The idea behind Spring Cleaning 8.0 is certainly a good one: The software promises to search through your hard drive looking for duplicate files, aliases that don’t point to anything, old cache files, and other dross that accumulates over time. It then offers you a long list of options for dealing with what it finds.
But the reality is not so good. Spring Cleaning is incredibly slow in finding all that dross. And once it’s finished searching, it doesn’t offer you any guidance as to what you should and shouldn’t do to the files you find. It might be worthwhile for truly most obsessive-compulsive Mac OS X users. But for the rest of us it’s not worth the wait.
No more clutter
Even though today’s hard drives are humongous, there’s always plenty of stuff, from photographs and iTunes music to movie files and old copies of term papers, all , clamoring for space. You could heed that call by getting rid of the stuff you don’t really need; that’s what Spring Cleaning wants to help you with.
The program consists of 25 modules, from Access Monitor (which searches for files by last-accessed date) to Widget Finder (which does just what you’d expect). Some of these modules are indeed useful and could save you a great deal of hard disk space: Universal Slimmer strips unneeded code from Universal applications, depending on whether your Mac has an Intel of PowerPC processor. MailCleaner deletes attachments to Mail, Entourage, or Eudora e-mail messages. And Language Finder removes localization files from applications (unless you’re expecting to learn Danish sometime soon). Those three modules alone could save you many, many megabytes.
Each module can be run individually (in Advanced mode) or in groups that you run together (in Standard mode). You can also apply filters to restrict searches—by file type, date, filename, and so on—and you can tell the program to search only in specific folders. Once the files are found, you can move, archive, rename, burn them to disc, and more, all from within Spring Cleaning.
Be prepared to wait
Trouble is, after you start a search, you’re going to want to go get some lunch or run some errands: Spring Cleaning is very, very slow. Allume acknowledges this, but says it chose to sacrifice speed for accuracy. Fair enough. But on my test machine (a 933MHz G4 iBook, with a 60GB disk containing a minimal number of files and applications), a search for duplicate files took one hour in Standard mode; when I switched to Advanced mode and removed the System and Library folders from the search, it still took half an hour.
Other searches can be faster or slower, depending on what you’re looking for and whether you apply filters. A search for Universal applications (which should be simple, since my iBook only contains a few dozen applications) took two and a half hours. Searching my browser cache, history, and cookie files took several minutes, but even that’s longer than it should be; after all, Spring Cleaning searches only for files from Safari, Sherlock, Firefox, Opera and a half-dozen other programs.
Restricting the folders that Spring Cleaning searches can help speed things up a little bit. But even then you can only specify visible folders: for example, you can tell the program not to look in the top-level System and Library folders, but you can’t exclude invisible folders, such as /etc, /usr, and /var, that you shouldn’t touch.
Even after the program finishes a search, it’s likely to start the beachball spinning as it prepares the list of duplicates it’s found. You might think it’s hanging, even though it’s just chugging away at creating a list.
Once that list is complete, you may be faced with thousands of files. Yet the program offers no advice as to which duplicates you should consider deleting. If you were to blindly assume that you could delete all duplicates, your Mac would not function correctly, if at all.
The thing is, you don’t need a special program to replicate many of Spring Cleaning’s features. For example, you can use Spotlight to search for music, image, and disk image files. (Spring Cleaning took a half-hour to find 3,700 music files, but Spotlight found them all in three seconds.) You can clean browser caches, history and cookies from within your browser. Many freeware programs can trim Universal binaries, remove language files, and manage other clutter.
Macworld’s buying advice
In sum, Spring Cleaning 8.0 is extremely slow. It’s potentially unsafe, since it shows you files that you should never remove. And it is generally superfluous, since the only operations it does quickly and safely (cleaning browser caches, removing language files, slimming Universal binaries) are tasks you can do with other programs such as your Web browser or freeware apps.
[ Kirk McElhearn is the author of many books, including How to Do Everything with Mac OS X Tiger (Osborne; 2005). ]
Spring Cleaning’s Internet Cleaning Category includes a search for cache files your browser leaves behind. But you can clean these just as easily from the browser itself.