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Internet Cleanup Utilities

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As Internet use has proliferated, so have privacy concerns. Cookie files, surfing history, and cache contents all work together to create a detailed record of your surfing activities. Software such as Aladdin Systems' iClean 3.5 and Webroot Software's MacWasher 2.1 can delete such forms of privacy-threatening Internet debris, and though they both do a good job, MacWasher is the more full-featured product. (While iClean is reviewed here as a standalone tool, it's also available as part of Aladdin's Spring Cleaning, a more general system cleanup and uninstalling package.)

Wash Cycle

With just five buttons, iClean has the smoother interface, but those five buttons represent the limit of iClean's abilities. It fixes orphaned alias files, deletes cookies, removes the Internet cache, obliterates history files, and finally empties the Trash, or any combination of the above. Select one of these actions, click on the Clean button, and the program goes to work. It searches your drive, and then presents you with a list of files so you can be sure you're tossing the correct items.

MacWasher performs the same tasks (with the exception of fixing orphaned aliases), but provides more options, such as cleaning out the Recent Documents, Recent Applications, and Temporary Files folders. MacWasher also lets you designate the specific Netscape profiles you want to wash (so, for example, you can choose to clean up your kid's profile but not your own) or run at startup or shutdown. When you click on Wash Now, the program gives you the alternative of "simulating" a wash, choosing the files to delete so you can look them over before you trash them.

Spin Cycle

Unlike just about every other Mac program I've encountered, iClean has no preferences settings and no way to customize the program. When you start the program, what you see is what you get.

In contrast, MacWasher offers a selection of options, including security deletion. Using Department of Defense and National Security Agency methods, security deletion makes files unrecoverable by any means. Because it involves repeated and more thorough methods than a simple deletion, however, security deletion does take longer -- as long as several minutes per file if you do a multipass deletion. With earlier versions of MacWasher security deletion took longer than a few minutes, and all it did was zap the data; it left the file name intact. Fortunately, the program now overwrites targeted files in larger chunks, considerably speeding up the process, and clears the file name.

iClean works with all of the major browsers, and if you have multiple browsers and you want to leave select files untouched, you can click on Cancel during the cleaning process. MacWasher is more flexible, providing separate options to selectively clean up Netscape, Internet Explorer, and America Online files. The program can also run at scheduled time intervals, ranging from every 15 minutes to once a month. However, the interface could be a bit smoother -- text for some buttons is off-center.

Hanging Up to Dry

Both programs work smoothly with no compatibility problems in operating systems up to 9.1. The memory footprints are small -- on my Mac, MacWasher took up about 4MB of RAM, while iClean used less than 2MB. In other matters, Webroot does offer tech support for MacWasher, but it is only available via e-mail, and you may have to wait up to 48 hours for a reply. (In addition, the included seven-page documentation is a bit meager for MacWasher's features.) iClean, on the other hand, has telephone-based support if you need it.

These are both useful programs that will save time. However, security deletion aside, more seasoned Mac users might find it almost as easy to manage their security problems by manually deleting cache files and other Internet remnants, or by adjusting browser preferences for history and cookie files.

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