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System cleaning tools and utility suites aren’t just for Windows PCs. A variety of companies make Mac system utilities, with MacKeeper being the most infamous and controversial. There’s now even a version of CCleaner for Mac. But what do these tools do, exactly? And should you use them?

What MacKeeper Actually Does

MacKeeper does a huge amount of things. When you install it, it will likely complain that your system is “dirty” “dangerous” and “deteriorated”. The state of your overall system will likely be “critical” — at least, that’s what it said for my MacBook, which is only a few months old and has seen fairly light use.

To fix the problems detected by a scan, MacKeeper will delete “junk files,” enable Internet security and anti-theft features, and ensure your apps are up to date.
Like many Windows “PC tune-up” programs, MacKeeper is really just a collection of many different utilities, some of which are more useful than others. There are Internet security (anti-virus) and anti-theft features. There are tools for encrypting your files with a password, recovering deleted files, “shredding” files so that they can’t be recovered, and backing up your files.

MacKeeper also includes cleaning utilities for deleting unnecessary files, locating duplicate files, searching your hard drive for files, viewing overall disk usage, and uninstalling apps without “leaving junk behind.” There are also tools for tracking app updates, managing apps that start up when you log in, and controlling your default apps. MacKeeper even includes a “Geek On Demand” feature that lets you pay for remote technical assistance.

Is it Necessary?

The real question we need to ask ourselves about MacKeeper is whether what it does is actually valuable. MacKeeper doesn’t make a good first impression, as the first screen you see seems designed to scare you into paying up. This is the same trick used by many PC cleaning programs on Windows.

MacKeeper claims it can free up over 2 GB of space on our “dirty” Mac, and it looks like it can. You don’t need to obsessively worry about cleaning up your Mac’s “junk files,” but if you have a Mac with a small solid-state drive, you may benefit from regaining some of that space. We’ll come back to this later – suffice it to say, MacKeeper isn’t the only options here. Mac OS X also does some automatic deletion of temporary files in the background.

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Our Mac is also considered “dangerous” because we haven’t enabled their Internet security feature. An antivirus isn’t really necessary on a Mac. Sure, there is Mac malware out there, but your Mac is fairly secure as long as you follow a few simple rules. First, don’t use the Java browser plug-in – Apple removed it from Mac OS X after it led to a huge outbreak of the Flashback Trojan on Macs New Variant Of Flashback For Mac Attacks Again [Updates] New Variant Of Flashback For Mac Attacks Again [Updates] Read More . Just remember that Java is terribly insecure on any platform Is Java Unsafe & Should You Disable It? Is Java Unsafe & Should You Disable It? Oracle’s Java plug-in has become less and less common on the Web, but it’s become more and more common in the news. Whether Java is allowing over 600,000 Macs to be infected or Oracle is... Read More .

Second, don’t go out of your way to download pirated Mac software or other junk lik that. Leave the Gatekeeper feature What Is GateKeeper & How Does It Help Protect My Mac? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is GateKeeper & How Does It Help Protect My Mac? [MakeUseOf Explains] Will your favorite programs ever run again? Certain programs won't load anymore - a message about Unidentified Developers shows up instead. There isn't even an obvious option to run the app. Gatekeeper just might be... Read More enabled (unless you absolutely need it off) – Gatekeeper prevents untrusted applications from running on your Mac by default. If you disable Gatekeeper and try to install pirated software you can get into trouble, but you should be fine otherwise. MacKeeper also likely includes anti-phishing features, but modern browsers like Safari, Chrome, and Firefox all include built-in anti-phishing What Exactly Is Phishing & What Techniques Are Scammers Using? What Exactly Is Phishing & What Techniques Are Scammers Using? I’ve never been a fan of fishing, myself. This is mostly because of an early expedition where my cousin managed to catch two fish while I caught zip. Similar to real-life fishing, phishing scams aren’t... Read More  features.

MacKeeper also says our Mac is “dangerous” because we haven’t installed their anti-theft feature. But you don’t need this feature at all: your Mac includes a built-in “Find My Mac” feature powered by iCloud What iCloud Is & Why It Changes Everything [Mac] What iCloud Is & Why It Changes Everything [Mac] Perhaps the biggest announcement made by Apple at the recent WWDC was that of iCloud, but many people are understandably not sure what it is. Is it a streaming media service? Is it a Dropbox... Read More . Just use that instead and save your money.
Lastly, MacKeeper said our system was “deteriorated” because we weren’t using the latest versions of VLC and Google Chrome yet. These applications will automatically check for updates, so you don’t need MacKeeper to bug you about them.

MacKeeper is also packed with other system tools, but you probably don’t need them. Your Mac actually has a lot of this stuff built-in. For example, you can create an encrypted container for your files with Disk Utility How to Secure & Encrypt Your Information If Your Laptop Gets Stolen [Mac] How to Secure & Encrypt Your Information If Your Laptop Gets Stolen [Mac] Read More . You can search for files on your hard drive with Spotlight and back up with Time Machine 4 Resources to Become a Backup Master with Time Machine [Mac] 4 Resources to Become a Backup Master with Time Machine [Mac] Read More . File recovery and file “shredding” tools aren’t useful at all on Macs with solid-state drives, only on ones with magnetic hard drives.
In short: you don’t really need MacKeeper – the ability to delete temporary files could be helpful, but that’s about it. If you need the occasional system utility to do something specific, you should look for a solid, free utility that does that one thing.

Tips For Freeing Up Disk Space

While MacKeeper isn’t necessary, you may want to free up some disk space on your Mac’s hard drive to make room for genuinely useful files. Bear in mind that some of these “disk space savings” are misleading. For example, MacKeeper might say you can free up 500MB of space by clearing your web browser’s cache, but your web browser will just start rebuilding its cache afterwards. The cache is limited in size, anyway – there’s no real point in erasing it. It will actually slow down your web browsing as your web browser has to redownload the same files all over again.

One of the biggest space savings MacKeeper promised was achieved by deleting language files. If you only require a specific language – for example, if you just need English – you can free up some space by removing those you don’t need. This won’t actually speed up your Mac, but it will free up some additional space you might need.

To do this, you don’t need MacKeeper. Use a free, specialized utility like Monolingual to remove language files you don’t need from your Mac Monolingual - Remove Languages You Don't Use From Your Mac Monolingual - Remove Languages You Don't Use From Your Mac Free up some space on your Mac – delete languages you will never use. Monolingual is a simple Mac app that anyone looking for more hard drive space should check out. Modern hard drives are... Read More .
If you’d like to free up disk space by deleting “junk files,” you may just want to install CCleaner for Mac instead. CCleaner is popular among Windows users. Unlike MacKeeper, it’s free to use.

The Bottom Line

But, do you need to do any of these things? No, you don’t need to remove language files or run CCleaner at all. It can be valuable for reclaiming disk space, but it won’t dramatically speed up our Mac like some companies might promise. Your Mac includes many of the system utilities you already need for security, anti-theft, backups, and other important features. You don’t need to pay for another suite of system tools.

Thanks to our readers on MakeUseOf Answers for the discussion about MacKeeper that led to this article!

Image Credit: Brendon Burton

  1. jake
    June 23, 2016 at 1:56 am

    I see a lot of fuss about mackeeper. I have it, no problemo.

  2. Fred
    June 7, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    i asked how long the Mackeeper was paid for and they replied for life and i said forever , then that said five years so a i asked forever or five years and they rep[lied for five years . also that keep phoning me to say i have a virus and someone is trying to hack my computer ? thsay phone every week is thois right

  3. Greg
    January 8, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    I've seen cases where MacCleaner actually removes important/necessary files, so that alone should be reason enough to avoid it.

    Also, I've been using Mac for 10+ years and have never had issues keeping it clean. Even if you do need it, 2GB of extra space is really not much these.

  4. Casey Van Dyke
    November 16, 2015 at 4:19 am

    Use malwarebytes for mac to remove mackeeper.

  5. Tom
    May 7, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Chris, I have been using MacKeeper for approximately 2 years. I have done the cleaning of my computer regularly with MacKeeper and it has been working fine so far. I am however not sure wether MacKeeper has helped, since this has been my first Mac, and I don´t have anything else to compare with. What is your opinion wether MacKeeper is a virus or not? Should it be removed from the computer asap or can it be kept in the computer (to do some help at least)?

  6. Kia
    May 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

    I think clening your device is a good idea in general: less useless files means less clutter and more organization. Run my MaCleaner (got it here:, costs some but a quality utility all around) every month or so and don't thinkk it's too much effort.

  7. Anonymous
    May 4, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Oh man i just paid 37++ dollars for my mackeeper cause there was a 70percent discount. Feel so foolish, wish i read this earlier. Thanks for the heads up though.. Hope i can at least get a refund for the remaining 11 months that I've prepaid for..ugh :S Gonna remove it immediately, Thanks Chris.

  8. Anonymous
    April 26, 2015 at 6:11 am

    CleanMyMac is 100% Malware!!!! DO NOT USE!!!!!

  9. OvajOnaj
    April 14, 2015 at 2:49 am

    "Just remember that Java is terribly insecure on any platform."

    Please stop that stupid Apple propaganda already.
    It's disgusting!

  10. Rob
    March 14, 2015 at 2:02 am

    Being using CleanMyMac for over 2 years Excellent tool. No idea what this Dave guy is on about.

  11. Dave
    January 27, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Clean my mac is malware!! Do not use Clean My Mac!! I would not touch clean my mac with a 10ft pole it will slow down your system and could destroy your files.

    • John
      March 30, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Stupid or trolling?

  12. nikita
    January 25, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    im sorry to say but mac keeper is a VIRUS i got it my self and its a virus

  13. ckc
    April 3, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    If you play flash games, don't use any cleaner programs.
    (You will find your saved data all erased)

  14. Terra
    March 15, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Will Clean My Mac find duplicate files as well? Are there any built in utilities that will do that instead?

    • Chris H
      March 30, 2014 at 9:27 pm

      Looks like Clean My Mac will indeed do that. This feature isn't included on OS X, but there are other third-party utilities that offer it -- Gemini seems to be popular.

      You might try asking on Answers, I'm a bit of a newcomer to Macs and am not as familiar with all the applications available:

  15. Stefano
    March 14, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Thank you for the great article a there is definitely much confusion about this issue and I love the alternatives you presented against those tools. I personally use "Maintenance" which gives me great options without any hype. All versions f OS X are covered by different downloads. Hope it helps, thanks.

  16. John
    March 14, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    The members at MacResourceForums Tips and Deals consider MacKeeper to be spyware / malware and recommend against using it. I understand that once MacKeeper is installed, it can be VERY difficult to completely remove it.

    • Chris H
      March 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm

      I wouldn't be surprised. We installed and checked it out so our readers don't have to!

  17. John
    March 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    I have a question in regards to all these cleaners -- I presently have a Windows PC and have used on almost a daily basis a MAC as well. Now in regards to cleaners would you say the same for the Windows PC as well. Yes I am aware that they have two different operating systems but overall in your estimation does a cleaner actually work?

    • Chris H
      March 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm

      PC cleaning software is often similar and tries to scare you like MacKeeper did. Just use CCleaner to clean up junk -- it's free.

  18. Anja
    March 14, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    I use CleanMyMac2 and love it! It has helped me free up tons of space, and keeps my Mac run smoothly for years.

  19. Brian S
    March 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Another dollar saved :-)
    Thanks for an excellent heads up from a Novice Mac user

  20. Bud
    March 14, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    the state*** of my computer............

  21. Bud
    March 14, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Have seen and read many negative things about MacKeeper and wouldn't use it if it was given to me for free. Any online ad that is "continually in my face" warning me of how dangerous the star of my computer may be, I steer far away from those kinds of software!

    Did use CCleaner prior to upgrading my OS-X and found it to be quite good at cleaning out a lot of accumulated data junk each time one surfs the net. Since they haven't made an upgraded version for my iMac, I purchased CleanMyMac (now have version 2) and very happy with it's ease of use and removal of junk.

    Both are good, but I now prefer CleanMyMac on my Mavericks OS-X.

  22. Zyph
    March 14, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Can you give us an overview/review of CleanMyMac2 as well? I noticed a bunch of Mac users use this but I'm not sure if I should get it.

    • Zach
      March 14, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      Yes I would like that too.

    • Chris H
      March 14, 2014 at 9:38 pm

      We could certainly look at it but I think the story is pretty similar. You don't really need such a tool.

    • Dave
      March 12, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      Clean My Mac is Malware 100%

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