Tag Archives: OS X

OSX Application Remover Review

Some of you may know that applications leave files behind when you drag them in your trash. Most of these are .plist (preference lists) or caches located in the Application Support folder (in your Library). There are quite a few tools out there that hunt down these files, and deletes them for you when you decide to remove an application. I personally use AppCleaner, but I thought it would be interesting to compare the different offerings that are available.

Removing .plists is definitely not required when using OS X, but I like to keep things tidy. There is also a good reason to keep those files around though, since if you ever choose to reinstall an app, it’s settings and preferences will be intact if it can find its old plist file. Bear in mind that this is in no way an in-depth review, but is intended as a good overview. Without further ado…

I present the tools (I included the versions available when writing this overview and all pricing in USD):

     

Feature set

Almost all the apps offer to remove widgets, plugins and preference pane entries. For AppCleaner, AppDelete and AppZapper, it pretty much boils down to that. Amnesia adds an option to remove ScreenSavers and to back up/restore your apps.

To access these features in iTrash, you need to double-click on the trash logo (thanks to Atarikid for pointing this out). I would expect a more intuitive way of accessing these features in upcoming versions. iTrash also removes lost plists files, which is a great addition I have been wanting for a long time! It will also run in Ghost Mode, which is a very neat, albeit slow, way to automatically scan for related files when moving an application to the trash. I wish it would use more CPU processing so the window could pop-up faster (this seems like a design decision and not a problem per-say). Finally, there is an expert mode, which finds even more files (I did not use this mode during my tests).

CleanApp doesn’t remove plugins nor widgets, but catches up with a wealth of other features. It can find duplicate files, clean really old files, can scan your drive to display the biggest folders, it can scan all your apps for unnecessary language packs, scan for cache files and the list goes on (there are simply too many features unrelated to deleting applications to list them all here). For the purpose of this review, I will solely concentrate on cleaning app-related files.

Simply looking at the feature set, Amnesia seems over priced. It is the most expensive of the bunch, but doesn’t offer compelling features to justify its price… Lets test these out now.

Testing

I will be simulating an uninstall of pro apps Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and Digidesign Pro-Tools. In addition, I will test more common apps such as Skype, Chrome, Firefox and Steam (that should be interesting).

When scanning for related files, AppZapper and CleanApp were extremely fast (almost instantaneous results). AppCleaner, AppDelete and iTrash displayed results in a very reasonable time and Amnesia was slow… very slow…

  • For Lightroom iTrash displayed a whooping 63 results, offering to remove every single preference file for the whole Adobe suite… Wow! Amnesia reported 12 results including my Lightroom data folder! That’s simply unacceptable. AppDelete returns 8 good results, AppCleaner 6 (it misses the Application Support folder), AppZapper 5 and CleanApp 4 (both failing to detect .savedstate and .lockfile files).
  • For Photoshop iTrash again takes the lead with 68 results, and again would clear all my settings for the whole Adobe suite… AppCleaner displays 53, but these are mainly irrelevant, since they are all in the Photoshop folder. AppZapper shows 45, and just like AppCleaner counts every plugin inside the Photoshop folder as a unique item, Amnesia 11, AppDelete 6, CleanApp 5.
  • Scanning Pro Tools was interesting. iTrash does it’s thing again and returns 16 results that are actually relevant this time around  (it identified many log files and a cache folder). Amnesia’s scan took longer than all the other apps’ combined (including the time for AppZapper to crash and for me to relaunch it). It returned 5 results. AppCleaner, AppDelete, AppZapper (after the initial crash of course) and CleanApp all returned the same 3 results.
  • For Skype, Amnesia’s scan is still slow and it’s 12 results are questionable, since it identified 2 Skype installer .dmg files in my Downloads directory… AppCleaner, AppDelete and iTrash find 7 related files. AppZapper 6 and CleanApp 5.
  • Now onto Chrome, iTrash wins this one with 10 actually relevant results. Amnesia gets 9. AppCleaner and AppDelete 8, AppZapper doesn’t identify any of the Chrome folders and returns a mere 4 items as is the same with CleanApp and it’s 3 results. Amnesia, AppCleaner, AppDelete and iTrash all successfully show .savedstate and .lockfile items.
  • When testing Firefox Amnesia returns 8 items (it misses the .growlticket and includes 2 installation dmg files… I’m still not sure what I think of that). AppCleaner, AppDelete and iTrash return the same 7 files. AppZapper misses the .growlticket and returns 6 results. CleanApp only returns 5 results (it fails to find the .growlticket and the .lockfile).
  • Finally we get to Steam. Amnesia finds 7 items (including the installation dmg, plists and some logs). AppDelete identifies 3 items. AppCleaner, AppZapper, CleanApp and iTrash all report the same 2 results (the app itself and the Steam Application Support folder).

Overall feel and interface

As an AppCleaner user, I actually like how it works and its interface. It resembles AppDelete, AppZapper and iTrash in many ways. AppDelete displays it’s results in a separate black-styled window, which I didn’t like. AppZapper feels nice and it’s interface is clean, but it only shows you filenames (you have to mouse-over a filename and wait for a tool-tip for the file path), which I don’t like. iTrash is also pretty similar to the others, but uses an unintuitive way to display more options (double-clicking on its trash icon). Amnesia is ugly and hasn’t been updated to the Lion Aqua interface. It is also unbearably slow. CleanApp is a different beast. I really like how it displays a thermometer beside the files it found, displaying how confident it is about each result. Very useful. It’s window is unbearably large though.

The Losers

You’ve probably guessed it by now. I would stay away, far away, from iTrash and Amnesia. Amnesia is the most expensive and it sucks. It feels like a Panther app, it is painstakingly slow and was going to delete years of pictures and personal data when removing Lightroom. Amnesia fails miserably.

iTrash is pretty good at finding stuff… too good actually! When I delete an application, I don’t feel like sifting through pages of false-positives to select the few real results. I want an app that always shows good results, an app that I can trust wont break my workflow. iTrash might be a good fit for control-freaks who want to spend a lot of time analyzing what applications are leaving behind, while running the risk of breaking your system. I am not that person.

I had high hopes for AppZapper, but it simply doesn’t live up to its price tag. At 12.95$ it is the third most expensive app, but fails to find many relevant files, and doesn’t offer any additional features to justify its price. I would definitely skip this one.

Honorable mentions

AppDelete is really good at finding stuff, yet is always on the safe side. It’s price tag is fully justified, and even though I don’t like how it displays results, I think it’s a great app. I trust this one completely. If finding more plists when removing an application is worth a few bucks for you, then this is the app you need!

I hesitated a long time if I were to include CleanApp as an honorable mention. This article focuses on identifying and removing left-over files from applications, which is CleanApps’ biggest down-side. It misses a lot of files… It is actually the worst at finding related files. The app itself is amazingly powerful though, and the price is right. If you don’t mind many files left behind when uninstalling stuff, and are looking for a great overall cleanup application (a great companion to Onyx for example), I would absolutely give CleanApp a go. It simply can’t be seen as an app remover in itself though. Some more work on its detection algorithm would make this an insta-buy.

The Winner

Nothing can beat free, especially when it works exactly as expected. Don’t expect any bells and whistles here, AppCleaner does exactly as its name implies, and does it well. It doesn’t find as many files as iTrash or AppDelete, but it’s really close and every single identified file and folder during this test was relevant. It earns the SlowTech awesomest number 1 champion award of the best application remover app.

SlowTech recommendation: AppCleaner

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Spring cleaning your Mac

So I got up this morning and the birds were chirping, the sun was up full heat while I drank my coffee, and then I realized only 15 GB were left on my user partition! Time for spring cleaning, plus some well overdue backing up.

Every time it gets to this, I use the same set of tools (all free except for ChronoSync and iPartition, both of which aren’t necessary for an in depth cleanup). Here are the apps, in the order I use them:

               

  • OmniDiskSweeper will scan your drive and nicely display what folders use up the most data.
  • AppCleaner will help you uninstall apps completely. Most applications leave plist files and other logs behind, AppCleaner finds those and deletes them for you.
  • Onyx is the swiss army knife of OS X optimization and fixing. There is simply so much stuff in here, it is a must!
  • iDefrag is a great tool to defragment your hard-drive. It will optimize kernel file placement for faster boot-up times. Paid app.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner is a great tool for backing up your boot partitions.
  • ChronoSync is best at backing up, synchronizing and archiving data. Paid app.


How I go about it:

First and foremost, I launch my RAID 5 drive to store my backups and big/important/Document files (it’s a OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2. It rocks!). I back up my boot partition using Carbon Copy Cloner, just in case. Then, using OMNIDiskSweeper I will scan my partitions. I don’t necessarily delete files with the app itself, I use it as a guide to help identify huge folders. It also helps find locations where you wouldn’t have looked, such as Adobe Encore’s Render folder using up 40 GB… I go through my Downloads folder and pretty much trash everything that is older than 2/3 months and that doesn’t ring a bell. I also move a of stuff to the aforementioned drive, using a great and revolutionary tool called cut and paste… Thank you Lion.

Next up is AppCleaner, which will help deleting old and unused apps. Finally, you can empty your trash… This will probably take a couple of days if you are removing a lot of files. You can spend the next few days swearing at Locum! See update…

If you haven’t decided to throw your mac away after realizing how daunting and painful it is to simply remove files… Congratulations, you win patience! Now the fun part, Onyx. Did I mention Onyx is great? It’s awesome! First let it scan your SMART status and your startup partition. It’s a pretty easy tool to use, but I’ll go through some of the steps. Oh wait, my startup volume is corrupted! Probably because emptying the trash froze my computer… Thank you Lion! Well if the same happens to you it’s pretty simple. Restart holding cmd-r, select the disk utility, select your main drive and click repair. Then select your boot partition and repair. While you’re at it you should repair your disk permissions. Do the same to all your partitions.

Now back in Onyx you can skip the verify tab, under Maintenance and Scripts, select execute. These are completely safe to run. Next up is the cleaning tab. I would run all the tabs before restarting your computer, but make sure to read what each option does. Most defaults are safe, but double-check to make sure. Once all the cleaning is done, reboot and voilà! Of course Onyx has many more fun options, but they aren’t about cleaning so I’ll let you discover those yourself.

If you have the time, defragmenting your boot up drive would be a good idea, though beware this can take a really long time. I really recommend Coriolis’ iDefrag. It works wonders.

OK, now I really prefer having clean and optimized backups, so I’ll backup my OS using CCC again (I delete the backup we did earlier). Then, I use ChronoSync for my document folder, my pictures etc… I like it because I can tell it to keep files I have deleted locally, and to archive older files which I’ve modified. Even though that might not be as relevant since Lion saves histories of file edits, but I prefer being safe than sorry.

Update: Well well well, just as I was going to send a bug report about Locum to Apple, I decided to make sure I wasn’t securely emptying my trash… Ouch! I was! I apologize for spreading false… hate-blog? on locum. So let’s make my horrendous mistake constructive at least! If emptying your trash is slow and takes up a lot of CPU, maybe your always securily emptying your trash. To make sure, go to the Finder preferences, to the advanced tab, and uncheck the “Empty trash securily” if it’s checked.

If you ever want to securely empty your trash, “command + right-click” the trash icon, and it will display the “Secure Empty Trash” button. Easy as that.

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So I just installed Lion

I know, I know. It’s pretty late  for Lion ain’t it? Well, yes it is, but I was actually going to wait till 10.7.4 (as some old timers do). I thought I’d explain that view, which is fully justifiable, and give a couple of initial thoughts about Lion.

Mountain Lion is right around the corner and I’m installing 10.7! That might seem crazy for some OSX users, especially iOS customers new to the platform. Some of which are so blatantly in love with Apple, go ahead and download/install developer previews on their only boot partition! We are always looking forward to what the Cupertino is up to, but they’re a software company like every other and bugs haunt them too. Albeit, you should never install a Beta OS on your main machine/boot partition. That should be run on a separate system… in a separate room… locked with an Abloyd lock… and eye scanner… in space… OK, maybe not the eye scanner 😛

What could justify this sort of odd behaviour?

  1. A working workflow and setup: If your using your computer to make money, you have a working setup, and probably a workflow. This is as simple as, upgrade your OS and lose money… Maybe because your not as efficient anymore (see: lost of exposé “all windows”) or some of your mission critical applications have new/different bugs (which you now have to re-adapt to), or they work differently (temporary loss of work speed). This doesn’t apply to me as much anymore because I’ve gone back to school, and am reorienting my career (effect: see blog title :)).
  2. Old machine run new code? As I’ve stated so many times before, I run an old MacBook Pro. How do you know if it will be as performing with the new update? Has Apple fully tested the hardware? They are definitly good at killing old hardware, so yours might be included. Again, if the new OS is slower, you not only loose overall speed, but will get deeply annyoed. Conclusion: I think Lion actually runs faster on my machine (after the initial HD indexing of course).
  3. Let em kill them bugs that are! Every software ships with bugs, it’s just about how much time they’ve had to crush them. In Adobe’s case, it’s just lousiness.
  4. Finally, going to buy new computer? With all the above, if you’re expecting to buy a new computer in the next 6-12 months, it might be a good thing to keep that older setup intact. Just saying.
Why the upgrade now?
  1. The need… of two new features (yep, you’ve read right, two). The first being cut and past in finder, which I have been dreaming of since Panther. Second, the new Spaces. My needs have evolved, and since I’m using more and more Virtual Machines simultaneously, with RDP thrown in the mix, I just couldn’t hold back on that one. It’s been astounding how the new Spaces have changed the way I interact with OSX, for the utmost best! It’s amazing. And there I was thinking fullscreen was just a gimmick, it isn’t. Just for the note, my setup currently consists of a main “web and stuff” desktop, a second desktop for Photoshop, a fullscreen VM for Linux, a fullscreen VM for my Bootcamp, a fullscreen RDP session with my old XP box, and more to come. This in less than a week’s use. Love it.
  2. Trusted sources: like… not the internet. Friends and family. In my case it was family. After my step-brother mentioned he stopped using his mouse completely since Lion, mimicking the gestures for his Spaces setup and all, I was intrigued. That is the type of guy I can trust. We’ve had countless discussions about technology, we know each others workflow (in Snow Leopard he was a Spaces lover and I was the Exposé all-windows junkie). An hour talk with him convinced me more than a year of browsing the net… WOW.
  3. What the hell, my Snow Leopard DVD is standing by.
That was it for me. I had seen too many conferences were the presenter would simply swipe to his VM, making the demos actually work smoothly, for me to just lay back and leave it out till .4.
So was it worth it? I’m happy I waited so long, becuase the shock was even bigger. YES! In all-caps screaming to all the prudent Snow Leopard users out there. Upgrade now. That’s all I can say. I am wrong sometimes. Just sometimes…
The main caveat: loss of expose all-windows. This is a main show stopper, and no Mission Control doesn’t replace it. There’s a little tip out there from OSXDaily though, and I would apply it before even trying mission control with the upper-right corner. In terminal, type:
defaults write com.apple.dock expose-animation-duration -float 0.16
then:
killall Dock
This will ease the pain a lot. I understand the thought behind removing such a thing. The new “app” focus, as in one-window-one-app etc. But to lose such a great feature is, at least to me, awkward. I’ll have to end this on a good note though, because Lion is really worth it. I am actually starting to believe Apple have learned a lot from optimizing their applications on iOS devices, working with low power and slower CPUs. It is tangible in Lion, and runs great[er] on my old laptop. Nope, it’s horrible and I’m definitely considering going back to Snow Leopard. Apple, we need a Snow Lion, or at least a Snow Mountain Lion… please?
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Easy multi-boot for Macs, no Bootcamp hassle, no rEFIt.

If you wish to simply see the steps required, please skip to the installation mini-guide.

I’ve recently received my new internal hard drive for my late 2008 MacBook Pro. For the last few months, I probably hit OWC every single day, waiting for a 7200 RPM, 750GB 9.5mm drive that would fit my laptop. The WD Scorpio Black 750GB recently became available, and I ordered this very nice drive with an external enclosure and the little screwdriver kit. What an awesome overall product idea, plus the enclosure is USB3!

So after doing lots of looking around and googling here and there, I came to a quite simple but sad conclusion about multiple boots on a mac; Boot Camp is a tool for toddlers and multi-booting a heavily partitioned drive is extremely tedious. I was wrong!

My intended setup totals 5 partitions. One for my main Mac OSX boot, one for Windows 7 64bit (games), another Mac OSX boot for audio, a user data partition (documents, downloads, music etc… this could logically be shared between my two Mac boots, more experiments on this in a future post) and finally an audio data partition. Ouch.

Most forums I read explain how to do this by tricking Bootcamp, partitioning after the initial 2 partitions are created, and using a bit of magic with a salt of luck you might just get it working… that’s if your skill level is at 60 and you have much HP left 🙂

Natively installing Windows 7

The main reason for all this Bootcamp stuff is XP doesn’t support EFI, and Vista seems to have a limited support (source needed). 7 on the other hand (I tested 64bit) supports installation in an EFI environment out-of-the-box. My little guide describes installation on a new hard drive, you might want to tweak this a little bit if you’ve resized a partition for windows. So, here goes.

    1. Boot into Mac OSX Snow Leopard disk, select the disk utility tool and create your partitions. Make sure you create a Fat32 (Dos) partition for Windows. This partition must be one of the first three partitions (I think the first 4 might work, but lets not take any chance).
    2. Install Mac OSX in your first partition. You can then update your mac, do what you wish. Some people install rEFIt. I tried it but the tool didn’t work for me. rEFIt is not required for this setup to work. It might be if you want to install Linux though, I haven’t tried that yet.
    3. Insert the Win 7 64bit DVD in your mac. Reboot and hold the “c” key when you hear a chime. This will launch the Windows setup.
    4. At setup, you will be asked to choose a partition for windows. Make sure you select the right partition as it will be formatted. The installation had serious trouble reading most of the partition names, so I chose my Fat partition by size… Very scary moment. Once you select the partition, you need to click format. It will format in NTFS, then continue with normal installation.
    5. The installer will reboot 3 times (IIRC), whenever it does, hold the “option” key (alternative names: “alt”, “saucepan”, ⌥) when the chimes play. Then select the windows partition and boot it to continue installation. Don’t worry if you miss the boot screen, just restart you mac. The installer restarts where it left off.
    6. Now when you are asked for a password, do not create one with any special characters! Actually, I would recommend to wait until later before creating a password. Why you ask? Because your current keyboard setup is most probably wrong, and all your keys will change when you install the Mac drivers. This happened to me, simply because I used “/” in my password. I had to reinstall Windows, because when booting up, I couldn’t recreate the symbol at login screen. Stupid thing.
    7. When rebooting for the third time (the last reboot), at the OS selection screen (OSX’s boot loader), remove the Windows DVD, and pop in the Snow Leopard DVD.
    8. Once in windows, your volume keys, brightness keys and screen resolution will be all wrong, plus other stuff. Launch the Bootcamp setup in the OSX DVD you inserted earlier. Reboot again. TADAM!

You now have a native dual-boot setup, without rEFIt (even though rEFIt looks really nice, it doesn’t work for me and troubleshooting help is scarce), without the hassle of Bootcamp partition resizing and voodoo partitioning.

Hope this helps someone, and now go play some video games 🙂

Note: Windows 64bit will not work on all MacBook models, if the Mac drivers complain about it, you should install 32bit. Also, I have yet to install my third Mac OSX boot, this might screw things up. Rest assured I will blog about it or correct any information if things go wrong. Finally, I do not know if the OSX boot-loader supports Linux, you are encouraged to post any comments about such a setup (it will work using rEFIt). I personally think it would be fine if you install GRUB inside your Linux partition.

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