Maintaining your Mac using OnyX

Having had my Intel Core 2 Duo iMac for almost 10 months, and after pondering it for a while, I realized that I hadn’t done any type of “˜maintenance’ on my mac. Yes I have deleted some old space hogging files and duplicates that I no longer need, but other than that I have not done any other maintenance–until recently.

With Mac OS X running BSD Unix, it is fairly easy to see that maintenance scripts can automatically be run, and many do run without the user knowing it, on a scheduled basis. While most users will not need to muck in these areas of Mac OS X, some might. There are a few programs that can aid you in this, or at least give you a visual look into when the last time their maintenance scripts, that are scheduled to run, actually completed. The program that I started using was OnyX. It’s free and it works rather well.

Here are ALL of the settings / options that you have when using OnyX

With Onyx you scan the S.M.A.R.T status of your hard drive. The SMART status is typically a good indication of whether or not your hard drive is in emanate danger of failing.

Structure of the Volume: This check will allow you make sure that the physical structure of your hard drive is in order. If it isn’t, then it will restore the system to the way it should be organized.

Preferences: This setting will check all of your .plist files to verify that they are not corrupt. You have the option to check User preferences, system preferences and the ability to show only corrupted plist files.


Permissions: Permissions are an important aspect of any computer system. Permissions allows you to say who can execute what program, see what files and where they can actually do these items. If you’re having some random issues with applications, the first thing you should do is run Repair permissions. Onyx will allow you to do this.

Scripts: These are the automated scripts that run. It is NOT, repeat NOT recommended that you run these scripts too often. Doing so can actually cause your system to slow down and that’s never a good thing. If you’re having some MAJOR slow downs, running these scripts can help. But checking your SMART status is a better option and first step.

Rebuild: This section can allow you to rebuild various indexes, including spotlight, Mail’s Envelope Index, and the sidebar of Finder Windows. Launch services is an interesting option, it allows you to remove the duplicate entries in the “open with” option when opening programs. (I was having this issue and is the primary reason for using onyx).

You can also remove the .DS_Store files in any folder or volume that you need. This will erase the icon view, the position and any other folder specific settings.


This section will clean the caches of various programs and system areas. I’ll just list the caches cleaned. Remember, cleaning these too often can cause slow downs on your system.

System: Boot, Kernel, Internation Preferences, CUPS, Directory Services, Quicktime components, Audio components, Other components.

User: Applicaiton, Preferences System Panels, Audio Units, JAva and Applets, Desktop Background, Internation Preferences, Dock Icons, Colorsync, Temporary items.

Internet: Brower cache, Download cache, Recent Searches, Bookmark Icons, Form Values, Cookies. (These last three may be bad, considering you’ll have to remember all of your passwords and usernames).

Fonts: System and Users, Adobe, Microsoft, Quark Inc, and Gimp.

Logs: Log Files, Software Update Log, System Archived Logs, Conversations log of IMs, CrashReporter Logs.

Misc: Mail Downloads Folder, Saved Searches, Obsolete items.

Utilities: Trash Delete, Secure Trash Delete. Find”¦ it allows you to quickly find a file, and you can rebuild this index.


This is a section to us if you want to automate many of the tasks. This can be useful if you want to have them automatically run and then go off an do something else.


This section allows you to change many settings on your system.

Arrow Locations, Speed of Display of sheets, Mode of operation for CrashReporter, Screen capture format, Default Path, Name of screen capture. Open Recent items, Animated Desktop Background, Journaling of the hard drive (don’t disable this unless you know what you’re doing). Install a couple of preferences panes, Archives and Processor.


Zooming, Animation of information windows, and snap to grid. Showing Hidden files and folders, full path in the window title bar, Display of the windows by list, Label lines. Finder Menu”¦ show preferences item, empty trash item, quit, eject, burn disc, customize toolbar, view options. Go Menu, disable access to iDisk, Show Go to Folder item, and Show Connect to Server item.


Appearance, Minimization items, Position of the Dock, Graphics effects, Misc options, Recent/Favorite Items Stack. Ability to add spacing between icons.

Expose and Dashboard:

Expose: Active Screen Corners, Expose Blob, Minimize Desktop.
Dashboard: Enable Dashboard, Enable Developer Mode of Dashboard

Safari: Misc options, Enable Debug Menu, Auomatically open .pdf-files in Safari, Show Bookmark Icons, Show the URL of Links in the ToolToips, Disable the Safari Cache (Not generally recommended), Print Background when printing. Enable Back/Forward Buttons. Number of pages in the history, items in history menu, number of days to retain history. The ability to enable web inspector.


Ability to add login message. Disable restart, shutdown and logout in the apple menu. Several Look and feel options of the login window


Disk Utility: Verify Disk Images (.dmg) files, Add other formats of Disk Images, Show Debug Menu, Verify Disks after Burning.

Terminal: Enable the Terminal Window Focus, Scroll Bars

iTunes: Point in the Link arrows on iTunes Store
Address Book: Dbug Menu
QuickTime: Show Movie Inspector at Launch
Mail: Display TEXT mails instead of HTML when available
Apple Remote Desktop: Show Debug Menu
Backup: Show Debug Menu
iCal: Show Debug Menu
iChat: Enable Data Detectors
Spotlight: Enable Index the Startup-Disk
Spotlight Icon: Hide or Show

Basically Onyx has a ton of options that you can set and tweak and maintenance scripts that you can run. Again, do not run these scripts too often. Doing so can actually slow down your system. Onyx is Leopard compatible. So have some fun.

I'm into everything technology related, particularly anything Apple related. I enjoy programming and tend to lean towards server-based technologies over client-based. You can contact me on twitter, via e-mail, or follow me on friendfeed.