I’m not a big believer in the need to keep Mac optimized for speed, not in the same way as a Windows machine might need it at least. But I began having some issues with my Mac which were resulting in slowdowns and general unreliability so I went on the hunt for something that might help speed things up.
I’ve also never been a big believer that using Disk Utility to ‘Fix Permissions’ was a necessary thing either – but let me put that one to bed right now. I ran Verify Permissions and discovered that I actually needed to run Verify Disk too. Doing this alone sped up the Mac and seemed to make it more reliable. But by now I had already downloaded MacKeeper and decided to have a look anyway.
The first thing that struck me was how fantastic their support team are. I contacted them about an issue and they had it resolved within minutes. The live chat function being extremely useful for me to get in touch with them, and of course means no expensive international phone calls required.
MacKeeper comes with a raft of features that make it very worth the $38 per Mac (depending on which version you go for) including an innovative anti-theft idea which uses the built in iSight camera of a MacBook Pro to take a picture of a thief and utilising wireless networking location features (if available) to assist with locating the MacBook and enabling you to pass as much info as possible to the police to help recover the laptop. Thankfully I’ve not needed to use this as yet! I don’t normally link to articles on the publishers website, but this one is just a bit too interesting not to. Have a look over here, after you finish the review!
One area that Mac users can often become a little complacent is that of Anti Virus. Everyone who uses PCs recognises that they need to use AV software in order to minimise the likelihood of their banking details being handed over to undesirable people – but most people believe Macs to be invulnerable. That’s a myth. Whilst Macs are considerably more difficult for the average ‘script kiddy’ to compromise, there are still some rogue applications and programmers out there and as Mac becomes more and more popular it’s likely that attempts to release viruses and malware into the mac world will also become more popular. MacKeeper comes with an anti-virus solution and at $38 for a year, that’s already about half price from the windows variants.
The anti-virus screen is fairly simplistic, but functional and has everything it needs to have (see screenshot linked to the right). My initial reaction to running a full system scan is that it appears to be insanely slow when compared to Windows antivirus solutions. I suspect it’s doing a fine job, and if you’re running it in the background it doesn’t seem to affect the performance of the machine (which Windows AV Scans can be susceptible to) but at the rate it’s going, it’ll take something like 4 days to scan my whole MacBook. I’m not sure that will be in any way useful so I may seek some feedback from Zeobit on this. Fortunately the antivirus scan continues in the background so you can still use other features of MacKeeper while it’s running.
Another potentially extremely useful feature of MacKeeper that I really wish I had last week is an Undelete tool. In my particular case, I needed to retrieve a Microsoft Word document that the Autosaver had saved, but because I stupidly said ‘No’ when it asked if I wanted to autorecover after a crash, Word (dutifully and correctly) deleted it. My original document was gone, and so was the autosaved recovery version. If I had’ve had this feature at that time I could’ve easily recovered my Uni assignment instead of re-typing it all!
Using the undelete feature is simple – choose the disk you think your file should be on and press the Start Scan button. MacKeeper will then scan that disk looking for lost files and present you with a tickbox list of the files it finds. It’ll also categorise them, although I’m not sure how accurate this categorisation is. Also, my scan failed with an ‘Unknown error occurred’ but that may be because I was still running the virus scan that I started hours ago. One thing to note here is that you cannot undelete a file to the same disk which seems odd, but not a showstopper. I assume you can plug in a USB key and restore your files to that disk instead though.
There’s a whole slew of other features under the title of Data Control but I’ve not had cause to use any of those as yet. One that I will be investigating (and possibly creating a new review for it, or adding to this one) is the Backup and/or ZeoDisk feature. But for now, I am leaving those alone as I want to move on to some of the other particularly useful features.
Under the Cleaning category – which is why I originally wanted MacKeeper in the first place – is the Binaries Cutter. This is an area of Mac that probably eludes most people because most people really don’t need to know about it. Before I can go into too much detail, some history is necessary. Back in 2006, Apple switched the hardware platform upon which Macintosh was based from PowerPC to Intel. In most areas that doesn’t cause too much of a problem because access to the hardware directly is forbidden by programs and any access to the hardware must go through specific operating system calls. But in one area there is a problem and that’s the machine code (the 0′s and 1′s) are specific to the processor type that a program is compiled for. Basically, PowerPC and Intel speak completely different languages so programs written for one can’t run on the other.
If that confuses you, don’t panic. It simply means that there’s two types of programs available for Macs. The old (legacy) PowerPC version, or the new Intel version. Fortunately, Apple are clever and they realised that people wouldn’t want to have to figure out which type of Mac they have, so they created a system they call ‘Universal Binary’ which essentially means that you have two programs in one for every program you buy. That means a Universal Binary will run on either the old PowerPC architecture or the new Intel architecture. That flexibility comes at a price though. Every universal binary has two sets of machine code stored inside it, and one of them will never ever be used. So if you’re an Intel Mac user, you’ve got all that space that’s been included for PowerPC users.
Binaries Cutter removes the un-needed portions of the Universal Binary, freeing up disk space (and probably, although I’m not entirely sure) making the program launch quicker since there’s less work for the Mac to do now that one of the program translations has been removed.
And on the note of translations, you may or may not know that your Mac comes with various languages installed – and applications themselves may well come with extra language translations stored inside them. This all takes up extra space, so if you can only speak 1 (or two, or even three) languages, you can clean a lot of space up by removing the various other language translations.
There’s a plethora of other useful utilities, such as the Disk Usage utility which shows you where your disk space is being used, the Duplicates Finder which finds duplicate files (surprise!) and allows you to delete the ones you don’t want. I didn’t find that particularly easy to decide how to use. In some ways I’d like it to just delete the duplicate files, but on the other hand, which one does it choose to delete? So I suspect some manual effort is required to go through and check out which ones to delete. But it’s a handy tool.
Another fantastic part of this toolkit is the Update Tracker which looks at the various applications installed on your system and then goes off (somehow) to find the current version available. If your version is older than the latest, MacKeeper will tell you and will also fire up your web browser to go and fetch the latest version! It’s like the App Store but for all the other apps you bought elsewhere. This on it’s own is also worth the $38 fee.
All in all, my skepticism at the value and necessity of MacKeeper has all but vanished. It’s very easy to use, it’s price point is well worth it, and it has cleaned up my Mac hugely, just with the automatic steps. If I could be bothered to go through the more manual stuff I suspect I could improve the disk space and performance of my mac even further. The only downside I found was the speed of the antivirus scan – which really is quite ridiculously slow.
MacKeeper is the app that you never realised you needed, but once you get it, you’ll wonder how your Mac survived without it.