7 Tools to keep your Mac Healthy

by Milind Alvares

7 Tools to keep your Mac Healthy

by Milind Alvares on June 16, 2009

Post image for 7 Tools to keep your Mac Healthy

mac-healthyFor the four years I’ve been using a Mac, I haven’t used a maintenance tool. All I’ve ever done was verify disk permissions, and maybe use Drive Genius to perform some optimisation. But even that was just something ‘extra’ and not necessary according to me.

The real question is, can maintenance tools really help in getting your system speedy, healthy, and less prone to crashes? The answer is a subjective yes. As a unix system, Mac OS X runs certain maintenance scripts of its own, without the user being aware of them. These scripts run at a certain time daily, weekly, and monthly. However there are other tasks like clearing caches, repairing permissions, and checking the disks which the system does not do on its own. These may or may not optimise your system in a tangible way, but they will definitely be a precautionary measure to make sure nothing is broken.


A straightforward tool, as can be told by its name, Maintenance is a one window wonder. On launch it will offer to verify your disks and make sure everything is okay, after which you can choose to run one of the few options. The user interface is plain, but it’s also very easy to understand. You can execute the system maintenance scripts, clear out caches, and rebuild things like the spotlight index.


Ice Clean

A much more comprehensive tool, Ice Clean is sort of your eyes into the system. Most of the tasks are terminal commands that are wrapped around menubar items. For instance, you can query the Mac serial number which will pop out in the reports. You can query CPU usage.

When it comes to maintenance, Ice Clean can run the usual system scripts, disk verification and other forms of cleanup. It also has a lot of diagnostic tools for network and security, which I personally couldn’t test because it exceeds my limited knowledge of such things. Ice Clean is a free tool, and if you need to know more about your system, it’s a good tool to have.



A no fuss application, MainMenu resides as an icon in your menubar. The spiffy list allows you to access the system scripts, rebuild caches, clean files, and some odds and ends. An overall excellent experience since it doesn’t use much space, has a great interface, and does everything you would want it to do. MainMenu is a free tool.



The big name in Mac maintenance, Onyx allows you to run a whole lot of maintenance scripts, along with cleanups of internet, fonts, logs, etc. The options and presentation are easy and simple to navigate through although there’s some technical stuff in there I wouldn’t touch. OnyX is a free tool, and highly recommended by a lot of users.


OnyX comes from Titanium Software, the same developers who make Maintenance, and also have a tool Deeper which unlocks hidden settings in your system.


Less of a maintenance tool and more of a tinkering tool, MacPilot gives you access to millions of settings Apple wouldn’t dream of putting in any of the preference panes. There are again terminal scripts wrapped around check boxes, so you can easily enable the ‘suck’ effect for the Dock, change it from 3D to 2D, and set your screensaver as your desktop background.


Apart from this you can also run maintenance scripts and clear caches, so it’s an all round package. However, I would say Onyx and MainMenu have far more options than MacPilot when it comes to maintenance, but I guess that’s a price you pay when considering a do-it-all. MacPilot costs $15 for a license which is decent for such a package.


While we’re talking about a tool that gives you access to hidden settings, Tinkertool is pretty much like MacPilot (although I’d say it covers a smaller range of tweaks compared to MacPilot). It’s got a pleasant user interface that’s easy to understand (a win over MacPilot), and most of all, it’s free.



The most professional ‘tinkering’ tool of the lot, Cocktail also has a lot of customisations you can play with, by the looks of it more than TinkerTool and MacPilot. It’s also in active development (not saying the others aren’t) so new features are constantly added. It can also run maintenance scripts and clear caches. $15 is a good price for such an app, although for most I’d say free is gold.


Going through all these apps, it’s very difficult to make a choice based on features since most of them perform the same functions. If I wanted to customise my system and keep it healthy, I’d say Cocktail wins out with a clean user interface and loads of features. However, I’m just looking for a simple tool to do some maintenance once in a while, for which the free MainMenu seems to be the best of the lot. It’s got a minimal interface and performs all the functions I would need.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Newton Poetry

I’m also a huge fan of MainMenu. The “execute batch tasks” is a one-CPI k wonder I run every week. Good roundup!



I found Onyx doesn’t always work just right. I tried repairing permissions on my system but even after all that, Disk Utility shows the “ACL found but not expected” error. I will try some other maintenance tools out there.



good list, gonna try Main Menu right now!



@mainmenu I really don’t see the need for a maintenance app that one would only run once a week at the most to sit in the menubar and take up space.



Can you do a subsequent article, or can someone here explain, how using a tool like MainMenu differs from running Disk Warrior?


Milind Alvares

@JPL: I haven’t used Disk Warrior, but from what I can tell it seems to be more of a cure than a means of prevention (like Drive Genius). To run a directory rebuild it would take hours, unlike these scripts which you can hardly notice. Both are a different breed of maintenance tools.I will surely check out Disk Warrior as I’ve heard a lot about it.



re yash – I found Onyx doesn’t always work just right. I tried repairing permissions on my system but even after all that, Disk Utility shows the “ACL found but not expected” error. I will try some other maintenance tools out there.

Those are not items to be concerned about. Apple says ignore them. OnyX is rock solid and reliable.


Bruce Hamilton

What about Applejack? I use it every Saturday morning on all five of our running Macs…. never a problem. I also recommend it to everyone I know with Macs (thankfully, a growing list)



Milind Alvares. I have disk warrior. i run it about once a month, as recommended by manufacturer. but it runs really fast and rebuilds the entire directory in approx. 5 minutes. i also have drive genius and tech tool pro now, because they were in the last two mac bundles. i’m not sure if there’s any difference in the three.



@JM When I enter the password in Onyx it tells me that it’s incorrect or that I need to verify permissions.
Everything except those “ACL found…” is fine. So I guess the ACL messages, despite what apple says, are affecting the way applications are performing on my system.



I’m a MainMenu user too.



Nice article, would have been nice to know which are pay and which are free, also.


Phil E. Drifter

MainMenu is a free tool.

/me clicks
page opens in same tab (1.fail)
‘download | buy (2.fail)

Sorry, amateur.


Milind Alvares

Agree about FAIL #1, however MainMenu went paid with version 2.0, much after this roundup was done.



This seems like an article written by a Windows user. I’ve never used any maintenance tools on any of my macs and I’ve had no problems with them. I see no reason why should you download or buy any of these apps unless you have some kind of disorder.


Ed Meardon

My experiences may have been with the older OSX operating systems (since 10.3), but the maintenance scripts were set up to run at 4 AM, which was usually when I had my computer either asleep or off. I worried that it might not run the scripts if it weren’t awake at that time. I have heard that this is no longer an issue, but after I had trouble with my old iMac (running 10.3.9!) not being able to find files because the maintenance scripts hadn’t been run, I’ve been faithfully running maintenance scripts since!


Ed Meardon

I like Snow Leopard Cache Cleaner (NorthernSoftworks). I’ve used versions of this program since Tiger Cache Cleaner (seems like a million years ago). In the new version, I noticed a preference choice for putting it in the menu bar, and also one for automatically running the maintenance scripts every x hours. I also like the ability to clean the caches, as when the old iBook used to get slow, I’d do that, and it’d be fast again! I now have a MacBook Pro, and still run it, just out of habit.
I have used DiskWarrior, and found it to be a good program, but after I had kept by iBook for a number of years, the program started finding more “errors” although I’m not so sure that they were real. It seems that the newer versions were not as compatible with my older OS (10.4.11) as with the new ones.
Now I use DriveGenius, and am happy with it so far!


kevin michael

don’t forget applejack, it runs from the single user mode (command s) so if the system will not boot there is still a possible fix, also the repair perrmisions in disk utility seems to do a better job in safe boot (boot with shift key down), althought there is one permission that cannot be fixed and that is the ARD lib, and i found out why, as it assumes anyone one using it is root. go to the folder in the terminal and whosis it and it tells you you are root.

Apple is aware of it and i suppose there is a fix coming


Almekhlafi Portal

Thankyou very much for this tools and tips
I like this


Olmo - Electric Car iPhone

I don’t know what’s best, to clean up your mac or buy a new one…. :-)

from the ecological point of view, dont get a new one, but since people are changing computers every 3 years… I guess a mix of cleaning and changing is good.
Thank you for the reviews.




Great compilation. I’ve used Onyx for a while, and I love it. I’m downloading Cocktail right now, figure I should give it a try.



This seems like an article written by a Windows user.
I’ve never used any maintenance tools on any of my macs and I’ve had no problems with them. I see no reason why should you download or buy any of these apps.


Buffalo Lawn Care

I use Onyx every time my Macs slow down a little, played with Cocktail quite a bit in the past, but usually quite happy with the basic customisable mods and changes I make so gave up on it a couple of years back… definitely recommend Onyx though.


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