Apple’s Mac OS has been the preferred operating system for many people over the years. While I myself like it quite a lot and often recommend people to switch to it, I have noticed that a common error that many people make while buying a Mac OS device like the MacBook, is getting the cheapest configuration. Until very recently, Apple’s base offering for most Mac devices came with 128GB of storage. While some people do fine with this, many others quickly run out of space, and some even do on models with more storage.
Running low on storage is a common problem with modern computing devices, and so are several other issues that bog a system down after prolonged use. So when I had to breathe some life into my friend’s MacBook Air that was facing these issues, I set out to find a quick and easy way to get it done, which turned out to be CleanMyMac X!
What is CleanMyMac X?
Well, if you hadn’t guessed already — CleanMyMac X is a tool to, well, clean your Mac! The name might be misleading, however, because I found that CleanMyMac X does a lot more than just simple cleaning. It is a fully equipped optimization suite for Mac OS that focuses on cleaning, optimizing, streamlining, and securing your Mac OS experience, in the simplest manner possible.
CleanMyMac X Pricing and Versions
Developed by MacPaw, CleanMyMac has been around for a while, but it only recently found its way to the Apple App Store, with the CleanMyMac X. This has led to the app having two separate versions. The App Store version had to make a few changes to meet Apple’s guidelines, so misses out on a handful of features (Maintenance, Updater, and Shredder), while the default CleanMyMac X, available on MacPaw’s website and through Setapp, has no compromises.
CleanMyMac X provides a free trial, and prices start at $34.95 for a yearly subscription, and $129.77 for a one-time purchase, with the MacPaw website offering multi-device licenses for higher prices. You can get a discount if you had bought a previous version of CleanMyMac or use a competitor cleaner or antivirus app. You can also get the app as a part of Setapp’s $9.99 per month subscription.
For this review, I tested the full version that MacPaw offers, with the version number being 4.6.2, released on 8 April 2020.
CleanMyMac X Features
CleanMyMac X is a surprisingly versatile software, and it breaks down its features under five different categories — Cleanup, Protection, Speed, Applications, and Files, all of which offer in-depth tune-ups.
If you want to get the cleanup done quickly, CleanMyMac X has a Smart Scan feature as the welcoming highlight. CleanMyMac X will greet you with the SmartScan feature when you open it, and you can start scanning right away. SmartScan pulls in only three of the five categories of tuning — Cleanup, Protection, and Speed, and quickly gathers the results for you with the option to fix them with one click. If you only need to free up a little space and get it done quickly, then you can use the SmartScan. I, however, would recommend you to take a deeper dive into CleanMyMac X for better optimization.
CleanMyMac X Assistant
This app also has an easy to access Assistant in the upper right-hand side corner of the interface. It has AI-generated tips for you to do your cleaning better and has a search function to help you locate a feature in case you can’t find it. The Assistant will bring tips on steps to optimize your Mac every now and then. It’s not really as useful as it could be, but it’s a nice feature, mostly because of the search tool.
CleanMyMac X requests special permissions to access different areas of macOS storage to be able to look for things to clean up.
The Cleanup feature focuses on all the junk that is on your Mac and brings it all together under one roof for you to dispose of. It has three areas of tuning.
As I noted earlier, any operating system will build up bloat with prolonged use. The System Junk section will find the disposable files that are taking up space deep inside your system and are hard to get rid of unless you do a full system reset. There are several categories of files under here. In my testing, System Junk had user cache files as the top offender of my disk space, eating up nearly 3 GBs. Other files included unused disk images, system cache files, language files, system and user logs, document versions, and broken login data. System Junk is a nifty tool for grabbing that hard-to-reach trash and will form a sizable part of your cleanup under CleanMyMac X.
The Mail Attachment feature works only if you sync your email to your macOS desktop. Email is notorious for syncing data to your system and keeping it there in the cache for easy access — especially the attachments. While this is done to ensure that you don’t have to reload the data every time you open up the email client, it builds up a ton of garbage over time, making email an unsuspicious culprit in bloating your system up. CleanMyMac X will go through your email app data that is stored on your Mac, locally, and give you an option to get rid of it all in one click. I found this particular feature very interesting because it seems like something one usually wouldn’t consider while trying to manually clean up their system. Depending upon how much you’ve used your email on macOS, you can expect CleanMyMac X to clean off a few GBs of trash with the Mail Attachments feature.
Trash bins are a great feature to have on your computer, as a backup in case you delete something accidentally, and need to recover it. However, not everybody remembers to clean their trash bin, but CleanMyMac X makes sure that it remembers! To some people, it might seem like an obvious thing to clean the trash bin regularly, but I have seen a lot of people have their trash bins always full, and thus taking up precious space of their system storage. CleanMyMac X’s Trash Bins feature is just a shortcut to show you how much trash you have piled up, waiting to be deleted, and it gives you a one-click option to do it.
Additionally, CleanMyMac X used to have two additional features in the cleanup tab — Photo Junk and iTunes Junk, but these seem to have been removed in the versions designed for Mac OS Catalina. CleanMyMac X has removed these features because of iTunes being officially dead, and major changes to file permissions that came with the arrival of macOS Catalina.
CleanMyMac X tackles more than just the storage issues with your Mac. The Protection feature aims at tightening the security on your Mac by cleaning off malicious files and highlighting privacy issues.
CleanMyMac X comes with a built-in malware detection system that will go through your files to check if there are any malware infections hiding in there. Usually, macOS is considered to be more secure than Windows, and it is, with way lesser chances of being infected with malware. Unless you’re downloading third-party software from unverified sources, you shouldn’t face security issues on your Mac. However, CleanMyMac X promises to protect you from malware in case you do face an infection.
I put CleanMyMac X’s Malware Removal tool to test. While it ran a scan and returned with results, it only managed to detect one Adware that was installed on the system. I ran another test with Malwarebytes, which detected four more instances of Malware infections on the Mac.
While I was expecting a better performance from the Malware Removal feature, it just feels like a supplemental feature as of now, and not one that should consider as a key feature of CleanMyMac X. If Malware protection is important to you, consider installing a dedicated anti-malware software like Malwarebytes.
CleanMyMac X has a nifty Privacy feature. We all know that Apple has an increasing focus on privacy, and this particular feature feels like something Apple itself would include in macOS. The Privacy tab does a deep scan of all the possible privacy issues with your Mac. When I ran the scan, it showed me 198 privacy issues, including app permissions I needed to review, browser issues, Chrome and Safari both, with flags for saved information, history, and more, Wi-Fi networks that were potentially insecure and some Finder tips.
I was amazed by how detailed this Privacy feature was. I went in assuming it would just give me generic privacy tips, but CleanMyMac X really goes into the details here. If you’re someone that takes their privacy very seriously, I would recommend that you try this feature out.
Of course, when it comes to slowdowns due to prolonged use, the reasons are not only due to the junk that ends up in the Mac storage but also the stuff that is constantly running in the background. The Speed tab has optimizations that are geared towards performance by tackling these background issues.
The real killers when it comes to slowing down a system, hogging resources, and generally making your Mac slower, are the background processes. You might delete the junk, but you need to actively track the applications that are running in the background to see what is affecting your Mac’s performance continuously. The Optimization feature built into CleanMyMac X does this for you, and it is one of the features of the app that impressed me the most.
The Optimization tab will show you the four major background process flags that affect your system’s performance, and the exact apps that do it. The Login Items flag will show you the apps that automatically start when you switch your Mac on, and the Launch Agents flag will show the supplementary processes that run in the background.
There is also a Hung Applications flag for unresponsive apps and a Heavy Consumers flag for apps, so you know which apps are doing the most damage to your Mac’s performance. This feature really maximizes the amount of optimization you can get done with CleanMyMac X without needing to completely reset your Mac.
The Maintenance tab adds a bunch of fixes to help you quietly hit the reset button on some hidden settings of your Mac. It’s a nice complement to the functionality that the Optimization tab provides. You can free up RAM and storage space to give your apps a little room to breathe, run scripts for maintenance, fix permissions, and optimize Time Machine images. There are also options to index Spotlight again to improve the speed of your search queries.
The Maintenance tab is an easy way to boost your Mac’s performance and get it up to speed. I recommend that you run these tasks after running the necessary cleanup and optimization routines that CleanMyMac X provides.
I like the action flow that CleanMyMac X has. After running optimizations with cleanup, protection, and speed, the next category is Applications. This category does not really have optimizations but rather brings simplified application management options together so that you can manage them within CleanMyMac X.
I have always found the app uninstallation process in macOS a bit lacking, and CleanMyMac X’s Uninstaller is perfect to make up for that. Instead of moving apps to trash like the native method in macOS, you get a robust list interface. Apps are divided by multiple criteria, by use, type, source, and vendors. You can select multiple apps and batch uninstall with a single click, making the whole process really convenient. Personally, this interface is one of the key highlight features that would make me want to use CleanMyMac X.
This is a great extension of the uninstaller. CleanMyMac X’s Updater feature checks all your apps for possible updates and lists them all within the app. When I ran the update check, it showed me that six updates were available — three App Store apps, two installed from external sources, and one macOS Catalina system update. App Store updates worked fine, while apps installed from external sources were a hit or miss. VLC Media Player update kept failing for me, and the error log that CleanMyMac X displayed had no information but that the update had failed. The system update directed me to the macOS updates manager as expected — macOS wouldn’t allow third-party apps to force system updates, but I found it impressive that CleanMyMac X would list the update at all. It acts as a quick shortcut.
All in all, I think the Updater is a solid feature, but it needs to handle updates for apps installed from external sources in a better way.
CleanMyMac X also packs in a plugin manager, which is again an impressive addition. We know that macOS has extensions integrated into the system, and CleanMyMac takes advantage of that integration to help you declutter your system by listing them all in one place. There are dedicated apps designed for this purpose but the Extensions feature of CleanMyMac X has a nice and simple layout. It lists them all by categories — Spotlight plugins, Safari Extensions, Internet Plugins, and Preference Panes. We know that macOS has extensions integrated into the system, and CleanMyMac takes advantage of that integration to help you declutter your system by listing them all in one place.
The last feature tab that CleanMyMac X has is the Files tab, and it surprised me with how simple yet feature-packed it was. When it comes to cleaning out your system, the biggest bottleneck can be files you have downloaded or moved to the Mac but need help rearranging and moving to external storage, or maybe the cloud. In my opinion, CleanMyMac X’s selling point is its file management system, which is among some of the best file management interfaces I have ever used, on any platform.
Space Lens is a visual file manager, and it’s the best feature CleanMyMac X manages to pack in. It’s a new addition to their list of features, and it manages to add a lot of value to the price tag that the app commands. SpaceLens starts off by analyzing the files on your storage and then creates bubbles sized by the storage space occupied to depict the folders and files. You get an instant visual cue about where your biggest files are, and you can move through to check what you need to organize.
While this tool doesn’t have much of that automated magic that other CleanMyMac X features do, it manages to steal the show by being a great tool to help the user clean their Mac by organizing their files quickly. I’m going to use CleanMyMac X for this feature alone, if not for any of the other ones, and I recommend you give CleanMyMac X’s Space Lens a try as well.
Large and Old Files
To complement Space Lens, CleanMyMac X has a file viewer that sorts out files that are old and occupying a considerable amount of space, very much like the Applications interface I discussed earlier. Files can be checked according to categories like type, size, and access date to help you delete the unimportant ones and declutter your Mac’s storage. You get one-click bulk delete as well, so you can get rid of the junk faster.
The Shredder is the last feature on the long list of features that CleanMyMac X offers, and while it’s not something you absolutely need, it’s still a nice addition. If you have files that need to be permanently deleted with no chances of recovery, even if looked for with recovery software, then you can use the Shredder feature to get it done.
CleanMyMac X — Where it Fails
CleanMyMac X is a great software package that will leave you impressed most of the time, but there are a few things that this app misses the mark on, and the major one is an omission of a feature that you would expect an app with its capabilities to have.
No Provision for Duplicate Files
CleanMyMac X has the promise of being the ultimate storage and resource manager app for macOS, but it is single-handedly ruined by the exclusion of a provision to deal with duplicate files. I loved the files feature set on this app, but the exclusion of this feature is a real deal-breaker, and for a good reason.
MacPaw markets a separate app for dealing with duplicate files called Gemini 2. This app is even marketed within CleanMyMac X, reminding you that you have to pay more to get the functionality that CleanMyMac X needed to have as a built-in feature.
Of course, there are a couple of other flaws that I’ve mentioned in the review, but the omission of this feature is an absolute dealbreaker.
Should you Buy CleanMyMac X? — Our Verdict
CleanMyMac X is a good Mac maintenance suite that does a few things very well. It has a great cleanup system that will deep clean the junk from your Mac, and a nifty privacy feature that highlights the privacy issues with your Mac in detail. It also has you covered on the optimizations front, with multiple scripts to clean up the behind-the-scenes performance. Finally, it comes with a great app and file management system, which are definitely the features that make me want to keep using CleanMyMac X.
However, it misses out on a few key features that I think an app of its kind needs. The malware removal tool is weak, and not something you can rely upon, making it functionally useless. The app updater still needs to learn how to handle all updates properly, and the absence of a way to deal with duplicate files really puts the hefty price tag in question. The app is also quite heavy to run itself, which is not ideal for older Macs.
So should you buy CleanMyMac X?
I think you should. It’s an excellent optimization tool that will help you clean up your Mac’s storage from time to time — a process that would usually take you hours, and require a complete reset to be performed, and it brings a lot of value to the table. I would recommend either buying the full license or getting a Setapp subscription, which I believe is the best value deal as it also includes a bunch of other great Mac apps in the package.
I had a fun time using CleanMyMac X and managed to free about 40GBs of space using its junk cleaner and file management features to find the heavy files that needed to be moved out. Although I believe a full reset is the best way, it’s a time-consuming affair, and CleanMyMac X does the job well.
|Great file management features||Price could be lower|
|In-depth privacy checker||No duplicate file handling|
|Plenty of optimization options||Malware protection is weak|
|Intuitive application management||Updates feature needs improvement|
Technology and Entertainment Writer and Editor.