12:05 pm

MacMost Now 447: OnyX Maintenance Utility

If you are an advanced user with trouble, or someone who like to tinker with Mac OS X settings, then take a look at OnyX. This free utility gives you easy access to Terminal commands and hidden preferences.

Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
There are dozens of applications out there that are utilities allow you to do maintenance tasks and change settings on your Mac. OnyX seems to be the program of choice. Most of the questions I get about these types of programs ask specifically about OnyX. And OnyX is free. Let's take a look at exactly what it does and whether or not you should use it.
So, here's OnyX. It's broken up into several different categories like verification, maintenance, cleaning, et cetera. So for instance, under cleaning, you can click on different tabs and see different things like system caches, user caches, Internet caches, fonts, logs, and miscellaneous. You can select any number of them. For instance, under Internet, you can select Internet cache, download cache, browser history, et cetera, and then click execute to clear them out.
Now, your Mac automatically does a lot of system maintenance tasks. And you can access those in OnyX under maintenance scripts. You can see there's daily, weekly and monthly scripts, and you can manually execute them instead of waiting for them to run automatically. Now, the reason you want to have done this in the past is that if you have your Mac go to sleep or shut it down at night, these tasks don't get run. However, that's not true in Snow Leopard. If you have Snow Leopard, these tasks will run when you wake your computer up or boot it up in the morning. So there's no need to ever manually run these tasks.
Now, it's important to point out that OnyX, itself, doesn't do most of the stuff. What it does is it executes a terminal command that you don't see. So a lot of these things, as a matter of fact, just about all of these things can be performed in the terminal without having a program like OnyX. For instance, here you can rebuild launch services by selecting this and then hitting execute at the bottom of this window. You can do the same by using a very long terminal window command.
Now, separate from maintenance tasks, you've got parameters. These are settings that you usually don't have the ability to change in Mac OS X. You can change them with terminal commands, but OnyX provides an easier way to do that. For instance, you can change how arrows look in scroll bars. You can go into the finder and change things like hidden files are hidden or not. In the doc, you can change the effect and to have it only show running applications in the doc.
Under Safari, you can enable
or disable a bunch of different things. Same thing with iTunes, or when you log in, or in Spotlight, and all sorts of miscellaneous setting that you can play with.
Now, some features you don't need OnyX to be able to use. For instance, under maintenance in OnyX, you can verify and repair file permissions. You can also do the same thing in disc utility that comes with Mac OS X.
Now, I don't recommend OnyX and utilities like it for most Mac users. The system maintenance tasks performed by Mac OS X and the things that applications like Safari and iTunes do on their own are usually just fine for most use. As a matter of fact, as a power user, I never use these kinds of utilities at all. And I also don't like to change the default settings with some of these options. There's a reason why defaults are the default. Usually because they're more useful in more situations.
So, who should get OnyX? Well, there are two different situations I could see using OnyX. One is if you're a tinkerer. If you like to change a lot of these preferences and see what's possible and kind of look under the hood and see how your Mac works. If you're one of these people and decide that you want to spend some of your time doing this, then OnyX is a great utility for digging into Mac OS X. So, the second situation is if you have something wrong with your Mac and you want to try and fix it yourself. So you do some research on the problem and you find out that a lot of people suggest that maybe clearing a certain cache or changing a setting will help alleviate the problem. So OnyX is a great way to be able to go and do that without having to use terminal commands.
So, a good rule of thumb is if you don't know exactly what a setting or maintenance task in OnyX does, then don't tamper with it. Doing so can lead to unexpected results. For instance, you can end up resetting the positions of all the file icons in the finder, things like that.
So, there's a look at OnyX. I only recommend it for fairly advanced Mac users. Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 4 Responses to “MacMost Now 447: OnyX Maintenance Utility”

    9/7/10 @ 1:17 am

    Gary, thanks for sharing your knowledge and recommendations about Onyx.

    Will use cautiously etc.

    Donna Brooks
    11/15/11 @ 10:26 am

    Thanks Gary! I don’t have OnyX, but I do have Ice Clean, which I only used for the daily/weekly/monthly maintenance tasks, but now I know I no longer have to do that because of the changes you mention in Snow Leopard. I do like to tinker, and seeing all those OnyX settings really made me curious!! However, I am not about to use apps like that on my new iMac. If I ever hook up my G4 again, I might give OnyX a try. There are a lot of things one can do on Ice Clean, too, (& other such apps I used on my G4), such as removing .DS Store files, but my understanding is that those files are what determines how items are displayed in the Finder. Like some of the other capabilities, I don’t know WHY anyone would want to do this!

    Donna Brooks
    11/15/11 @ 10:33 am

    Oh, I meant to ask something about Disk Utility: I used to regular run Permission repairs on my G4. I do so far less now on my iMac b/c there are ALWAYS incorrect permissions! I read somewhere a list from Apple of known items that would always come up as errors when Verifying permissions on my model & OS, but it was so long as to be worthless. I can’t possibly visually compare that list to my results list. SO, since Verifying permissions is of no use, HOW OFTEN do you recommend I just run the REPAIR permissions process as maintenance?? THANKS!

      11/15/11 @ 10:38 am

      I wouldn’t run it at all, unless you come up with a problem where fixing permissions is recommended as a possible solution.

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