CleanMyMac X 4.4.1 review: Some handy tools but its malware detection still falls short

Mac utility that frees up storage space and gets rid of software crud, but its malware detection still needs work.

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MacPaw
At a Glance

MacPaw has shot for the stars with its new version of CleanMyMac X, its catch-all Mac utility that serves as a software crud and gunk remover, as well as a malware scanner, macOS extensions manager, and a universal updater for your installed applications.

Since my initial review of CleanMyMac X, MacPaw made some nice improvements, although some features still fall short of what they could be.

Handy modules

MacPaw set out to make its Menu Bar utility much better and has succeeded. A quick click on the icon reveals handy information such as how much space is left on each of your drive partitions, your Mac’s CPU load, how much RAM is available, your computer’s operating temperature, and other useful information. This is a nice touch and the menu can be customized as you see fit.

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CleanMyMac's Extenstions modules provides a central location for enabling and disabling software extensions, like those for Safari or macOS.

The modules are the key to CleanMyMac and it’s handy to be able to quickly enable and disable macOS extensions with the Extensions module, or hunt down extraneous files with the Large & Old Files module, which lets you see which files are devouring space and erase them quickly. The Uninstaller module was able to quickly locate and pick off unnecessary applications during testing and accomplished something I’d never seen before in an application removal utility: it removed multiple applications at once, which is quite useful. The Maintenance module handles tasks such as clearing RAM, running maintenance scripts, clearing the DNS cache, and repairing file permissions quickly, tidying up the macOS’ underpinnings as needed.

CleanMyMac X 4.4.1’s new claim to fame is the Space Lens module, which offers a quick look at your hard drive’s most sizable folders. This is where the truth as to what’s eating your drive space comes out, as a 73GB Pictures folder inside your Users folder could stand to be slimmed down a bit.

Malware removal

Unfortunately, the Malware Removal module shot the previous version of CleanMyMac X in the foot, and in the latest version, it does so yet again. MacPaw cites extensive changes to this feature, and I was curious to try it. After installing every questionable piece of adware and malware I could find, I ran the Malware Removal module to see what the utility would find, categorize as suspect, and what it would remove.

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While CleanMyMac's malware detection found many threats on our test Mac, it missed several others.

The results were not what I had hoped for. In spite of CleanMyMac X 4.4.1 locating 21 potential threats, it missed several suspect programs, including the infamous MacKeeper and Advanced Mac Cleaner, which, once installed, loads itself into your Mac’s startup items, informs you of how many threats it’s noticed, then offers a phone number to call for 24/7 live tech support.

Upon noticing the malware that was still left over after rebooting, I switched over to a free copy of Malwarebytes, which picked up 11 threats during its scan, including questionable applications such as Advanced Mac Cleaner, Advanced Mac Tuner, and MacKeeper, and proceeded to tear them out by the roots.

Even with CleanMyMac X 4.4.1 and Malwarebytes working together, there were some chunks of adware and malware that still needed to be hunted down and removed on their own. A search engine utility had to manually remove from the Safari > Preferences > Extensions settings and a questionable PDF reader had to be uninstalled through CleanMyMac X 4.4.1’s Uninstaller module, which became another chore.

Neither CleanMyMac X 4.4.1 or Malwarebytes was perfect for the task at hand, but after months of development and promises of significant releases and improvements in this feature, the end result was a letdown. Granted, MacPaw isn’t working to be a malware prevention or security company, but they’ve touted this feature as a prominent component of CleanMyMac X and I feel that it gave far too much questionable software a complete pass, leaving behind software that will happily change your search engine settings to route your web traffic through questionable engines or inform you that your Mac is entirely infected and only a strange firm that charges $30 a month to remotely “clean” your Mac is to be trusted.

CleanMyMac X retails for $34.95 for a one-year subscription or $89.95 as a one-time payment for a single user; the MacPaw store offers different purchase tiers depending on license needs. The software is also available in a trial version, which lets you test its modules and clean up to 500MB of system junk at a time.

Bottom line

CleanMyMac X 4.4.1 has seen some nice improvements and it’s a reliable, speedy way to remove gigabytes of gunk from your hard drive. Its Uninstaller and Updater modules have become admirable in their functionality and utility, but the Malware module is still a wash and five months of development haven’t brought it to a level where I’d feel comfortable recommending it to other Mac users for its intended purpose.

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Helpful Manu Bar utility
    • Several helpful modules to free up storage space or to clear out unnecessary software

    Cons

    • Malware detection still needs improvement
  
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