Besides doing a fresh install, does anyone have any tips for uncluttering Mac OS X? I install and uninstall a fair few apps and find that after a while things start to chug. I was hoping there might be an easy way to clean orphan files floating around the place and get things feeling snappy again.


Go to ~/Library/Preferences/ and sort by modification date. Anything unused in the last X weeks/months can go. Simply start any application once you install. Keep the files around another month in case you start an application and have an unexpected first-launch experience.

Use a tool like Disk Inventory X or DaisyDisk, point it at ~/Library/Application Support and nuke anything with more that X MB (I'd recommend 10) you don't recognize or no longer use.

There is no "100%" solution, and since you keep on installing/trying/uninstalling there's really no point.

Edited to add:

Check the LaunchAgents and LaunchDaemons directories within your user library and the /Library, as well as the Accounts preference pane in System Preferences.app for unnecessary Login Items

Use Disk Inventory X (free) or DaisyDisk (non-free but pretty) to look around your whole disk to see where your storage went.

Now we're getting very much into subjective territory:

Read into which directories are excluded by default from Time Machine (you don't see them in the preference pane!), I am pretty sure Logs and Caches are among them. Trash their contents (although I find both rather useful, so YMMV).

Most applications can be moved around directories, so if you suffer from application overload, move your own applications to a different one and remove them from the Dock (preferably one not indexed by your application launcher, i.e. LaunchBar, Quicksilver, etc. if you use such software) and move them out from that "quarantine" once you need them. One month later, delete the "quarantine" directory.

Try out the shareware Hazel. Not for me, but helps with cluttered download folders, I hear.

Install your applications only in ~/Applications (folder within your user directory, need to create it first), except where not possible (iWork and VMware Fusion, and generally everything with an installer comes to mind). This way you can easily carry them over to a different machine without changing /Applications, you cannot mess up access permissions for software accessible to all users and can be sure which ones can be freely trashed, and which ones probably shouldn't.

If you're using Time Machine, it supports restoring only user directories after a fresh install. This goes well with applications in ~/Applications, you might need to reinstall drivers and Installer.app-installed software, though.

  • "application launcher" is spotlight?
    – Pacerier
    Feb 14 '18 at 13:16
  • @Pacerier I provide examples, but yes, Spotlight does some of that too, true.
    – Daniel Beck
    Feb 14 '18 at 13:56

TrashMe, it has option Orphan mode to detect unused property file and temp files.

  • I use AppCleaner which looks pretty similar. I still find, or have the feeling that there is a lot of stuff that still being missed. Is there a way to search for orphan files? Aug 18 '10 at 6:09
  • I have not try AppCleaner, but TrashMe also cannot find all orphan files, no perfect solution I found.
    – user41982
    Aug 19 '10 at 6:20

Whatever you do stay away from an App called MacKeeper, its one of the most controversial Apps available for OS X. Its is apparently very difficult to uninstall completely from the system as well.

This article entitled Beware Mackeeper, from Mac Security website The Safe Mac, gives more insight including alternatives you can use for your Mac.

If I were to invest in a product and pay for the privilege, I would use CleanMyMac by MacPaw.

More info regarding this product can be found here.

Otherwise the Free alternatives AppCleaner and AppDelete Lite do an excellent job.


You can try Cocktail as well. It does a pretty good job.


For a general clean up, you might want to check out Onyx. Besides a lot of other features, it allows you to

[...] delete caches, to remove a certain number of files and folders that may become cumbersome and more.

A screenshot from MacUpdate:

alt text

Alternatively, check out Cache Out X.



OmniDiskSweeper, which turned free around a year ago, is useful for charting your hard drive and seeing which parts of your Mac is cluttered with files.


There is also this tool : cleanapp. This is a "collaborative" tool that will learn from other users.


3 Solutions that work for me:

  1. Uninstall apps with app zapper - It cleans up hidden files that would normally be left behind

  2. Clean caches, repair permissions with Onyx

  3. Create a new user - A new user account makes my Mac almost as fast as when I did a fresh install.

As mentioned in Simons answer, stay very far away from MacKeeper, it is basically spyware


I found the below thread useful as well when cleaning my mac:


  • The thread just mentions to search for Launch Agents, doesn't it? The grep expression there doesn't look particularly useful, as a general purpose cleaning utility, as it's very specialized (LaunchAgents referencing dot files in a user's home directory). Could you be more specific as to how that helps when cleaning up? Please also note that link-only answers are highly discouraged, as they might change or become change, or it's not clear what exactly you're referring to.
    – Daniel Beck
    Aug 27 '12 at 6:19

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