Mac OS X owners are fortunate in that viruses and malware, which normally strike at Windows systems, do not normally hit Apple hardware. But that doesn’t mean you should be complacent. It is a good policy to always be on the alert from the first moment you acquire your OS X computer.
Also, like Windows, Mac computers can fill up with junk pretty quickly if you don’t keep on top of it. Over time, as this accumulates, your system is liable to slow down and overall performance will be reduced as a result.
Thankfully, there are free solutions which can help you with all of these problems.
This is probably the best known app of the lot, when it comes to system maintenance. Originally called “Crap Cleaner” (hence the extra ‘C’ at the start), this cross-platform app goes through the temp files, caches, and browsing histories of each installed browser. It also speeds through the operating system and removes all unnecessary dreck clogging up the pipes, as well as emptying the trash bin.
It goes without saying though that if you are unsure about one of the options, do NOT mark it for deletion. It’s better to keep something and be safe, rather than delete it in haste and watch your Mac self-destruct.
When it comes to virus detection, one of the leaders in the field is German-made Avira Anti-Virus. On my Windows PC, I run it alongside AVG, and sometimes Avira is faster and more accurate than AVG.
With the Mac version of Avira, as well as viruses, things which are checked for include spyware, backdoors, phishing, as well as what is called “heuristic detection”. This is where Avira looks at apps to check for any suspicious code.
But enable this at your own risk, because code which Avira considers suspicious and what you do may not be quite the same. So legitimate files and apps may get wrongly flagged and removed.
On the whole though, Avira is one of the top-shelf products out there in the field, so false positives don’t occur very often.
As well as the regular AVG anti-virus software, AVG also provides a separate standalone product called AVG Cleaner. As the name suggests, this app does not focus at all on viruses, but instead on finding and removing unnecessary files. And it does it rather well.
The app comes in two parts. The first part is the Disk Cleaner, and the second part the Duplicate Finder. The names are pretty much self-explanatory. The Disk Cleaner finds and nukes unnecessary files, while the Duplicate Finder finds duplicate files on your system, and gives you the opportunity to review and delete.
This is another cleaning tool, which I use alongside AVG Cleaner. You might think two cleaning tools is extreme overkill, but when AVG Cleaner says it has found everything, Dr. Cleaner begs to differ. So I like to have competing apps doing the same job. That way, I can be sure everything is being caught.
Dr.Cleaner claims to be “the number one free Mac cleaning app”. With almost 132,000 ratings (at the time of writing) and five stars, it is quite probably true that Dr.Cleaner leads the way.
With the app, you can “optimize” the memory being used, get back the unused memory from closed apps, and you will be told which apps are taking up significant amounts of memory. This way, you can assess which apps could be the most problematic, and consider uninstalling them.
Dr.Cleaner also cleans out junk files, big files (you can specify the minimum size to be scanned for), and duplicate files. This is definitely one app to have on your Mac.
We finish with a malware scanner, and although Avira does a good job of finding malware and spyware, MalwareBytes has its own set of definitions, and quite often finds its own nasty critters. So again, competing apps, better protection.
The app works pretty simply. No manual required. In fact it is so straight-forward that there isn’t even a preferences section to the app. Just fire up MalwareBytes and hit the “Scan” button. It will then start hunting and let you know if it finds anything.
Using these five apps, your Mac will stay clean from viruses, spyware, malware, junk files, and Justin Bieber music files. And you can’t argue with the price either.
Which apps do you use to keep your Mac zippity-zip? Let us know in the comments.
Obsessed with tech since the early arrival of A/UX on Apple, Sudz (SK) is responsible for the editorial direction of AppleToolBox. He is based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Sudz specializes in covering all things macOS, having reviewed dozens of OS X and macOS developments over the years.
In a former life, Sudz worked helping Fortune 100 companies with their technology and business transformation aspirations.