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If you share a Mac with others, you may want to regularly—or occasionally—remove all traces of your activity: your browser cache files, your chat transcripts, or other files that show what you’ve done and where you’ve been on the Web. For instance, do you really want a co-worker to find out that you’ve been job-hunting?

Two programs, Webroot’s $30 MacWasher X and Allume Systems’ $30 Internet Cleanup streamline these tasks. Both provide one-click deletion of browser caches, cookies, and chat transcripts. Beyond these basics, the two programs clean up different types of files, and Internet Cleanup has additional features that can make your Web surfing safer and more enjoyable.

A Clean Sweep

MacWasher lets you delete a wide range of files: recent items in the Finder and in many common applications, log files, browser cache and history files, cookies, and much more. It’s straightforward to do this manually, depending on how much time and effort you’re willing to put in. But MacWasher simplifies the process down to a single click and lets you know how much hard disk space you’re saving in the process.

MacWasher’s additional features are for the truly paranoid—not only can it delete all traces of your activity, but it can also overwrite these files up to 35 times, so they can never be recovered. (It can’t do so with some programs, including the Firefox browser, as well as Mailsmith, Outlook Express and PowerMail e-mail clients.) You can create your own filters to delete specific files as required, such as temporary files or backups for specific programs. You can also schedule MacWasher to run automatically at specific times and have it wipe your Mac at the end of every day so secret agents who come into your office at night will be stymied.

A Privacy Package

Internet Cleanup takes a different approach. In addition to cleaning cache files, cookies, chat transcripts, browser history files and e-mail attachments. It also checks your Mac for spyware, although at press time, spyware had never been found on the Mac. Also, it contains a secure delete feature to “shred” documents, a pop-up window and ad blocker for Web pages, and a monitor that warns you when any programs try to access the Internet.

Unlike MacWasher, Internet Cleanup doesn’t let you select which programs it cleans beforehand, but after you start cleaning it lets you examine the files it plans to remove. You can then choose to delete them all, or only the ones you want to remove.

The NetBlockade feature in Internet Cleanup, which blocks pop-up windows and ads on Web pages, is very effective, and is the most useful tool in this program if you use a browser other than Safari. (Safari includes a basic pop-up blocker.) If you’re tired of seeing ads on Web pages, it lets you block ads, using a built-in list of URL patterns. You can also set your own patterns when advertisements still get through its filter. Be aware, though that by default, Internet Cleanup allows certain ads and pop-ups. Their URLs appear in a white list, which you can edit. One note: Internet Cleanup requires an administrator’s password for installation.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

With the exception of Internet Cleanup’s NetBlockade ad blocker and its Network SpyAlert, which warns you when any program tries to connect to the Internet, both these programs do nothing that you can’t do on your own. However, if you share a Mac and treasure your privacy, they allow you to cover your tracks with little effort. If you do want to use one of these tools, check carefully to ensure that your daily programs are covered. Both offer demo versions so you can try them out and see if they clean all your files.

MacWasher X shows you how much space it saves when it cleans each program.Internet Cleanup’s main window lets you choose which cleaning tasks you want performed.
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