Do I Need CleanMyMac X (or any other Mac Cleaning Tool)?
The short answer to this is no. You don’t need any Mac Cleaning Tool. But…
Why Do I Need CleanMyMac X or others?
Apple Macs are based on a derivative of UNIX – which has been an extremely stable platform for decades. Of course, it’s undergone many enhancements and improvements over the years. Apple add and modify the system to suit the more consumer market that the Mac is aimed at.
This history, and importantly this requirement for stability means that your Mac will largely take care of itself. It’s well protected from malware ( in general ) due to the architecture. Also, it generally doesn’t suffer from clog like Windows might.
The other reason you don’t need a cleaning tool like CleanMyMac is the Terminal program that ships with MacOS. It allows you access to absolutely every part of the operating system and the files and folders on it. So you can clean up your Mac yourself. If you know what you’re doing.
So the emphasis in this article isn’t on whether you need CleanMyMac. It’s whether it can help you keep your Mac running in tip top shape with minimal knowledge as a user. Or whether it’s valuable as a time saving tool to save you the pain of cleaning up your Mac yourself.
The Command Line Can Be Dangerous
You can clean your Mac yourself – but this is potentially a time consuming process. Perhaps more importantly it’s fraught with danger. A single slip of the finger can end up destroying the operating system. This leaves you needing to restore from that Time Machine Backup ( you do have a time machine backup don’t you? ). I’ve done it myself. I thought I was going to delete all the configuration files on my Mac to ‘reset’ all the applications to their ‘factory’ defaults…
Don’t try this at home… From the terminal, I typed sudo rm -rf .* – thinking it would delete all the directories and files that started with a period. This is because most of the applications on a traditional UNIX system stored their configuration files in a directory called .whatever
The command did exactly what I asked it to do. Except that the directory above your home directory is referenced as ..
So the command deleted all the configuration directories and then proceeded UP the directory tree and started deleting everything. Literally everything. Because I’d used sudo, I was the administrator, it did it all silently. It carried on deleting until most of the operating system files were also deleted. The machine was then completely unusable.
CleanMyMac X – Safer Than The Command Line
What is with all these weird version number skips these days? What happened to CleanMyMac 4, 5 – 9… CleanMyMac 3 has been around for a number of years now. Surely it was logical to assume the next major upgrade would be CMM4. But it’s come out as CMMX – the X, I believe is because MacPaw is now 10 years old.
A 10 year old company based largely around a product that your Mac doesn’t actually need? Well, it must offer something then. What it does offer is convenience and safety. There are reports online that CleanMyMac X deleted something that it shouldn’t. They seem pretty rare, but do be advised that it can happen. Make sure you have a good backup before running it.
CleanMyMac X Convenience
Throughout the main part of this article I’ll highlight exactly how and where CleanMyMac is significantly more convenient than trying to clean everything up yourself using the command line, so I’ll not go into it here. I do want to point out again that if you’re confident and competent with the command line the only reason to use CleanMyMac is convenience and time.
No automated cleaning tool can predict with 100% accuracy what you have on your computer and whether or not it should remove something it finds. But, MacPaw have expert programmers with 10 years experience in picking up the chaff from the wheat on your Mac. The incidence of CleanMyMac removing something it shouldn’t has been low in my experience. But I re-iterate that this process is very invasive and mistakes can happen. Back up your Mac to an external hard drive or cloud storage solution before you start. You may have to reinstall.
The risk, in my opinion, of CleanMyMac removing something untoward is probably less than you doing it yourself. If there’s something you don’t know when you come to remove it, you’ll spend ages Googling whether it’s safe to remove. You may then find limited or no answer. Then the likelihood is that you’ll delete it anyway and mess your system up.
The CleanMyMac engineers are pretty good at making sure their software doesn’t remove stuff it shouldn’t. Are you? 🙂
CleanMyMac X Smart Scan
After all that introduction – I’ll look at CleanMyMac X.
The latest version of CMM looks really nice with some subtle, but nicely done animations. It’s as easy to install as dragging and dropping the application into your Applications folder, as most other MacOS apps.
The Smart Scan option is an easy to use feature which checks for files and folders that can be deleted. The Protection feature checks to make sure there’s no malware installed on your Mac. Finally, the Speed feature checks your Mac to ensure that it is running as fast as it can. I’ll dig into these features in a bit more depth below.
The Smart Scan on my MacBook Pro from mid-2015 takes about 30 seconds. It’s remarkably quick to find the things that can help. Then you can simply click the Run button at the bottom. CleanMyMac X will deal with all the items it finds.
I’m always extremely sceptical of allowing applications to remove things from my computer. But, you can check the scan results before you let CleanMyMac go ahead and remove the files. In my case it found a huge amount of wasteful cruft on my hard disk. When I checked it was all stuff that could go. A lot of it was ‘cache’ files which a lot of gurus will tell you don’t need to be removed. In general I probably agree. But, when the cache becomes huge as that is, it’s probably time to clean it up and let it re-optimise itself.
MacPaw literature says that they now have a ‘Safety Database’. This ensures that the application won’t select files to delete that it isn’t sure will do no harm. As the program is now 10 years old, they probably have an idea about what should and shouldn’t be deleted.
The Smart Scan feature will remove old cache files, broken application data. It’ll also remove Mail Trashcan data that you haven’t purged. The Mail Trashcan can take up a fair bit of space if you receive a lot of attachments. The other thing that is quite handy is that MacOS comes with a LOT of alternative languages built in. These localizations can take up a fair bit of space if you never use them. They can safely be deleted for a one time benefit.
Another area that can potentially consume a lot of space is Mac’s built in Photo Library. This is true particularly if you do any editing of these. CleanMyMac-X can scan your photo library and remove un-necessary duplicates. Photos will keep the original image even after you’ve edited it. This can be a good thing as it enables you to always revert back to the original. In many cases though, you may have simply rotated the image from Portrait to Landscape and don’t need the original. CleanMyMac-X will get rid of these and potentially free up lots of space.
If you’re looking for something to get rid of similar photos it’s worth checking our review of Gemini 2. That article goes into a lot more depth to find similar photos and lets you choose which one to keep. This can be great if you take lots of similar shots to make sure you get a good one.
The Photos scanner in CMM-X will also remove Faces cache files. It’ll also find local copies of photos that you’ve stored on iCloud. Deleting these will free the space on your hard drive but still let you keep the photos on the cloud.
If you receive a lot of mail attachments then Mail will download these and store them on your hard drive. This is so that you don’t have to download them each and every time you want to view them. This is great if you’re going to look at these attachments regularly. Most people though look at them a couple of times and then probably never again. They take up space. The Mail Attachment part of the smart scan will enable you to choose to delete some or all of them. It also provides a very thorough drill down option which enables you to deselect any you do want to keep.
If you do delete an attachment that you didn’t want to delete, don’t panic. It’s only the local copy of the attachment that has been deleted. Clicking on the attachment again in the Mac Mail application will re-download it. So the module doesn’t change any of your actual e-mails and the deleted attachments aren’t lost.
I don’t use iTunes because I use Deezer, so I can’t really test this part of the application. But it is claimed that it will remove any iTunes information that’s not actually needed. This might include cached album artwork, iOS backups that may be quite out of date.
It’s nice to see a Malware Protection feature in CMM-X. It is a myth that MacOS cannot be affected by malware. No operating system can protect against the biggest exploitable weakness in the history of computing and that is you. The user. Sorry to say it, but when it comes to MacOS you are the biggest weakness! Many malware exploits now exploit the user by tricking them into believing something is necessary to install, or to be clicked. If it can get you to click the ‘Yes’ button it’ll easily be installed.
My Mac doesn’t have any Malware on it according to MacPaw. I’m not going to install any just to test CMM. I’m not sure yet exactly how this feature will work or if it’s reliable, but the company state they keep their database up to date with the latest Mac based threats to help keep you safe.
It should also be pointed out here that if you run Windows Bootcamp your Windows partition could contain Malware. It won’t be executed and causing you any threat while you’re using MacOS, it could when you switch to Windows. I don’t believe that CMM-X will protect you against this. So make sure you’re also using a good Malware protection scheme for your Mac when using Windows. Some of the Mac Malware scanners do check your Windows partitions too, but CMM doesn’t appear to.
One of the features I definitely find appealing with CleanMyMac-X is the ‘optimization’ feature. This feature has just found 2 items that I didn’t realise I actually had an issue with on my Mac. They’re probably not causing a huge drama at this stage because they’re fairly lightweight programs that are being started. Anything that starts up when your Mac starts but isn’t necessary is just taking up extra RAM and processor resources. In this case, the original CleanMyMac 3 scheduler was installed and Deezer Desktop apparently has something that starts up when I log in… I had no idea. That can go for a start. Everything else that’s running at startup probably should be so that’s OK.
Actually, as it turns out there’s a couple of other disabled items that could easily just be deleted… So I might clean that up a bit too.
The new CMMX menu item is a nice feature. When you’ve finished your more intense routine of scanning and cleaning, you’ll almost certainly want to quit the application. But you can choose to leave the menu running. And there’s a bunch of more ‘realtime’ tweaks and tests that can be done from the menu item.
For example, you can see from the screenshot above right that I currently have 124MBytes of available RAM. Admittedly most of this is going to be disk cache I suspect. I have Affinity Photo running in the background which isn’t doing anything right now but probably is taking up memory. Clicking the Free Up button gave me back 3Gigabytes of RAM. I’m not sure how useful this particular function is because MacOS will likely take care of this itself. If you know you want some RAM available for an intensive process it could be an advantage to force MacOS to clear itself up before getting the spinning beachball of death though.
Network Speed and Insight
Another neat little tweak in this version is the ability to test your internet connection’s speed with just a click. I note that when I tried it that it only appears to test the DOWNLOAD speed of your connection. Many problems will occur due to insufficient upload speed ( Google Photos I’m looking at you! ) but this is a step in the right direction. A future update that tests upload speed would be great. But, the other nice part of that menu item is that it shows you the current network utilisation. This can help you to track start tracking down slow networks. A heavy network utilisation can be an indication of malware running in the background. Though, it can also indicate that your Mac is doing an update too. It’s not a silver bullet but it gives you a place to start if your network is misbehaving.
Battery Charge and Energy Usage
Battery charge status and a display of which applications are currently using the most power are also a nifty touch. You can see at a glance which Apps are consuming more power than they should and can hit the ‘Quit’ button to instantly kill them if you want to. Yes, you can see this in the Activity Monitor and can kill them from there too if you prefer. So it’s a nice little feature but not particularly necessary. Having said that, the display on the CMM-X menu is more compact than Activity Monitor.
You can also connect your DropBox account if you want to. The app will then display the amount of available space left on your DropBox account. I don’t have one since I use Google Drive and I’m not sure I’m that fussed about knowing that information. I’m certainly not fussed enough to enter security details into a third party app to find out.
CleanMyMac X – Assistant
The assistant feature on the right hand side ( hidden behind those nifty looking – if slightly unorthodox – little dots ) gives you a some quick tips for what to do next if you’re not sure. You can type in a question to get help about any of CMMX features – or even suggest new features. It’s not something I’m likely to make much use of as a seasoned MacOS user but a new user might find this helpful.
I don’t have a lot of experience with this aspect of the software so I’ll not say much more about it than that. It’s there if you want it, but at least stays unobtrusive and out of the way if you don’t.
Privacy… Well, that’s a huge buzzword lately particularly with all the Facebook, Amazon and Google tracking that goes on. CleanMyMac X will perform a scan of all the usual places that your privacy could be leaked. Google Chrome and Safari are the most likely candidates here. Chat history ( if you use it ) and cookies are also checked. I notice in my scan that all the cookies are listed under Safari and not Chrome. I’m not sure if the cookies are shared across the 2 browsers because none showed up under Chrome, yet Chrome is my normal daily browser. I rarely use Safari at all yet it appears according to CMM-X to have loads of cookies.
Maintenance is a topic all of its own. In general the Mac is really very good at maintaining itself. It tends to be this area of MacOS cleaning tool discussions that get the gurus all hot under the collar. This is because most seasoned Mac users probably don’t need this aspect of CleanMyMac. MacOS provides mechanisms for running most of this stuff automatically.
But, if you’re like me, you can’t be bothered getting under the hood of your Mac – in much the same way I can’t be bothered to get under the hood of my car these days, I prefer to just drive it and let someone else service it. The Maintenance screen of Clean My Mac X provides an easy way to get to these maintenance tasks.
Run Maintenance Scripts
Generally these will run automatically if your Mac is left on all the time (as mine is) but if you switch your Mac off when you’re not using it then these may not be automatically run. They perform general cleanups such as system log rotation (and deletion of old out of date logs) and removal of old temporary items and such like. Running these periodically is probably a good idea if you don’t leave your Mac switched on all the time.
Flush DNS Cache
This one is very helpful if you’re a website developer. You can do it via the command line quite easily, but the command line has changed in more recent versions of MacOS and I for one can never remember what it is anyway. A Google search will tell you the command line to use, but since it’s available in CMM-X it’s a nice easy click of a button to achieve now. You’ll need this if you’re developing websites and change a domain to a new hosting provider for example. The average user probably won’t need this to be fair – but if you are finding that certain sites aren’t working for some reason but others are, this can be a useful starting point to try to resolve that issue.
Rebuild Launch Services
Now this one can be extremely useful and it’s not something I’d want to try to do manually. If you find you’ve installed an application to open certain file types ( for example, VLC to open video files ) and then you uninstall VLC, suddenly none of your video files will open, because the association is wrong. It can be done manually, but if the application has associated lots of file types it’s going to take you absolutely ages. This feature will reset your associations to the default values so you can get access to those files properly again.
Repair Disk Permissions and Verify Startup Disk
These 2 modules perform very low level maintenance on your hard drive, but if you’re noticing your Mac takes an age to boot up, or some things just aren’t working as expected, you can run this module in an attempt to fix it. I’ve had a number of occasions where things just weren’t working correctly, or I was getting the beachball for unexplainable reasons. After running the repair disk permissions and verify startup disk again those problems were corrected and haven’t come back since.
You can get these options through the Disk Utility that comes with MacOS so I wouldn’t be buying CMM-X just for this feature, but if you’ve already bought it for all the other reasons, then it’s nice to have these here in the same location and available with the click of a button.
What a can of worms this one can open up. Mac applications are generally installed simply by dragging the application from the installer disk image into the Applications folder. But uninstalling them by dragging them from there into the Trashcan is a potential problem. It works, sure, but it leaves behind all the application data hidden somewhere in your Library folder.
CMM-X helps to overcome this by checking all those areas too and removing the application data as well as the actual application itself.
Another nice feature here is that CMM-X will show you which applications are 32-bit. Future versions of MacOS will not support 32 bit ( Apple have already stated they plan to remove support for 32 bit applications ) so finding these applications now can mean that you can either track down an upgrade, or be prepared that at some point this application is going to stop working. And if there’s no upgrade path, you can write to the vendor as appropriate and get them to release an upgrade.
As you can see from the Screenshot, once again you have full control over which particular files are going to be removed when you uninstall an application through Clean My Mac X – and it also shows the files that would be left behind if you simply dragged the application file from the Applications folder straight to the Trashcan.
Is Clean My Mac X Worth It?
This is the biggest, and arguably the best release of Clean My Mac yet. On my Mac the scans are very quick and hopefully this review has shown you the various different features that it has.
The short answer to whether Clean My Mac X is worth it or not isn’t very short at all because it depends entirely on your usage of your Mac.
If you can do all these tasks yourself, manually, then no it’s not.
But if you can’t do all these tasks yourself and you’re finding your Mac running out of disk space or running sub-par then yes, it is worth it. MacPaw are now in their 10th year and generally have good 3rd party reviews around the web ( unlike some other mac cleaning tool software ).
The price for CleanMyMacX varies depending on whether you prefer to buy it outright, or if you prefer a subscription model. The subscription model is cheaper initially but does cost a yearly fee as a result. I don’t really have a preference either way – although the subscription model will ensure it stays up to date MacPaw have traditionally been very good at releasing updates within the same version and they generally come free. I opted for the once off payment up front.
Hopefully this review has helped you, if you have any comments at all please do leave them below and I’ll do my best to reply.
Thanks for reading this far!
If you want to get hold of your own copy of Clean My Mac X, a trial version is available at https://macpaw.com/
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