After a 2 year hiatus from writing a review of Mac software (due to being under a "non-compete" with the sale of my Mac and iPhone websites) I was keen to get stuck in to try CleanMyMac 2.0 from MacPaw. I'm generally not a fan of commercial applications designed to check the state of my Mac and I am certainly not a fan of some companies that saturate the web with advertising trying to get us to buy these types of applications. But MacPaw isn't the guilty party in this instance and the software looked impressive when I first spotted the announcement.
There are in fact many free alternatives out there to products like this, but they come in varied forms of user-friendliness and functionality. At the same time, many of these applications launch scripts or commands that you could take time to learn and execute yourself...but with CMM2 and in particular it's promise to clean up iPhoto libraries and look for large unused files, I bought a license before even trialling it. That decision was partly due to the half-price launch sale (the software usually sells for $40 USD), but also due to the great exchange rate at the time. I was also intrigued to see that the application had an "Uninstaller" feature (to help you remove other applications cleanly) and the intriguingly named "Extensions Manager", which I was keen to look at and see if it had any similarities to what we used to have within Mac OS 9 and earlier.
CMM2 installed via a standard disk image download. After a very professional looking launch video (which only runs the first time) you're met with a very clean interface. It's easy to see that CMM2 suggests the first thing to do is run a scan. The other thing that seemed clear from the interface, was that after the scan you'd be given the opportunity to do an automatic cleanup or a manual one. That's a reassuring touch even at this early stage. I fully expect to do a manual cleanup of the things I want to remove as I'm not trusting of any application to automatically clean my Mac for me without being involved in the decision making process...especially with an (as yet) untested application.
Before I go any further, I do want to say how impressed I was with the look of this application (you can see a gallery of images just below). It is beautifully presented and the developers have spent a great deal of time producing an attractive and informative piece of software. They should be congratulated for this and the effort they have gone to.
The scan took just over 4 minutes and upon completion suggested that there was 6 Gb of files that could be removed. So for a 680 Gb partition, with 338 Gb used, it was suggesting I could delete 6 Gb of files. Or put it another way, I could reclaim about 1.8% of used disk space. Does this mean the application isn't effective? No, I don't think so. Instead it probably means (as I suspected) I do a pretty good job of keeping my Mac clean.
At this point I'm going to state what should be the blindingly obvious. I do NOT recommend using any application to remove files from your Mac until you have done a complete backup of your Mac. You have been warned!
I should also comment at this stage I had to quit CMM2 and this review because of an appointment. Later in the evening, I started CMM2 again, had to re-do the scan (it doesn't remember your last results, which does make sense really) and this time instead of telling me that there was just over 6 Gb of file space I could reclaim, it told me there was 5.88 Gb of space. Not substantially different, but I found it curious that in a 6 hour period, with the iMac on but not in use, some of the files that CMM2 had suggested I should remove had disappeared. To be clear, they could have been cache files or temporary files, but with the Mac not turned off during this period I was surprised that over 100 Mb of files had somehow wandered off my computer by themselves.
It's also important to state at this point that if you look closely and compare some of the images in this review, you'll see the amounts being displayed differ between shots. This is because this review was written over a couple of weeks and so there is discrepancy between images at times when I went back and took more screen shots.
After the initial scan, you are left with a number of options. The first is the most straight forward, but also the one that expects you to have the most faith in the product....Automatic Cleanup. Choosing this option will perform multiple activities in one collective process (more on that in a moment). Am I going to ever choose this option? Probably not...and I'd suggest for most people it's probably not a great idea either...or at least not at first. You need to take some time getting to know CMM2 and what it intends to delete.
The other aspect about the Automatic Cleanup option is to do with the interface. Take a look at the following image and ask yourself "Which of the tasks listed below the Automatic Cleanup option are carried out as part of the collective, automatic process?"
It's a little unfair to show only one portion of the interface when I ask you that, and I have to confess that the main area of the screen makes it abundantly clear which 3 options are a part of the Automatic Cleanup process, but when I first looked at that left-hand menu, I wasn't sure. It might interest you to know that the answer is the following - System Cleanup, iPhoto Cleanup and Trash Cleanup.
I have a problem with the left menu because it's hard to know from there what activities are part of the automatic cleanup. It's completely understandable why Large & Old Files, Uninstaller, Extensions Manager and Eraser are not part of the collective clean, but I think re-jigging the order they are listed in and giving a visual hint might make that clearer. Here's my suggestion (below)...which sees a subtle indenting of 3 options to make it clear that they are also part of the "Automatic Cleanup" option.
At this stage as I am not going to use this automatic feature, so it's on to exploring the 3 sub-options separately.
Going into the System Cleanup section you are presented with an overview of the files that are to be deleted. Visually (again) this area looks great, and you can delve into detail to find out what exactly the types of files are that are to be deleted, such as Language files. Some of the information here may not be informative enough for you, so you can get more information by clicking the question mark icon. The help information that appeared was context sensitive (in other words, it was about the area of the application I was working in) and provided a decent amount of information.
I had no problem with the application recommending deleting a significant number of Language files and Universal binaries because these are things I have deleted under OS X using other applications before, such as Monolingual. So whilst I was comfortable with these two significant deletions, I wanted to know a bit more about other items it was suggesting be deleted such as "Development Junk". Whilst the help page was reassuring enough, I felt it could have been a bit more specific. It's easy for the program to say "this is junk", but hey, it's my Mac and my files that I am going to be deleting.
Once I took a deep intake of breath, reminded myself that I had a complete backup of my Mac (on disk and in the cloud), I clicked the "Clean" button. One thing that really surprised me at this point was that there was no "Are you sure?" prompt to give me one final moment to confirm I really wanted to do this. I think this is a bit dangerous, but I am going to assume that clicking the "Stop" button once the cleanup starts doesn't leave you with a badly behaving Mac after cancelling the process.
The process took about 10 minutes and did ask me to input my administrator password because of the nature of what I was deleting (system files). I have to confess that I managed to get my Mac to freeze at one point and I needed to shut the iMac down (by holding the power button down) and restart, but I believe that was my fault. Whilst CMM2 was doing its business, I was playing around with some of its settings and trying to use different applications. This was really silly and instead I should have sat back and let it do its thing. Or perhaps another way to put this is that maybe CMM2 needs to prompt you to close your applications or at least try not to use the Mac whilst it cleans? Even if it truly didn't need you to do this, I still think it would be a good suggestion for the application to recommend.
At the end I was informed how much space I had recovered and with some trepidation, I launched into using my applications again. Although I feel some applications took a bit longer to launch than usual (I'm going to have a guess that this has something to do with new user caches being built) applications seem to be running with no issue. All in all, I managed to remove about 4 Gb of space from my iMac. Time now to look at the next sub-section of CMM2, concerning Large and Old files.
I haven't had a chance to move on to the next part of this review yet, but I thought I would update it with a couple of interesting things.
First, a "I didn't really think of that" moment. If you are a sensible person and back up your Mac (I back up to both an online service and an external hard drive) be warned that these systems will probably consider that your applications have changed once they have been "cleaned"...or so it seemed to me. I'm assuming this is because CMM2 stripped out language file and universal binaries from applications. I mention this because the first time I did my next local backup, it took forever...and suddenly it was backing up applications anew, as though they were new or changed.
Secondly, not great news, but I seem to be experiencing the dreaded "spinning beachball" on the start of a few applications. The applications launch, but they take their time to do so. Afterwards they are fine, but I'm wondering if it is because they have to create some sort of application cache or consider themselves to be starting up anew after being altered? I'm not sure, but I have noticed the beachball more than usual.
The Large & Old Files section of CMM2 did nothing for me. I find it slightly ironic that whilst I'm not that good at keeping my house in pristine condition, I've always been the opposite with a computer. The Large & Old Files feature does exactly as it suggests....lists large and old files for you to consider deleting.
For some it might mean you look at the results and think "oh my god, I never realised that file was taking up so much space". I looked at what CMM2 was telling me and nothing was a surprise. I knew what big files were on my iMac and they are there for a reason. I do have to say that CMM2 provide an excellent way of displaying a list of these large files, grouped (in my case) into sections of those bigger than 10Gb, 3-5 Gb files and so on and so on. Using the pop-up menu, you can change how the files are displayed, such as having old files grouped by access date or other criteria.
Even as I type this (prior to making the decision to clean up my iPhoto library) I am incredibly nervous. If there is anything I don't want CMM2 to ruin, it's my iPhoto Library. However my nerves are calmed by the excellent interface of CMM2 in the iPhoto Cleanup section and a video that I didn't know existed until I went into the CMM2 help section and saw the link. Take a look at the video...
Click here to view the video on YouTube - CleanMyMac 2: How to Clean Up and Optimize your iPhoto Library
The video is well produced and shows you the usefulness of the feature. What CMM2 does is examine your default iPhoto Library (you can select other libraries via the CMM2 interface) and focusses on images you may have changed. What you may not realise is that iPhoto has an inbuilt feature where it retains the original copy of each photo you add to it even if you crop, edit or alter the image. It's incredibly useful if you make a lot of changes to an image and then decide you want to revert back to the original, but I seldom do that.
Imagine a situation where you take a number of photos in landscape mode, but they import into iPhoto in such a way that they all needed to be rotated (see the example image below). That's fine, but in rotating each image you end up with the original (incorrect) image, as well as the corrected version. In this instance the fact that iPhoto holds on to the original image is pointless.
Once CMM2 has scanned the library you want it to review, the iPhoto Cleanup section provides a superb interface to show you what it has found. When I used the "Detailed Results" button I immediately saw images that I had rotated, presented in both their original version (with a red bar telling me it was proposed that this was the version of the image that would be deleted) and the new version of the image that I see when I open iPhoto.
CMM2 also grouped other photos that had been Enhanced, Rotated and Enhanced, or Cropped, and gave me the option to review these images to decide what to do with them. It was beautifully informative and reassuring. With CMM2 telling me that I was going to save 284.9 Mb in my 8.33 Gb library (not that significant I know) I decided to tell it to clean all the images (after I had reviewed them) in my library.
I was really impressed by the whole process (I'd love if CMM2 did this with my music library also!). The interface beautifully displayed the cleaning process, which was completed in under 30 seconds. Taking a look at the iPhoto Library I can't see anything wrong with it and have had no issues since. Keep in mind that what CMM2 has done is effectively delete the original versions of images that I was no longer using anyway, so there shouldn't be issues with your library afterwards. A couple of weeks later (and having used iPhoto repeatedly since the clean up) I am quite happy to let CMM2 clean my other two iPhoto libraries without concern.
The next option is Trash Cleanup. Before I get on to this section I have to say that I was surprised after installing CMM2 to start getting notifications when my trash contained files over 2 Gb with an offer to delete the files using CMM2.
There had been no indications that CMM2 was going to install something during the installation process to start monitoring my system in such a way. I tend not to like surprises like this and think it would have be better for CMM2 to offer this service when I first launched the application with a nice prompt like "Would you like me to warn you when your trash needs emptying?". Instead, you have to go into the preferences setting of CMM2 to change this (to be discussed later).
Coming back to the Trash Cleanup option, I wasn't surprised it found so little given that the trash was empty (it offers to empty trash from your internal and external drives). But it did offer to remove a 565 Kb file from my iPhoto Library Trash, which I was a little surprised hadn't been cleaned using the iPhoto Cleanup feature I had just finished with?
Next up is the uninstaller. I already have both AppCleaner and AppZapper applications installed that do the same thing, so let's compare all 3 uninstallers. I first dragged an application called Pacifist (that I had sitting on my desktop next to the disk image that I had downloaded) on to AppCleaner. It told me that it could delete around 24 Mb of files, including the disk image for the application.
Both AppZapper and CMM2 failed to pick up the disk image for the software, so only wanted to delete 15 Mb. This isn't a concerning issue, just an inconvenient one. I've always liked the fact that AppCleaner offers to remove the disk image as well as the application and associated files, but this may not be such an issue for others.
Probably the most important thing to realise is that unlike the other two programs, CMM2 really does delete these files immediately when you ask it to. AppCleaner and AppZapper do not. Instead they move the files to the trash. So be warned...make sure you really want to uninstall these files before proceeding with CMM2 as there's no going back.
The Extension Manager in CMM2 really intrigued me. Using it allowed me to see extensions (these aren't really what you might think of if you used a Mac pre-OS X) that are installed on my computer. It was an intriguing look into what was installed, such as Skype extensions added into Contacts and an extensive list of login items (many of which don't appear under the OS X login items section in System Preferences) but I would suggest extreme caution before you go further.
What I decided to do was only to consider removing extensions that I felt I knew exactly what they did or which application they belonged to...and then in all instances, spent time searching the web to confirm what the extension was before I removed it. In the end, of 139 extensions, I deleted the following 25...
One thing I have to say here is that whilst the list of login items didn't surprise me, CMM2 listed far more items than OS X chooses to inform you about. It's a curious decision as to why the OS X login items list hides (or perhaps more accurately, doesn't show) items such as the Adobe Reader update checker or the Google Software Update Agent, that run in the background and updates apps like Chrome without any intervention by you (as an aside, that approach goes against Google's own recommended guidelines on how software should behave). Although I decided to keep virtually every login item 'as is', it was amazing to see the difference between the OS X list and CMM2's.
Whilst it's great to have spotted a few unneeded items and deleted them, I'm not overly concern that they were installed. They weren't (I believe) impacting upon the performance of my Mac, but I guess my iMac is now just a little bit cleaner. This makes the Extension Manager an intriguing tool, but not one that I will find myself retuning to on a regular basis.
Eraser is a straight forward tool that deletes one or more files. You select the file (you can also select a number of files) you want to erase and it does its business. There are two options that you can select and I found the wording of them a little odd - "Remove Immediately" and "Remove Securely".
Firstly "Remove" seem to be an odd term to use when you are actually erasing the file. Remove to me has connotations of taking something away to another location. Secondly, "Immediately" versus "Securely" seems a bit unusual. It implies that a secure erasing of a file is going to take a little longer...and OK, I know that is actually the case with OS X, but the opposite of "Immediately" can also be "Later".
I know I'm being quite pedantic here, but I really think the options should be "Erase Quickly" and "Erase Securely". This shows that you truly are erasing the files you have selected, and indicates that whilst one approach is a quick erase, the other is a more thorough one...which you'd expect to take a bit longer. That said, I have to confess I can't see myself ever starting CMM2 to erase a file.
Finally, a mention of the preference options within CMM2. These are worth a good look because some of the settings relate to CMM2 monitoring your Mac in ways you may not be aware of (nothing sinister though) until you start getting strange and unexpected alerts. I first realised this when (as mentioned previously) I received a warning about how big the files were that were in my trash.
I launched CMM2 after I received this warning and went in to the preferences and unticked that option...I didn't really feel the need for CMM2 to warn me, especially as the 2 movie files I had just moved to the trash would be deleted soon.
A couple of other settings worth mentioning...you have far more control over just what the System Cleanup checks for, as you can deactivate items so they are skipped during the System Cleanup analysis. You also have control here over just what CMM2 looks at when looking at iPhoto and your iPhoto libraries.
Finally, if you are someone who wants to clean their Mac on a very regular basis, you can actually have CMM2 remind you by either launching CMM2 automatically or popping up a message as a notification using a scheduling feature. It's a nice touch for those that perhaps aren't likely to remember to clean their Mac on a regular basis.
The phenomenal exchange rate that we have at the moment makes any purchase in $USD incredibly appealing. At other times I would have said that $40 USD for CMM2 is probably a little expensive, but at the moment that works out at less than $50 NZD and that's an excellent price. Part of the problem (for me) with applications that clean your Mac, is that I've never been in the situation where I've felt the need for regular cleaning. This means that whilst CMM2 did a superb job, is stunningly presented and is easy to use, I'm not sure how often I will use it. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if I come back to this review in 6 months and find myself admitting that I am using CMM2 more and more. It's great that the preferences allow you to set the application to remind your every few weeks to clean your Mac. The default setting is to remind you every 2 weeks, but I have now changed it to remind me every 3 months. For me, that's enough at this stage.
I'm really pleased that CMM2 was able to find files that I was willing to have deleted and to remove some space on my iMac. It wasn't what I would call a significant amount of space in the total scheme of things, but at the same time gaining back 5 Gb is pretty good. I'm also not sure if I should have expected performance improvements in the iMac after the clean. I can't say that I have, and it should be noted that I feel I've experienced the spinning beachball a few more times than I normally would in the weeks since the first clean...but it's hard to be sure if that's due to CMM2 or some other reason.
Whether you decide to purchase CMM2 will depend on whether you are someone who hasn't liked the freeware utilities available to you, feels the need to clean their Mac on a regular basis, and whether the easy-to-use interface is something that will help you with these regular cleaning activities. With the latter, Clean My Mac 2 excels at providing a simple to use and informative environment for most users.
What would I like to see added? iTunes duplicate searches perhaps? Safari bookmarks duplicate finder? Oh, and as a slight aside...although I am far far away from the Ukraine, I do have to say that MacPaw's office looks incredibly cool...check it out on their website.
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Philip Roy - eLearning specialist. Former owner NZMac.com, NZ Macguide writer, Adobe Education Leader & NZ Flexible Learning Leader.