Free Utilities to Keep Your Mac Running Smoothly

Macs tend to be pretty trouble-free, but sometimes things happen. Maybe you had to force-quit an application, or a program refuses to launch, or the spinning beachball of death won’t stop, forcing you to manually power down your Mac. All of those could mean it’s time to do some hard drive and system checks.

There are a lot of good commercial utility programs available, but why spend money unless you need to? Here are a handful of very useful programs you might want to install on your Mac or your emergency thumb drive.

Disk Utility

Starting out with one that ships with every copy of Mac OS X, Disk Utility can do important tasks such as verifying any disk or partition, verifying and repairing disk permissions, and repairing any disk partition except for the one you’ve booted from, which is why we recommend having an emergency hard drive or thumb drive.

Disk Utility


PseudoAnacronI can’t tell you how long I’ve been installing PseudoAnacron on every one of my OS X Macs. This is a startup application that checks if the daily, weekly, and monthly cleanup scripts have been run on schedule. The daily script is scheduled to run at 3:15 AM, the weekly at 4:30 AM each Saturday, and the monthly at 5:30 AM on the first day of the month. If your Mac is off at that time, these scripts will not run. In OS X 10.2 Jaguar and 10.3 Panther, these are cron scripts, and they will not run if the computer is off or asleep. In OS X 10.4 Tiger and later, these are launchd scripts, which should run when your Mac wakes from sleep – but they still won’t run it if was powered down. PseudoAnacron launches during system startup. If it discovers that the periodic scripts have run on schedule, the app quits. If they haven’t been run – for instance, if the Mac has been off overnight – it will launch the missed scripts. Version 1.5 is for OS X 10.3; 1.5.1 is for OS X 10.4 Tiger through 10.7 Lion. PseudoAnacron is the only app I know that will automatically do this at startup.


Titanium Software describes OnyX as a multifunction utility for OS X, and that it is. OnyX is available in separate dedicated versions ranging from OS X 10.2 Jaguar through 10.11 El Capitan.

OnyX for Leopard

OnyX for OS X Leopard (above) looks a bit different from the Snow Leopard version (below), especially the OnyX logo itself.

OnyX for Snow Leopard

The Mavericks version (below, and reduced more than the above images) is still different, with slightly flatter icons and yet another OnyX logo.

OnyX for MavericksOne of my favorite OnyX features is the ability to change Dock settings. I’ve been using Macs since 1986, and I believe the Trash should always be in the lower right corner, just as it was in the Classic Mac OS. OnyX lets you anchor the Dock on the right or left instead of always centering it. I love that little touch.

Dock options in OnyX

I can’t even begin to list all the power OnyX gives you. If you only download one utility for tinkering with your system, start with OnyX.


The other “old timer” here is TinkerTool, which is the only one of these apps to support OS X 10.1 Puma, although I doubt any of you are running it nowadays – as well as having an OS X 10.9 Mavericks version. The original version supports OS X 10.1 through 10.3, Generation 2 is for OS X 10.4 and 10.5, TinkerTool 4 is for 10.6 through 10.8, and version 5.0 is for 10.9 Mavericks, 10.10 Yosemite, and 10.11 El Capitan.


Billed as a powerful system maintenance and optimization tool, IceClean 2.5 supports OS X 10.4 Tiger, 3.4.8 10.5 Leopard and 10.6 Snow Leopard (separate PPC and Intel versions), and a planned version 4.0 will provide support for 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion, and 10.9 Mavericks if it ever releases.


IceClean very clearly warns you against force-quitting the program while it’s running, albeit in difficult to read light gray text on a darker gray field and not-quite-native English (above). The biggest difference between the way IceClean works compared with OnyX is that most IceClean functions are accessed via menus, as in the below example that lets you anchor the Dock.

IceClean Utility menuMainMenu

MainMenu is available in separate free and $14.99 pro versions. The latest version requires OS X 10.10 Yosemite or 10.11 El Capitan, and there’s a link at the bottom of the page for the OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion/10.9 Mavericks version, which has a 15-day trial period. Version 2 remains available for OS X 10.5 Leopard. Also note that the version available in the Mac App Store is the $14.99 pro version, not the free standard edition, but the App Store version lacks some features available in the regular pro version.

MainMenu for OS X 10.6

MainMenu menu

As the name implies, in addition to the tiled launcher above, you can also access MainMenu from the OS X menubar.

The feature that most intrigues me is MainMenu’s ability to remember your last 10 clipboards, which would be a wonderful feature to have. So would removing window shadows when taking screenshots. I’ll have to experiment with these features during my 15 day trial period.

Unfortunately, I have to report that I could not get MainMenu to launch on my Late 2008 Aluminum MacBook running OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

Keywords: #emergencydisk #macutilities

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