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Own a Mac? Well, it might need a clean-up, too…

AVG Cleaner for Mac
November 14, 2013

When most people think of Mac computers, they think of finely tuned machines that are generally considered cleaner and faster than their Windows® counterparts. Well, believe it or not this

When most people think of Mac computers, they think of finely tuned machines that are generally considered cleaner and faster than their Windows® counterparts.

Well, believe it or not this is not the case. As even the shiniest of sports cars need to go to a mechanic once in a while, your Mac needs to get a proper cleanup as, over time, its hard-drive can get just as messy as a PC’s.

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In this article, we’ll dive deep into the data clutter that even the newest Macs accumulate after only a few days. I’ll talk about how much disk space you can regularly recover and how getting rid of clutter can improve your privacy and boost system reliability.

Let’s give your Mac a proper spring clean – throughout the year!

The daily data-clutter…

Here’s an unfortunate, little known, but true fact: Almost every time you use your applications, play a game or browse the web, your Mac collects data “junk”. This data is officially known as cache which is the data collected from errors and other system activity in countless log files.

Unfortunately, this data is hidden on your hard disk and can’t be easily deleted.

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This looks like a lot of clutter!

But it’s not just cache that you need to clean regularly: to most people, both the Download folder and the Recycle Bin remain the central store for all downloaded files (dmg images, old PDF files etc.)

This can easily amount to several Gigabytes if forgotten! It’s time to find out all about why your Mac’s disk may be bloated and how you can easily spot files that you didn’t even know were lurking on your hard disk.

A Quick Lab Test: Up to 24 GB of Disk Clutter found on used Macs

We’ve analyzed the contents of some of our Macs internally with our very own AVG Cleaner for Mac, and found more than 13.2 GB of unnecessary files in various locations on a Retina MacBook ProTM that we’ve been using productively for three months. An older MacBook AirTM revealed even more system-clogging clutter:

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Digging deeper, we found that a huge chunk of this unnecessary data was located in the Mac OS®Download” folder – a folder that we rarely cleaned up and that served mainly as a temporary storage for downloaded programs, audiobooks, videos, ISO files, and more.

What’s more interesting than how much disk space I could recover was the sheer number of unnecessary files on those machines:

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On the newly-bought MacBook Retina, I found 2,198 junk files – most located in the hidden user cache folder. The MacBook Air suffered from more than 3,313 unnecessary files. “So what’s with all that junk?” you might be asking. Basically the three most common trash types include….

 

Data Trash on Your Mac I: Application Cache

Most applications that you actively use on your Mac create what’s called “cache” and “log” files. Cache files are helpful, as they’re sometimes known to speed up the application launch or boost web-browsing speed (i.e. the Safari® cache).

Unfortunately, a lot of apps don’t clean up their cache files when they’re no longer being used and this is when the cache gets out of control:

  • Old and corrupt cache files from previous app versions could cause errors when running newer apps.
  • Cache files could completely grow out of proportion. See this example of an app cache that’s grown to 5 GB (article) and 50 GB (comment).
  • Out of date cache files are forgotten on your hard disk and remain there forever, growing and growing….

We’ve dug deep into all the data trash found on these two machines to give you an example of how junk could affect your daily work (or gaming) routine…..

User Cache files  (Examples)

Uninstall leftovers

Uninstalling an application doesn’t necessarily mean it’s completely deleted. In some cases, the cache files remain in your users folder:

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For example, on one of the Macs in our lab, the DropBox cache was left behind even though the application was uninstalled weeks ago. If you’ve installed and uninstalled many programs over time, these will have been left behind.

Font lists

Mac OS X stores lists of fonts inside the cache folder. If you’ve got problems with fonts not showing up or still showing up (after you’ve deleted them), it’s time to get rid of the font cache. But don’t worry; even if you clean up the cache regularly, it will be built from scratch (but without the old clutter!).

Browser Cache

Safari, ChromeTM, and Firefox® store their temporary cache files and cookies in the user’s cache folder. To prevent this cache from growing and to protect your privacy (all your online habits are all located in that folder), that cache should be flushed out every once in a while. Just to give you an idea, I visited 50 pages today and my cache has already grown to over 200 MB.

History Lists

The user cache also contains browsing or file history of many applications. Sneaky friends or co-workers with physical access to your Mac could browse your recently visited websites in seconds. It may be wise to flush this folder once in a while…

Application images

SkypeTM, Messenger, and other chat applications store avatar pics (of yourself and your contacts) inside the user cache folder.

 

 

These are just some selected examples of unnecessary cache files we found on our test machines. It’s wise to flush the cache every now and then (at least once a month) to either prevent problems or solve them effectively – even AppleTM itself recommends flushing the cache once in a while to troubleshoot your Mac. More on that below…

These are just some selected examples of unnecessary cache files we found on our test machines. It’s wise to flush the cache every now and then (at least once a month) to either prevent problems or solve them effectively – even AppleTM itself recommends flushing the cache once in a while to troubleshoot your Mac. More on that below…

Data Trash on Your Mac II: Log files

Next to cache files, Mac OS and a lot of applications tend to create log files. These contain protocols of crashes, when you started an application, when the last update occurred and so on. Most of the log entries have one thing in common, no one except professional developers or trained admins are able to get anything out of it.

Log  files (Examples)

Update logs

Some applications create update logs that show when an app was updated and whether that update was successful.

Crash files

Applications tend to store crash data inside the hidden log folders. For example, if your iPhone® crashed, all the crash data gets transferred to iTunes® next time you sync. This data is only useful if the crash was serious and you’d like an Apple support person to have a look at it – otherwise it’s just a waste of space.

General logs

Opened up a file in an application? It may get logged. Changed a setting? That, too, may get logged – and never erased.

Unless your IT admin wants to analyze your log files, there’s barely any need to keep them. We’ll show you how to delete them safely…

Data Trash on Your Mac III: Download & Trash folder

As I mentioned above, the Download folder can accumulate Gigabytes of unnecessary files. Why? Because it’s your browsers default location for storing files. Even I, who cares a lot about disk space and cleaning up, forget to clean out the Download folder. To a lot of users, the Recycle Bin serves the same purpose….you delete files but just forget to go through it and delete unwanted stuff permanently.

Next week, log on to to see how AVG Cleaner for Mac helps you clean up all these unnecessary files in seconds. In the meantime, why not download it and give it a try today, it’s free!

Sandro Villinger
November 14, 2013


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