How to clean and organize your Mac

The longer you use it—including on your Mac—the messier it gets. One solution is to simply upgrade to a new machine, but a more economical (and environmentally friendly) move is to make the one you’ve got work better. To help your computer feel like new, or at least cleaner and less chaotic, we’ve put together this guide with techniques and utilities that help us keep a more civilized computer. How to clean and organize your Mac, from physical cleaning to hard drive development and tab management ideas.

How to clean your Mac screen and case

While there are many products you can buy that are specifically designed to help you clean your computer, I’ve found that the simplest approach works best – and this is one. Apple recommends. All you need to get started is some water in a spray bottle and a clean microfiber cloth. You can use both ordinary and distilled water. The advantage of the latter is that it is much less likely to leave any residue on the Mac, especially on the screen. You can buy distilled water at a grocery store or grocery store make it yourself with a few simple dishes. Either way, it’s more affordable and more versatile than specialty cleaning solutions. If you don’t already own a microfiber cloth, Amazon 24 packs are sold at an affordable price you can get it for about $14.

Two other products I’ve found can make things easier Wow screen cleaner and a Giottos rocket launcher. I can’t say enough good things about the latter. This will save you from buying expensive and wasteful canisters of compressed air.

When it comes to the process of cleaning your Mac, the most important tip to remember is to start with a clean cloth (which is part of the reason we recommend buying them in bulk). This will save you time and frustration. Start by turning off your computer and disconnecting it from the network. If you went out and bought a Rocket Blower, use it now to clear away any dust. If not, take a dry microfiber cloth and go to your computer. Pay special attention to the buttons, especially if you have a Mac butterfly keyboard.

Then dampen one side of your cleaning cloth with water or Whoosh. Never spray any liquid directly on your computer. This way, you’ll have more control and avoid getting moisture inside your Mac. I always clean the screen first because the last thing I want to do is create more work for myself by transferring dirt from another part of my computer to the screen. The final step is to polish and polish your computer with the dry side of the cloth. Be gentle here as you don’t want to scratch the screen or any other part. Your Mac should look clean again.

How to organize your hard drive

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One of the hardest parts of cleaning up your Mac’s hard drive is knowing where to start. After all, most of us have programs on our computers that we don’t even remember installing in the first place. Fortunately, macOS comes with a tool to help you with this exact problem.

Go to System Settings > General > Memory. Here you can organize your storage for Apps, Documents, Music, Photos and more. you will find a wide categorization tool such as Double-click an item in the list, such as apps, to see when you last used an app and how much space it’s taking up. You can uninstall programs from the same window.

The section dedicated to applications is particularly useful, as you can see when you last used an application, as well as whether it is no longer supported by the operating system or has become obsolete due to a newer release.


Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

You don’t need me to tell you to delete apps you don’t use, but what you may not know is that there’s a better way to delete them than just dragging them to the trash. It’s called free software AppCleaner it will help you track the files and folders that will be left behind if you want to uninstall only one program.

After uninstalling unnecessary programs, go to the Documents section. The name is a bit misleading here, as you’ll find more than just text files and excel spreadsheets. Documents, in this case, is the tool’s catch-all term for various files, including those that take up a lot of space. You can also safely delete any DMGs (disk image files with a .dmg extension) that you installed the corresponding software on. The other sections in the storage space are self-explanatory. The only other thing I’ll mention is that if you’ve been using an iPhone for a while, there’s a good chance you’ve got old iOS backups on your computer. You can also delete them safely.

CleanMyMac XCleanMyMac X

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

At this point, your hard drive should be in pretty good shape. If you want to take some extra steps to clean it, there are special programs that can help. I liked a call CleanMyMac X. It costs $40 a year and will save you the time and trouble of doing everything I mentioned above (and then some) yourself. It also acts as a malware removal tool.

Tips and tricks to keep your Desktop and Finder tidy


Igor Bonifacic

Let’s start with the menu bar. It may not technically be part of the desktop, but it can go a long way to making everything look less cluttered. My recommendation here is to download the $16 app bartender. At first glance, this is a simple program that allows you to hide unwanted menu items behind a three-dot icon. However, the strength of Bartender is that you get a lot of customization options. For example, you can set a trigger that will automatically unhide the battery status icon when your computer is not plugged into a power outlet.

While we’re on the subject of the menu bar, go to System Settings > General > Access Items and see all the programs that start when you start your system. You can speed up your system by dividing this list into only the programs you use most often.

When it comes to the desktop itself, the best advice is less. Nothing will make your computer look like a cluttered mess more than a busy desktop. Folders and stacks can help, but I suspect that part of the problem for most people is that they use the desktop to quickly and easily find the files that are important to them.

If you’re having trouble finding a specific file or folder on your computer, try using your Mac’s tagging capabilities instead. Start by opening the Finder Settings menu (“command” + “,”) and click on the “Tags” tab. You can use the defaults provided by macOS or create your own. Either way, drag the places you think you’ll use the most to the favorites area at the bottom of the preferences window. This will make them easily accessible when you want to use them. To add a label to a file or folder, hold down the ctrl key and select the desired one from the drop-down menu. You can also bookmark a file while working on it within the application. Note that you can apply more than one tag to a file or folder. You can even apply them to apps.

macOS taggingmacOS tagging

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

What makes tags so useful on macOS is that they can be displayed in the Finder sidebar and easily searched for directly through the Finder or using Siri. As long as you have a system for organizing your files, even a simple one, it will be easier to keep track of them. As an example, I like to apply the Engadget tag to any file related to my work. If it’s something critical and I want to find it quickly, I’ll add an “Important” tag.

A tool that can help enhance your Finder experience Alfred. It’s a more powerful version of Apple’s Spotlight feature. Among other things, you can use Alfred to quickly find and launch programs. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, Alfred will change the way you use your Mac for the better.

How to organize your windows and tabs


Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

If you’ve used both macOS and Windows 10, you’ll know that Apple’s operating system doesn’t come with the best window management tools. You can press and hold the green fullscreen button to cover the window to the left or right side of your screen, but that’s about it, and the feature has always been less accurate than its Windows counterpart.

My suggestion is to download a program that replicates the snapping function of Windows 10. You have several competing options that offer more or less the same functionality. My go to is the $5 app Magnetic. If you want a free alternative, check it out Rectangular. Another option BetterSnapTool, offers more functionality than Magnet, but doesn’t have as clean an interface. All three programs give you more ways to configure your windows than you get through the built-in tool in macOS. They also come with shortcut support, meaning you can quickly set up your windows and get started.

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