General modern macOS troubleshooting/maintenance

If you’re a Mac user of a certain age, one of the basic steps to troubleshooting a misbehaving machine was to “rebuild the desktop”, or turn off all the extensions, or maybe repair permissions in Disk Utility. What are the modern equivalents? What if you want to – forgive the euphemism – basically give your system an enema and start fresh?

A major factor in troubleshooting is if the version of macOS on the machine supports SIP (System Integrity Protection). SIP essentially seals off System files from users and software under most circumstances. So if SIP is present, troubleshooting and “cleaning” options are different than on non-SIP systems.

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They’re not really the same thing…but running Onyx or Tinkertool or some similar utility and using the cleaning routines in there is somewhat equivalent…at least from a not as technical point of view. Of course…some of those routines also get run automatically by the system on a periodic basis but an occasional clean out (or partial clean out) of caches and Launch Daemon databases and similar…while not being exactly like the old days is at least similar in concept to clean out cruft.

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Ah, right - I remember Onyx and Tinkertool but haven’t used either in ages. I didn’t realize they were up to date with modern systems. I’ll take a peek!

SIP, Signed System Volumes, APFS, and the greater reliability of SSDs in general have greatly reduced the need for troubleshooting and maintenance. My ability to troubleshoot Mac problems has no doubt atrophied as a result…but since that means fewer problems in the first place, I’ll take it.

Howard Oakley’s voluminous articles on troubleshooting and diagnostic tools are my go-to whenever Googling fails me. Oakley is one of the most devout believers that you should try your best to understand the root cause of an issue rather than reciting superstitious incantations at it.

(I actually resorted to a full erase-disk-and-reinstall last week to fix a persistent Spotlight problem that bedeviled me for over a year despite exhaustive attempts to root it out. I might write that up in a bit because I’m still mad about it.)

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Oh wow, this is gold - thanks for these links! I will happily replace my superstitious incantations with them.

For years I’ve been regularly using 3 utilities, which I keep up to date:

CleanMyMac, now CMMX: every day or so, or when my Mac act strangely.
OnyX: every day or so, or when my Mac act strangely.
TechTool Pro: maybe weekly (see below)

I run all 3 before making a clone, about weekly, but not needed it for years.

I only had a really serious problem many years ago, but in recent years I’ve had no problems at all. DiskWarrior was great, and would be a go-to if I had Mac OS Extended (HFS Plus) drives, but I don’t, and it (still, but promised for the longest time) doesn’t rebuild APFS drives.

I’m a firm believer in the “Zen of Howard Oakley”. I place utilities like CMMX, OnyX, and TTP under the category of “superstitious incantations” if being run on a frequent schedule. IMO they should only be used when you have a problem and if you have indications that what they’re doing will fix your problem. Personally, I’ve found they’ve done nothing but make me feel better.

If your Mac is acting strangely enough that it’s requiring you to run one of these regularly to “fix” things, you have something else that’s making your Mac wonky. That’s something that needs to have the root cause identified - not simply continually repaired after the fact.

As far as DIskWarrior goes, Apple hasn’t released enough public information about APFS to allow Alsoft to make DIskWarrior work. So Alsoft can can keep promising away, but they’re at the mercy of Apple. Or - heaven forbid - they decide to try and reverse engineer the format. I’d never buy Disk Warrior it if they did that because “what if they got it wrong” and turned my disk into mush.

Yes it would be nice to have third party alternatives to Apple’s fsck/Disk FIrst Aid for APFS. On the other hand, have you heard a massive outcry about APFS file system corruption that says - “DiskWarrior would have fixed this”. HFS+ was known to be brittle and therefore needed utilities like DiskWarrior. APFS seems to be light-years ahead of HFS+ for robustness. I just don’t think the need is there for APFS like it was for HFS/HFS+.

At bottom I largely agree with you, and what I do is possibly overkill, at best. But I’ve been a belt-and suspenders guy for too long, and not doing that makes me uncomfortable. So even if I’ve only done nothing but make me feel better, feeling better is good, and much better than the alternative.

You may be a “belt and suspenders guy” but I’m a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” guy.

Admittedly there’s a happy medium somewhere between us that falls into the “preventive maintenance” category like you’d see for your car. Which is the gist of this thread.

Looking for hardware (especially HDD disk) issues with utilities such as TTP isn’t such a bad idea as Apple doesn’t really do a good job of relaying hardware fault information such as SMART data. And identifying and removing junk such as cached installers isn’t bad either.

I’m suspicious of utilities that “clean and rebuild” caches, etc. because they sometimes don’t have detailed logging that can be examined after the fact. On other boards I’ve had people talk about problems that have popped up after running “cleaning” utilities. Because they didn’t have the logging detail that tells what they did, it’s impossible to figure out what’s causing the problem.

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