Dr. Cleaner, a mac cleaner app, came highly recommended to me. However, yesterday I noticed that it reclaimed several gigs of memory from my website software when I closed it down. My memory usuage dropped from 70% to 24%. Today, I noticed that all of my images had vanished from my website software. Dr. Cleaner really cleaned it well! Thanks to my time machine all is well. Beware of the Doctor!
Any software that performs automatic tasks has a potential for doing more damage than good. Especially so, if the task is “cleaning” a hard drive. Even more so, if you don’t perform a regular and frequent backup.
So many of of these cleaning apps do terrible things. I’ve heard countless stories like this. I’m so sorry. So glad to hear you were well backed up. Kudos to you for that diligence.
For anyone considering these sorts of utility apps here’s the recommendation from the guy that writes Stacks (me) and has to help people clean up the mess that these apps often create:
Make reliable and well tested backups before running these types of apps.
I’ve heard countless horror stories of lost data, corrupted data, and destroyed systems. The scariest part is that the changes are sometimes insidious – if you didn’t regularly work on this site then it could have been weeks before you noticed. Some people only keep recent backups and that means… …lost data.
Whenever running these types of apps run them with NOTHING else running.
Even quit utility apps like dropbox and menu bar apps. The reasons is that many of these apps “Clean Up” the caches folder. The caches folder is often used by running apps and is assumed to be totally stable – this is the case for Stacks. Stacks stores all its intermediate data in the caches folder. Stacks will try to fall back to the original image locations and the last saved data – but if those have also been cleaned up or moved… … then that’s it. These apps probably don’t delete the images out of your files – I don’t know what happened exactly, but if I had to place bet, I’d bet that one of these files was still open on your computer when the Caches folder was “cleaned”.
Never use these apps.
OK, that’s a pretty strong opinion. I know. But hear me out…
Some of the cleaning apps are pretty good – CleanMyMac by MacPaw gets consistently great reviews and the MacPaw guys are
But many of these apps perform lots of “magic” – moving, deleting, and changing a vast number of things on your computer that they assume are not being used anymore. As you’ve proven – sometimes these assumptions are bad ones.
Ostensibly these apps are used for “performance”, but I suspect the real practical benefits of running these apps often slim to none. If you’re running out of hard drive space then often a new SSD is not too dear and brings a vast performance improvement over a spinning drive.
There are a ton of other great ways to eek out a bit more performance from an older machine (I write Stacks on a slightly dented 2010 Mac Pro that I bought second hand for about ¼ it’s original price – but it’s quite fast after some strategic upgrades) – I’d recommend trying just about anything before using these sorts of apps.
Lastly, and for what it’s worth: I don’t use these apps myself and never will.
Most important rule for macOS:
Never use cleaning Apps !!!
I’m of the opinion that if cleaning a Mac or running extra security software was deemed that important, then Apple would have already included the necessary tools to do it. As an example, Apple felt the need to let users verify / repair disks, so they gave us Disk Utility.
Mac OS is engineered as a pretty clean and tidy system, by comparison to Windows. It is very dangerous for a third-party app to start judging what files you need and start deleting things it thinks you don’t need. Eventually it’s going to get it wrong.
Sadly like @isaiah says, I have seen some utilitarian software titles cause incomprehensible and irreversible damage to RapidWeaver project files - with huge time and financial consequences. Your best bet is to avoid them.
If there are maintenance tasks you need to do, most can be done safely via the terminal. Example:
sudo periodic daily weekly monthly
That will run the maintenance tasks your Mac normally does at night, if it is left turned on. There are similar commands for doing things like rebuilding the Spotlight index or clearing lists of recent items; if you feel the need to do so.
I always assumed “cleaner” apps are there just to make money and really serve no purpose.
But What about when an APP is purposefully deleted? (ie: Old apps, Demo’s, etc?) What’s the best way to remove all associated files? (ie: Some apps run a service in background to watch for button presses on scanners, etc, etc) I assume these show up in Activity monitor? I know there are apps designed for this purpose.
I don’t mind “extra” files sitting around too much… storage is cheap. But I don’t want anything running in “background” that is useless.
@1611mac I agree that an increasing number of utilitarian apps seem to be provided for profit, rather than to solve actual problems the average Mac user may face. This could be a clue as to why we sometimes see certain ones constantly appearing in advatorials and listed as a part of bundles / promo’s.
Most better software comes with an uninstaller. A common mistake some people make is to simply ‘trash’ an unwanted app, without running the proper uninstaller process first.
Smaller / indie software titles may provide a bash script to run in Terminal or instructions on their website to explain where different files might be installed on the system to find and delete.
Free apps like AppCleaner might be useful. But again, take great care with using these tools and double-check what files it has marked for deletion. I have seen some people put RapidWeaver 6 through AppCleaner, and it inadvertently found and deleted their RW 7 addons too! So be careful…
Thanks for reply @Will. I’d personally never use anything like AppCleaner.
Is it just me? My experience is that, sadly, I find very few un-installers with software I obtain.
Thanks for your response Isaiah! Yeah I was a little apprehensive about this product. I should know better! Good thing I replaced my corrupted ‘time capsule’ with a new WD backup drive! Sometimes I live on the edge!
Great point on looking at whether the software comes with ‘uninstall’. Thank you!
Agree with most of the above. Though, I do use AppCleaner (sparingly) and I do go over the list of files it has requested to remove. I don’t let it automatically do anything.
I agree, Most Mac app’s don’t have un-installers, and most users drag them to the trash to remove them. That works for most apps but can leave various “system files” on the hard drive. The uninstall process on a Mac is usually not critical like on a windows machine were thinks like entries in the windows registry can harm the performance.
I use an open source app called AppTrap; it runs a demon in the background that monitors anytime an app gets deleted. Anytime an app gets moved to the trash you’re asked if you want to move the associated preference files as well. You can expand the window to see a list of what is going to delete:
The thing I like about this product is it doesn’t "automatic delete anything. You can decide if you want to delete it or not. BEWARE: THIS WINDOW POPS UP EVEN IF THE APPLICATION IS UPDATING ITSELF. So you may not want to leave this running all the time, but toggle it on when you are cleaning up old apps. You can control AppTrap from within system preferences:
This is a real-time app only. It’s not going to go through your system and try to clean up old apps that have already been deleted. It also won’t get everything from more invasive applications.
@teefers Thanks for pointing me to AppTrap… I like the fact that it leaves the user in control. I’ll give it a try.
i do two maintenance tasks on my computer to keep up with the deluge of junk that apps leave lying around.
- for disk space
- for 90% of apps… they just leave stuff in the user Library folder or the sandboxes folder for Mac App Store apps (which i rarely buy, but that’s a different subject). so usually before i install a new OS (so once a year) i will open the library folder, put the window in list-mode and sort the items by size. Also Cmd-J to open up the view prefs and enable the Calculate All Sizes option.
then i just have a look at the top-most items on the list. if they’re big and i’m not using those apps anymore i get rid of those.
if you have items that are larger than they seem they should be, but you’re still using that app then you have to be more judicious – but at least you know that there is an issue and you can investigate
- for about 10% of apps they’ll ask you for an admin password so that they can install stuff elsewhere in the system. mostly apps don’t install large things in /Library – but sometimes they do. i don’t really have a good approach to that other than being very wary about installing apps that request an admin password.
- helper apps
drivers (like for mice or whatever) install a “kext” which stands for kernel extension. this is a plug-in to the core of the OS. they live in /Library/Extensions. Mostly these should come with uninstallers, but you can open up that folder and have a look through. be warned that most of the items in there are use by the OS, so don’t remove something unless you’re sure you know what it is and that it shouldn’t be there.
- Internet Plug-Ins
this folder should not have much in it. mine has Java and 3 items for Adobe PDF. that’s it. pretty sure if you have other random things in there you should probably investigate
- Launch Agents and Launch Daemons
both of these contain items that will run all the time and be relaunched when they need to be. this is where the most trouble comes. if you have extra utility things that have installed helper apps they’ll be in here.
I look through all of these things and try to justify each one. The process of upgrading my system takes a while and tends to occupy a whole day (or a whole week for Mojave on a Mac Pro LOLOL ) so i give in to it and spend the time to google things i don’t know about about and see if there’s anything i can remove.
the nice thing about doing this around the time of an update is that i make sure that my system is fully backed up before installing a big os update – so if i really blow it and mess something up i can restore from the backup and try again more carefully.
Thanks Rovertek! I agree. Since it was recommended at the app store I installed it. I had no idea that it would randomly delete things from my software programs. I installed Dr. Cleaner to run it on my own. I did not know that it was working behind the scenes! Anyway lesson learned and my best friend is my TimeMachine backup!
Hey Scott, thanks a lot for this bit of information. I have been sporadically loosing my RW images over the past few months but never connected the dots (neither did RW support btw, after my third support request on lost images they probably thought I had finally gone nuts). Did regular saves and backups, so no huge damage, but definitely a pain. Deleted this ‘tool’ that I originally used to manage limited SSD space - and sincerely hope this solves my image issue!
@majobo - Check out this post. It sounds like it’s the one you’re looking for.
Yeah I think since listening to others and reviewing the forums plus investigating the ‘cleaner apps’ available the lost images have to do with the ‘cleaners’ more than RW. It never happened before I installed Dr. Cleaner. And, it hasn’t happened since I trashed it! Many thanks and hope your issue is solved!
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