is well worth the price (US$14-25, depending on options) and a good bet if you have pesky files hanging around way past their welcome. Just remember not to delete anything unless you know what it is – which will usually take some web searching to figure out. When in doubt, leave it alone, but otherwise this software can help clean out the crap in your Mac.

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