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Disk-Cleanup Utilities

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No one likes clutter, but for many, cleaning up is almost worse than the mess. Thankfully, Mac users have Chaos Master 1.1 and Spring Cleaning 3.5 to help them collect the electronic equivalent of deadwood and reclaim lost hard drive space.

Both applications scour your hard disk for orphaned documents and aliases, empty folders, duplicate files, and other unnecessary data -- but they go about it in different ways. Spring Cleaning is more nuts-and-bolts oriented, because you have to choose which individual cleaning task to perform, such as hunting for fat applications whose 68K code can be removed on Power Macs (Chaos Master can also search for such code). Unlike Chaos Master, Spring Cleaning offers an application-wide exceptions list, so if a certain file comes up as deletable but it's actually needed, you can exclude it from future searches to save time and aggravation. Spring Cleaning also allows you to specify such parameters as file size, label, and creation and modification dates.

Chaos Master, in contrast, provides a step-by-step wizard approach, which might appeal to the less seasoned user -- only the hardened maintenance veteran might be willing to go through each separate step in the way that Spring Cleaning requires. Like Spring Cleaning, Chaos Master also allows you to perform individual tasks.

In addition to providing cleanup functions, Chaos Master offers integrated version checking via the VersionTracker ( ) Web site's database. While Chaos Master's checking initially appears thorough, it did pass over some out-dated apps -- such as Virex.

Neither of these tools is omniscient, and both identify files as being orphaned or extraneous (and therefore potentially deletable) when they are, in fact, quite necessary for the correct operation of the files' and folders' apps. So you shouldn't delete files unless you are absolutely certain of their uselessness. While Spring Cleaning's Restore feature looks to be a safety net, if you move your culled files to the trash and empty it, Spring Cleaning is no longer able to restore them. It does, however, allow you to move files into StuffIt archives as an interim step, thereby reducing wasted space considerably. If you then decide you don't need them, you can just throw away the archive.

Chaos Master's Wizard lets you combine tasks by category, such as which ones will reclaim the most hard disk space.
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