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System-Management Utilities

While rummaging through your System Folder, you have undoubtedly discovered that your hard drive is crammed with what appear to be unnecessary files. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a utility that could help you cull those dispensable documents and applications? Two utilities--Casady & Greene's Chaos Master 1.2.1 and Aladdin Systems' Spring Cleaning 4.0--provide a measure of help, though they lack the means to make intelligent choices about which files should go and which should stay.

Something in Common

Both Chaos Master and Spring Cleaning scour your Mac's hard drive for duplicate files, unattached aliases, empty folders, orphaned preferences, and Internet cache files. In addition, each allows you to uninstall applications and their associated files, and to slim extraneous code from "fat" applications--those that include both PowerPC and 680X0 code.

The two programs aren't identical, however. Aside from being the only one that runs natively in Mac OS X, Spring Cleaning has two features Chaos Master doesn't: a MailCleaner module that lets you remove attachments from Eudora, Outlook Express, and Entourage e-mail archives; and iClean, a useful utility (also sold separately) that lets you selectively remove Web cookies and delete Internet history files. But only Chaos Master can check the version number of your applications and control panels and provide links to online updates.

Spring Ahead

Spring Cleaning is the more thorough of the two programs. In our tests, Chaos Master was unable to find a duplicate copy of SimpleText that Spring Cleaning had no trouble locating. Spring Cleaning also unearthed a greater variety of Internet cache files. And it offers far more options for dealing with files once you've found them--you can launch them, trash them, or move or duplicate them to a folder or a StuffIt archive, and you can undo some of these actions with Spring Cleaning's Restore command. With Chaos Master, you can only launch, trash, or move files, and the program lacks a Restore command.

But Spring Cleaning can be too thorough. When looking for duplicates, for instance, it lists not only real duplicates but also files that simply have the same name. While the program clearly indicates that these files aren't exact duplicates and that you should be careful about discarding them, unwary users could easily jettison important files. This thoroughness might be less problematic if Spring Cleaning offered more-comprehensive filtering. Alas, its filters are too broad. For example, the MailCleaner module lets you filter attachments only by date and name. The ability to exclude attachments by size and origin would also be helpful. Chaos Master's filters are no better, offering just a couple of options.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Spring Cleaning is more useful than Chaos Master, thanks to its ability to search more carefully and extensively, particularly among Internet cache files. Used carelessly, however, either utility is more hindrance than help.

Guessing Game: Care to take a stab at which of these Mac OS X files are disposable?
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