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One of the joys of owning a Mac is having to do very little in order to maintain it. While Windows users have to worry about the registry, master boot record and the ever-present threat of malware; Mac users can sleep relatively soundly.

But that’s not the case if you listen to MacKeeper. Apparently your computer is riddled with problems, junk files and wide-open to attacks that only MacKeeper’s premium version can protect you against.

I’m here to tell you otherwise: avoid MacKeeper like the plague, and your Mac will be better off for it.

What’s Wrong With MacKeeper?

This week a brand new vulnerability was found in MacKeeper allowed potential attackers to execute malicious commands embedded in purpose-built web pages. Let’s just let that sink in for a second: an application that promises to protect you (for a fee) is actually putting you at risk of attack.

In a recent update the program registers itself as a handler for custom URLs. Custom URLs are designed to make it easy to target specific software with clickable web links. Once an application is associated with certain URLs, it is automatically launched whenever you click one — like a torrent magnet transfer or Shoutcast radio URL.

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In the case of MacKeeper, researcher Braden Thomas found an issue in the way the software handles these requests and promptly posted a proof of concept on Twitter. The link included in his Tweet would execute a command designed to remove MacKeeper from your system.

In order to execute its command, MacKeeper needed authorisation (via an administrator password) to make changes to the system. If this permission had already been authorised, the command would execute with no warning. Other users were prompted to supply their password before the command would run, though even the text in the accompanying dialog box could be changed by an attacker.

Though the vulnerability has been patched by now, this is hardly the first time MacKeeper has been a source of controversy. The company is in the process of settling a class-action lawsuit in which the liability could exceed $5 million. It was alleged that MacKeeper warns users about fake security and performance issues in order to sell its premium version.

How To Remove MacKeeper

Many users report that MacKeeper is difficult to get rid of, so here’s how to do it once and for all:

  1. Launch MacKeeper from your Applications folder so that it’s running, then quit it. You should now be able to find the “mackeeper” process in Activity Monitor.
  2. Launch Activity Monitor (either use Spotlight, or head to Applications > Utilities).
  3. On the CPU tab, search for the “mackeeper” process, and force quit it.
  4. You can now drag the MacKeeper application from your Applications folder to the Trash.
  5. A window will appear asking you to complete the uninstallation process. Click Uninstall MacKeeper to finish.

This should remove all but a few traces of MacKeeper from your system, but you may also want to check the following locations to remove all signs of it:

/Library/Application Support/MacKeeper
/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.zeobit.MacKeeper.plugin.AntiTheft.daemon
/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.zeobit.MacKeeper.AntiVirus
/Users/username/Library/Preference/com.zeobit.MacKeeper.Helper.plist
/Users/username/Library/LaunchAgents/com.zeobit.MacKeeper.Helper
/Users/username/Library/Caches/com.zeobit.MacKeeper
/Users/username/Library/LaunchAgents/com.zeobit.MacKeeper.plugin.Backup.agent
/Users/username/Library/Preferences/com.zeobit.MacKeeper.plist

Note: You will need administrator access (via password) in order to remove MacKeeper and folders from the system library. If you’re still having trouble removing the app, check out AppCleaner below.

What To Use Instead

In order to figure out what is required to replace MacKeeper, we should have a look at what the program promises to do. On the MacKeeper website, that’s laid out with six clear points:

So let’s address each of them here.

Clean Your Mac

According to MacKeeper, “massive volumes of junk” are cluttering up your Mac. We can’t have that, so I’d recommend two pieces of freeware that will uncover free space. The first is Piriform’s Ccleaner for Mac, an application that made a name for itself on Windows Optimize Your System To Run At Its Best With CCleaner Optimize Your System To Run At Its Best With CCleaner Over the last two years, CCleaner has changed quite a bit in terms of version numbers...up now to version 3.10 at the time of this writing. While visually the program actually hasn't changed much (it's... Read More for its ability to recover space and obliterate log files with one click.

Another application which can help you recover disk space quickly is AppCleaner (above), an uninstallation assistant that allows you to thoroughly uninstall applications en-masse. Just check the applications you want to remove, click Search and all associated files and folders will be displayed. You can then hit Delete to get rid of everything.

If you want to visualize your disk usage then a utility like Disk Inventory X will do so for free, plus you’ll be able to see exactly which files are taking up the most space. Cross-platform freeware dupeGuru will help you find and eradicate duplicate files, if you’re worried about that.

Secure Your Mac

MacKeeper even promises to protect from “spyware, data loss and even theft” — but there are plenty of free solutions for securing your computer. Despite the widely-held belief that OS X isn’t susceptible to spyware, the increasing popularity of the platform has made it a more viable target over the last few years.

Adware Medic is a wonderful bit of donationware designed specifically to target Mac adware — there are even reports of people using it to remove pesky MacKeeper and ZeoBIT popups. The application doesn’t target malware (like viruses) but adware that may cause pop-ups and other pesky behaviour.

If you use vigilance, never install pirated applications and disable Java then you’re doing all that you can. There are few malware removal tools for OS X I Think My Mac Has A Virus! 3 Ways You Can Tell I Think My Mac Has A Virus! 3 Ways You Can Tell Is your Mac acting kind of... weird? Whether you're seeing adverts you can't explain, or your system is unreasonably slow, you might think the problem is malware. But you're probably wrong. Read More , and the virus scanners sold by Symantec et al are more of a waste of system resources Are Anti-Virus Programs Necessary For Mac? Are Anti-Virus Programs Necessary For Mac? Read More than anything.

If you want to protect against theft you should install Prey Use Prey & Never Lose Your Laptop Or Phone Again [Cross-Platform] Use Prey & Never Lose Your Laptop Or Phone Again [Cross-Platform] Here’s the thing about mobile and portable devices: since they aren't tethered to anything, it’s almost too easy to lose them or, worse, have them stolen from right under your nose. I mean, if you... Read More  and enable Find My Mac under System Preferences > iCloud. If you’re worried about data loss, set up Time Machine and run it regularly Partition & Use Your Time Machine Hard Drive To Store Files Too Partition & Use Your Time Machine Hard Drive To Store Files Too If your Mac's hard drive is small and your Time Machine hard drive is big, it might be worth using the drive for both backup and storage purposes. Read More  (even over your network Turn Your NAS Or Windows Share Into A Time Machine Backup Turn Your NAS Or Windows Share Into A Time Machine Backup Use your NAS, or any network share, for backing up your Mac with Time Machine. Read More ) or go a step further and use an off-site backup solution Read This Before Choosing An Online Backup Provider Read This Before Choosing An Online Backup Provider Backing up your files is a no-brainer - at least it should be. Hardware failure, security breaches, natural disasters, thieving scumbags and clumsiness can all lead to heart-in-mouth moments when you realise that your precious... Read More .

Optimize Your Mac

MacKeeper also “optimizes” your Mac by checking for updated versions of installed software. It sounds handy, but almost every non-App Store app I’ve installed has its own update wizard, which runs every time I launch the app. If this really isn’t good enough for you then you could install AppFresh ($15). Mac App Store apps are automatically updated for you.

macappstore2

You can optimize your own Mac by controlling which applications launch when you start it. Head to System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items and use the plus and minus button to remove applications from the list. You can also hide items by checking the box.

Protect Data On Your Mac

Another specialty of MacKeeper is keeping your files secure, but you should probably already be taking measures to ensure this. Simply adding a password to your Mac is a good start, but you can go one step further and encrypt your entire drive by going to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault. You can enable your Mac’s firewall on the next tab while you’re at it too.

If you’ve got files you’d rather keep hidden from sight you should master the art of hiding and finding hidden files in OS X, Hide & Find Any File On Mac OS X Hide & Find Any File On Mac OS X There's no straightforward way to quickly hide or reveal hidden files on Mac OS X as there is on Windows – but it is possible. Read More  but there are also dedicated solutions like MacHider Keep Your Secret Files Out Of Sight With MacHider [Mac OS X] Keep Your Secret Files Out Of Sight With MacHider [Mac OS X] If you're using Mac OS X, you don't even need specialised third-party security software to keep your precious data out of nefarious hands. Coupled with a strong user account password, the FileVault option in the... Read More . You should master Spotlight in order to find your files Search More Efficiently In Mac OS X With Our Top Spotlight Tips Search More Efficiently In Mac OS X With Our Top Spotlight Tips Spotlight has been a killer Mac feature for years, with Cupertino regularly schooling Redmond in the art of desktop search. Here are a few tips to help you find more on your Mac. Read More more efficiently, and use an application like TestDisk Recover Accidentally Deleted Files From Any OS With PhotoRec [Windows, Mac, & Linux] Recover Accidentally Deleted Files From Any OS With PhotoRec [Windows, Mac, & Linux] In June I switched over from a combination of Windows and Linux to pretty much using OS X solely, and being largely familiar with Windows software (and painfully aware of the lack of many Linux... Read More  to recover files or whole drive partitions.

Get Expert Assistance

If you arrived here from a search engine like Google, you’re already a master of getting expert assistance. Sharpen up your Google-fu with a few search tips A Guide to Google Tools - Tips & Tricks You Can't Live Without A Guide to Google Tools - Tips & Tricks You Can't Live Without In this comprehensive guide, you'll find tips, tricks and hacks that'll help you make better use of Google services you already use. Whether novice or an expert, you'll easily increase your productivity. Read More and if it’s out there, you’ll find it. If you know a friend with a penchant for fixing computers, ask them to try and fix it remotely 12 Excellent, Free Screen Sharing & Remote Access Tools You Haven't Heard Of Yet 12 Excellent, Free Screen Sharing & Remote Access Tools You Haven't Heard Of Yet Are you constantly being asked for computer help? Or perhaps you’re the one doing the asking. Either way, seeing and controlling screens remotely can save time and confusion on both ends. Remote access programs aren’t... Read More . I wouldn’t recommend asking random strangers for remote access help — that probably won’t end well.

Free assistance can be found all over the web — take MakeUseOf Answers for example. Ask your question and be notified when you get a response. StackExchange, Apple Support Communities, Reddit and even Yahoo Answers can all help provide you with free support.

Apply One-Click Sollutions (sic)

The less said about this one the better. If you take anything away from this article it’s that one-click solutions are part of the problem. You’re far better off taking the time to click thoughtfully, multiple times (using apps like Adware Medic and Ccleaner) rather than looking for a magic pill.

Gone For Good

Apps like Ccleaner and AppCleaner will only help regain you space, rather than speeding up your Mac as tools like MacKeeper suggest. If you really want to speed up your Mac, you should consider reinstalling OS X and starting again from scratch How To Reinstall Mac OS X For A Fast, Squeaky-Clean Mac How To Reinstall Mac OS X For A Fast, Squeaky-Clean Mac Just like Windows, prolonged use of a Mac slows down the operating system. When you've been hoarding data and applications for over a year, the difference in performance starts to show. It just doesn't run... Read More .

Don’t fall for MacKeeper’s marketing ploys, especially when there are plenty of free alternatives out there that do the same job.

Have you ever used MacKeeper? Did you put a bullet in it yet?

Image credits: Large Tombstone Via Shutterstock, Hilfe (blu-news.org)

  1. Pete
    May 18, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Hi Tim,
    Thankfully no, but I did find that my Mac seemed to run better without it - maybe just coincidence. I seem to remember that it was annoying more than anything - like breaking links between files even when not set up to do so but I was also very dubious about some of the files that it said were safe to delete. I went back to using Onyx as my only method of cleaning and maintenance and I don't even run it very often.

  2. Pete
    May 16, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I used to have MacKeeper installed on my Mac - it came as part of a 'Special Offer' bundle of software that I purchased for 1 or 2 applications that I actually wanted. I ran it a few times but found that it was removing files or altering settings that I didn't want changed. When I tried to uninstall it it took me ages to find all the embedded files that it had installed in my system as this was a version prior to Zeobit supplying an uninstaller. It was weeks before I felt confident that I had uninstalled everything to do with MacKeeper but even now, just reading your article, caused me to go back into my Library and check that there were no undiscovered files left lying around.

    • Tim Brookes
      May 18, 2015 at 2:00 am

      Fingers crossed you didn't find any nasties, Pete!

  3. Zack McCauley
    May 15, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    First off mackeeper has been known to install malware and other un-wanted nasties. About time you stopped recommending that hunk of crap.

    • Tim Brookes
      May 18, 2015 at 1:50 am

      Hey Zack, we've previously debunked whether or not it's necessary to install tools like MacKeeper (http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/mac-really-need-tools-like-mac-keeper/) but as far as I'm aware we've never actually recommended anyone use it.

      If you do find any traces of a recommendation on the site do let me know!

      Tim

  4. Doc
    May 15, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    "One of the joys of owning a Mac is having to do very little in order to maintain it. While Windows users have to worry about the registry, master boot record and the ever-present threat of malware; Mac users can sleep relatively soundly."
    Um, I have to do very little to maintain my Windows 7 PC; aside from occasionally running CCleaner, and running MalwareBytes Anti-Malware as an occasional "second opinion" to my antivirus (all of which are free), my system has run pretty much trouble-free since I took it out of the box.
    I love how Mac users compare OS X to Windows of a decade or more ago when it comes to maintenance. Even Windows XP (RIP) was better than Windows 95 or 98, and ran for years without reinstalling.

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