This is a lesson learned in Never Judge A Book By Its Cover. A few months ago I decided to try MacKeeper, a third-party utility software that is advertised to do three things for a Mac running OS X: enhance security, manage data, and optimize performance. An ad for MacKeeper on Apple.com sparked a desire to improve the speed of my laptop that very moment (I had been putting it off), so I opted to learn more. The free trial version showcased MacKeeper's polished design and easy navigability. The interface is similar in design to iTunes and Finder. With a 24/7 live chat support widget built-in to the right sidebar of the application itself, I got the idea that this company took customer service rather seriously.
I ran a system scan that day. The only issues found were related to junk files, which took less than five minutes to organize and delete. I was a little nervous about running the repair that "automatically fixes" these things, so I selected the files myself. Overall, I was happy with the one-stop-shop aspect of the service. I concluded that it would be the most hassle-free way to perform monthly system maintenance.
MacKeeper purports to provide these services:
Security Features: Antivirus & Anti-Theft:
MacKeeper hypes the Antivirus feature a little too much. I think they have a sense of what computer terms frighten more per capita. In any event, the Antivirus feature offers real-time protection from malware and phishing, as well as daily updates to their virus database.
The Anti-Theft feature is somewhat reasonable. This tool tracks the location of your Mac so that, if stolen, you can file a report with ZeoBIT LLC (the developers). The next time your Mac logs online, a photo is taken with iSight. The photo and an accompanying report are then emailed to you. Even the promotional graphic illustrating Anti-Theft was amusing: a thief of tween years inexplicably gets busted by the MacKeeper technology. Sounds pretty nifty, right?
Data Control Features: Hard Drive Clean-up
Though there are built-in applications on Mac OS X to take care of hard drive maintenance, they are scattered and it can take time to get familiar with each of them. MacKeeper has 6-7 data clean-up applications all conveniently located in one spot. To examine some of the major ones:
- Duplicates Finder — does slightly more than its name. Apart from finding the clone files, MacKeeper allows you delete them all with 1 click.
- Disk Usage — visualizes folders and files in a way that displays how much space they consume on your hard drive.
- Wise Uninstaller — underwhelming to say the least. Although you can filter through application folders, widgets, preference panes, and plugins, there were support files for applications that MacKeeper did not find. I thought I had deleted Adium, an instant messaging application, but a loose support file was later found buried in my Library. What is the point of having an uninstaller for a Mac that cannot centralize all of these files? Not so wise, MacKeeper, not so wise.
Data Control Features: Data Management
There are a few tools MacKeeper provides for managing and organizing data:
- Data Encryptor tool — this tool is an answer to a nonexistent question. The Mac OS X FileVault tool allows you to encrypt your Home folder if need be. If that sounds like overkill, Disk Utility for OS X 10.4 and up allows you to encrypt individual files by creating encrypted disk images (functions like a regular folder) that are password protected.
- Data Recovery and Backup Tools — meh. With Timeline, I don't see the point of either of these. Once again, the benefit of MacKeeper is the all-encompassing Mac cleaning goliath. The Backup Tool allows you to schedule regular data backup which could be convenient for some. Again, nothing Apple lacks a built-in feature for.
Optimization: Application Updates
The Update Tracker provides an easy way to update all applications in one place, very much like the App Store. I do like how intuitive this is, but automating software updates achieves the same goal. The Favorite List and Blacklist features allow you to put apps in need of updating into groups, and to block other apps from updating. My reaction to Blacklist: why have an application take up hard drive space if you refuse to update it?
24/7 Customer Service: Geek on Demand
The 24 hour Geek On Demand service sounds great in theory, but who are these geeks and why do they have so much free time to answer any and all Apple related questions? I asked a representative which programs are run in the default system scan, and he said "all" which I later found not to be the case. Considering how much MacKeeper boasts about their general tech support services (ask them anything about Apple products), it does not bode well that a representative can't answer what is arguably the most basic question about his product.
Is MacKeeper for you? Depends. As I mentioned above, every feature provided by this tool exists in some form on Mac OS X already. MacKeeper does consolidate all of these tools into one, easy-to-use interface. It also attempts to simplify some processes, such as uninstalling. My first attempt at using MacKeeper was neither a success nor a failure. I got rid of some junk and my Macbook was [seemingly] faster. I forgot about it for a few months until I noticed the old guy acting cranky again.
Doing what I should of done before I wasted $39, I started reading some reviews of the product. The first two pages of Google yielded a list of very similar, mediocre content. Most of the reviews were generic comparisons of identical features between MacKeeper and its competitors. The more of them I read the more it felt like each article bled into the next, each filled with fifteen or so of the same keywords. I read forum posts made by MacKeeper staff members that were so overly-promotional, they made Comcast appear humble. It seems as though an entire marketing effort was built around this idea that MacKeeper is not in fact, a scam (warrantless, of course). Even searches for "mackeeper scam" displayed a set of sites that are part of MacKeeper's extended affiliate network.
Throughout the course of my research I did encounter some exaggerated claims going the opposite direction: that MacKeeper itself was malware. It's unclear that this is the case. I can at least speak from personal experience that MacKeeper did not actively make matters worse.
- Was MacKeeper particularly helpful in resolving speed and performance issues for my Macbook? No.
- Did using MacKeeper have a cascade of negative consequences on my Macbook? No.
- Was MacKeeper a waste of money? Yes.
- Did I find their advertising and marketing strategies questionable? Yes.
Luckily, MacKeeper came with an uninstaller, and the first run got rid of all but one file, which I then banished using Activity Monitor. Uninstalling MacKeeper freed up 70mb. Not a terrible trade off with the $39 of space it freed in my bank account when I purchased it.
Vishal Chaudhary from New Delhi, India on June 29, 2015:
Don't know what is truth about this utility. I just Googles it and all 10 results showed negative search pages. I suppose Drive Genius or Stellar Drove Toolbox is much more genuine software alternatives.
Rob on July 01, 2012:
I had a serious performance issue with my Macbook pro, upgraded to an SSD and 16Gb Ram and Mackeeper. All was great for a little while until performance gradually degraded, list of spinning beach ball issues. Uninstalled Mackeeper and lo, all is great again. In my case it make performance FAR worse.
Megatron on April 30, 2012:
We tried this on the Autobot homeworld. Studies concluded that it was a waste of time and money.
Tara McNerney from Washington, DC on April 12, 2012:
Haha, I was wondering if MacKeeper was total spam at first. Very useful, thanks!
Marina (author) from San Francisco, CA on March 22, 2012:
Thanks for dropping by, melbel! And yes, I wish I didn't impulse shop on something like that. But alas, live and learn. At least it didn't destroy my laptop!!
Melanie Palen from Midwest, USA on March 22, 2012:
I see the MacKeeper ad everywhere. I never saw these ads before I got a Mac, which was kind of a turn-off. I feel "targeted-to." I guess if someone can be turned off by something like that, it'd be me! I don't think I would purchase it, but then again I'm a mega fan of free software. I'm really new to using a Mac, so my computer is really messy, file-wise. Thanks for giving an honest review on this. :)
Marina (author) from San Francisco, CA on March 21, 2012:
Hahah! Yes, READING. Who woulda guessed? As I said above, I don't think the company is malicious per se. They just....over advertise. Like Oxy Clean or Chia Guy!
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 21, 2012:
Huh, I had noticed this on folks' Macs, but had no idea what it actually did. Fantastic review!! Hehee, I've made a bunch of purchases like this, and might have been tempted to get MacKeeper... but now I know better :D