A Mac Expert's Favorite Tools: Page 2

Posted October 30, 2008

Ryan Faas

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Mac OS X Maintenance and Troubleshooting

While hard drive corruption may be one of the most common problems for Mac users, it is by no means the only one. Like most operating systems, Mac OS X requires a number of common maintenance tasks to run at its best.

These include tasks such as clearing system and user caches, verifying the integrity of application and system preferences files (corrupted cache and preferences files can both cause erratic behavior and application crashes), removing old and outdated log files, verifying and repairing system permissions, and running of the daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance scripts built into Mac OS X.

There are a number of utilities available that perform some or all of these core maintenance and troubleshooting feats (most with the click of a only one or two buttons). Many of these utilities also offer additional features, such as the ability to customize various aspects of the Mac OS X user interface. While all are widely viewed as excellent tools, the user interface, cost, and specific features of each tool may reflect on which one is right for you.

Cocktail – A commonly used utility, Cocktail offers a wide range of features, including the ability to clear cache and temporary files, manage logs, run periodic maintenance tasks, and configure several hidden features of Mac OS X.

Onyx – Onyx offers a similar feature set to Cocktail, including the ability to clear cache and temporary files, verify and repair disks and permissions, run Mac OS X maintenance scripts, and configure a variety of hidden features and customization options.

Tinkertool System – Tinker Tool System offers many of the same features as Cocktail and Onyx, but also provides a number of additional features. It can run maintenance scripts, clean cache files (with the option of specifying which cache files to clear), tune various file and system attributes, configure advanced file permissions, adjust startup and login options, remove unneeded language translations, verify preferences files, and help recover disk space by removing all files associated with applications or removing non-native code from universal binary applications.

Mac Helpmate – Mac Helpmate is an application largely aimed at support professionals and consultants. It offers many of the same maintenance and troubleshooting features of Cocktail and Onyx as well as easy-to-enable remote screen sharing sessions, allowing for remote desktop support. Mac Helpmate can also be customized to a particular consultant or company.

AppleJack – AppleJack is a command line troubleshooting tool that can verify and repair corrupted hard drives and file permissions as well as clear cache and virtual memory swap files and verify preferences. What makes AppleJack unique from other tools in this category is that, once installed, it can be accessed when a Mac is booted into single user mode (an option that can allow command line access and troubleshooting when Mac OS X cannot successfully boot).

Preferential Treatment – Preferential Treatment is a graphical interface to the plutil command line tool. It is designed to verify the integrity of user and system preferences files.

Application Removers

Simply deleting an application from your Applications folder often doesn’t completely remove it from your Mac. Most applications create a number of support files when they are installed or when they are run for the first time as well as preferences files. These files can be scattered across your hard drive (most commonly they’re located in the Application Support and Preferences folders inside the /Library folder at the root level of the startup drive and/or inside each user’s home directory).

These two tools help you ensure that all the related files installed with an application are removed along with it (helping free up space and ensuring that no excess data from removed application is left floating around your Mac).

AppZapper (http://www.appzapper.com/) – AppZapper is a simple utility that allows you to delete all files associated with any installed application, Dashboard widget, or third part System Preferences pane. You can delete applications by drag and drop or you can view a list of all installed items on your system and choose which to remove.

AppDelete – Similar to AppZapper, AppDelete focuses on applications but also offers the ability to inspect and/or choose which specific files are deleted. And because it simply moves items to the Trash rather than deleting them, AppDelete offers the option to fully restore application files at any point between the time they’re removed from your system and when you empty the Trash.

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Tags: server, software, Apple, Mac, OS X

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