RAW Computing

Is MacKeeper malware or just misunderstood?


Search for MacKeeper on Google and there are many links to sites discussing this controversial software. A few pages high in the ranking claim or report on claims that it is malware and a scam. This does seem at odds with my experience and while I wouldn't say that it's the absolute best software around, it's not bad and it can in fact, be quite useful.

It definitely isn't malware and I installed it, used it, and uninstalled it. I have done this three times now with three different versions over three years, all without any problems. I think irritating marketing by some affiliates might explain some of the ill feeling towards this app and this is a shame.

I have also noticed a trend, mainly with Windows, of software being called malware or a virus by someone simply because they don't like it and don't know how to uninstall it. I write a problem page in a magazine and I often get readers writing in saying 'I've got such and such a virus on my computer. How do I get rid of it?' I have to tell them it's not a virus, it's a legitimate program, but it can easly be uninstalled if you don't like it.

I have to declare that I'm an affiliate, but I try to be honest about all the software I review and if you think I'm biased, jump to the conclusion at the end where I raise some criticisms. Hopefully I have included the good, the bad and the ugly so you can make your own mind up whether this is useful software. It certainly isn't the malware some people claim it to be.

Is your Mac slowing down?

If you have had your Mac for some time, you may have noticed that it is slower than it used to be. Why is it that computers slow down as they get older? One reason is file clutter, which is junk files filling the disk. Another reason is too many startup items that load unnecessary apps into the background.

In addition to these, there are also apps that you no longer use, but take up space on the disk. There is the possibility (increasingly these days as Macs are under threat), of viruses, spyware and other types of malware, and there are maintenance tasks that never seem to get done.

If you have an old Mac then you need to restore that lost performance and get your computer back to the way it was when you bought it. If you have a new Mac then you need to keep it in tip top condition and running at peak performance. Don't let things slip and don't let the junk build up and become a problem.

A multi-function toolkit

MacKeeper is a multifunction toolkit that enables you to perform many essential maintenance tasks and keep your Mac running smoothly. It protects it, eliminates clutter on the hard disk drive, cleans up unnecessary files, keeps your apps up to date, and much more.

All the functions you need are in the left-hand panel and if Fast Cleanup is selected you have access to four different cleanup functions. They can all be run together or they can be run separately using the toggle switches by the side of the icons.

Binaries Cutter removes the parts of applications that you don't need, such as support for very old Macs running PowerPC processors when yours is an Intel-powered computer. Apps contain language packs so that it can be used in any part of the world, but if you don't speak Japanese or Swahili, what is the point of having these languages installed? Languages Cutter eliminates foreign languages and this can reduce their size.

OS X and applications like web browsers cache information and Cache Cleaner will empty them. This can free up a lot of disk space. (A cache is a place where often used information and files are stored and it contains nothing that can't be replaced.) Caches can sometimes create problems when they become corrupted problems and starting with a clean slate can be beneficial. Many activities are logged (recorded) by OS X, but do you ever access the logs? Most people don't and they end up cluttering up the disk drive. Logs Cleaner will remove them and free up disk space.


The App Store and Software Update do a good job of keeping OS X, Apple apps and many third party apps up to date, but what about all the other apps? No doubt you have lots of apps on your Mac, but are they up to date? It would be an arduous task to check each one and see if there is a newer updated version available.

MacKeeper automates this and all you need to do is to click Update Tracker in the left pane and it lists all the apps, the current version number and the latest version that is available for download. Colour-coded blobs next to the apps enables you to instantly see which ones are up to date and the ones that are outdated. You can select any app in the list and update it or you can update them all with one click. It's a really useful feature.


When a file on the desktop or a Finder window is double clicked, OS X looks up which app is associated with it, starts the app and opens the file. Double clicking a .txt file for example, will open it in TextEdit. Sometimes though, the file opens in the wrong app. Well, not the wrong app, just not the app you want to open it with. The problem is that apps can steal the association when they are installed. For example, you might want to always open .jpg photos in Preview, but they open in Photoshop or something else.

MacKeeper lets you easily change the app associated with a file type to the one you want. Click Default Apps in the left pane and a long list of file extensions is displayed. The application associated with each one is shown and clicking one displays a list of apps that can handle it. You can choose another app to handle the extension and then double clicking the file always opens it in that app.


If you have a MacBook with an SSD you could well be be running short of disk space because they have quite a small capacity and they soon fill up. Macs don't run well when there is hardly any disk space left and you should delete unwanted or unnecessary files to clear some space, but what is using up all the disk space?

Select Disk Usage in the left pane and MacKeeper displays a list of folders and the amount of space used by each one. You can click a folder to open it and display the files and subfolders, click those and so on. So you can drill down and see the biggest file space hogs. You can then delete them if they aren't needed, or having identified them, move them onto a USB disk drive if they aren't frequently accessed.


The Internet Security module helps to protect your Mac from threats on the internet and you can scan the disk for malware. Real-Time Safe Browsing scans websites and pages for malware, identity theft and scams.

There is even more in MacKeeper than I have covered here and I have looked at just a few of the functions of this app. If you look at the left panel in the screen shots you'll see that there are many more functions, including file recovery, which enables you to recover deleted files. An anti theft module helps to track stolen Macs and a backup facility could be useful if you don't already have one. There is file encryption and file shredding for security too.


There isn't anything in MacKeeper that you can't find elsewhere and you might even find some of the functions available as freeware apps. However, some people will find that having everything in one application is more convenient, easier to use and easier to maintain than having a collection of separate apps.

MacKeeper isn't perfect and it does have a few irritations. One is that it runs all the time. I would prefer to choose whether to run it automatically on startup or to run it manually when I need it. After all, many cleanup functions only need to be run once a week or even once a month.

MacKeeper also uses more memory than I would like and I saw it using up to 300MB. You wouldn't want it on an old Mac with just 2GB of RAM, but it's not a problem if you have a new Mac with 4GB of more of memory. The Internet security module isn't installed by default and is an optional extra, so you don't have to have it and it is lighter on memory without it.

The malware scanner needs configuration options. A full scan ran at a snail's pace and I suspect it choked on my large collection of zip files. You should be able to tell it to skip zips. You can perform a custom scan by selecting a folder though, and a scan of the Applications folder was much faster.

Overall, it's a reasonably good toolkit and if you want a bunch of tools all accessible from one place then it is well worth considering. You can download MacKeeper and try it for yourself. If you don't like it, just drag it to the Trash to trigger the uninstaller.



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