Maintenance Tools for Mac OS X

    December 20, 2006

There are a number of Mac OS maintenance applications that promise to help you with various tasks. We’ll take a quick look at a few of them here.


Onyx is free software. It’s the only one of this group that includes S.M.A.R.T monitoring (turn that on under Preferences; actually see it under Info-> Disk). As all these do, Onyx reads and sets preferences (it calls them “Parameters”) for the Finder, Dock and others. Onyx includes Safari, allowing you to control such things as the size of your History menu and other settings that aren’t in the Safari Preferences panes. As most such utilities do, it includes running and rescheduling of system cron tasks, verification of disk permissions and rebuilding of Spotlight and the Launch Services database. It can clean out caches and log files and empty your trash. It also has an “Automation” section that does similar tasks and more at the cick of the “Execute” button.

A Log file viewer conveniently gives centralized access to all system and application logs; Unix Utilities include a man page viewer, plutil, locate, and system_profiler. “Info” shows similar informaton to system_profiler in a more compact form.


Cocktail is $14.95, the freely downloadable demo is apparently limited in some features, though it wasn’t clear to me just what those limitations are. Coctail controls preferences under its “Interface” tab. Like Xupport, the Login section includes a Kiosk mode which I did not test. The Misc. section includes the ability to set the screenshot file format; I didn’t find that in the other utilities. It includes setting MTU and TCP window sizes under Network. It has control of locked files and the usual cleaning of logs and caches under “Files”. “System” lets you run the system cron jobs, rebuild the ocate and whatis databases as well as Launch Services, empty the trash and so on. “Disks” can enable or disable journaling, repair permissions and set the power saving Spindown times.


Xupport is $19.90. The free download seems to be time limited, but I don’t know when it expires. Xupport has a large number of preference items under “Settings” (but not as many as Onyx). Like Cocktail, it includes control of some TCP settings and adds control of virtual memory files. Xupport includes a “Backup” utility that can clone a bootable disk or create an image for Apple Software Restore. The “Browser” tab is a Finder-like file browser; I really don’t see the point of that. The “Unix” tab displays man pages, and “Info” is a convenient overview of your machine’s hardware and software.

MainMenu runs as a menu bar item – you may not notice the little plus sign in a rectangle that appears when you run it. You need to click on that to actually use the program. MainMenu includes the typical running of system cron jobs, repairing disk permissions, cleaning caches, rebuilding Spotlight and other databases, and setting some Finder settings. Under “Other Tasks” it has log cleaning and flushing of some caches, but also includes disabling Dashboard (I had done that long ago manually).


There is plenty of overlap between these, but there are also unique features not found in the others. None of this is anything you cannot do yourself through terminal commands or editing preference files manually, but these do offer the graphical interface for ease of use. Onyx is proably the most full featured of the group.

There are lots more of a similar nature: see System/Disk Utilities at Apple for more.

*Originaly published at


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A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services