The longer you use anything—including your Mac—the more cluttered it gets. One solution is to simply upgrade to a new machine, but the more economical (and green) move is to make what you have work better. To help your PC feel like new, or at least cleaner and less messy, we’ve put together this guide of techniques and useful apps that have helped us maintain a more civilized PC. From physical cleaning to hard drive refresh and partition management ideas, here’s how to clean and organize your Mac.

How to clean the screen and body of your Mac

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 that’s Apple recommends. To get started, all you need is some water in a spray bottle and a clean microfiber cloth. You can use plain or distilled water. The advantage of the latter is that it’s much less likely to leave residue on your Mac, especially the display. You can buy distilled water at a grocery store or do it yourself with some simple cookware. Either way, it’s more affordable than specialized cleaning solutions and more versatile. If you don’t already own microfiber towels, Amazon sells 24 packs at an affordable price you can get for about $14.

Two other products I have found that can make the job easier are Phew! screen cleaner and a Jotos’ Rocket Fan. I can’t say enough good things about that last one. This will save you from buying expensive and wasteful canisters of compressed air.

When it comes to 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 unplugging it. If you went out and bought the Rocket Blower, use it now to remove the dust. If not, take a dry microfiber cloth and examine your computer. Pay special attention around the keys, especially if you own a Mac with a butterfly keyboard.

Next, dampen one side of the cleaning cloth with either 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 display first, as the last thing I want to do is create more work for myself by transferring dirt from another part of my computer onto the screen. The final step is to buff and buff your computer with the dry side of the cloth. Be careful here as you don’t want to scratch the screen or any other part of the That’s it. 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 applications 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 very problem.

Go to System Settings > General > Storage. Here you will find a tool that divides your storage into broad categories like apps, documents, music, photos, etc. Double-click an item in the list, such as Applications, to see the last time you used a program and how much space it’s taking up. You can delete apps from the same window.

The section dedicated to applications is particularly useful, as you can see the last time you used a program, as well as whether it is no longer supported by the operating system or has been made obsolete by a newer version.


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I don’t need to tell you to uninstall programs you don’t use, but what you might not know is that there’s a better way to delete them than just dragging them to the trash. A free program called AppCleaner will help you track down all the files and folders that would remain if you simply delete an app.

Once you’ve deleted all the apps you don’t need, go to the Documents section. The name here is somewhat misleading as you will find more than just text files and Excel spreadsheets. In this case, documents turns out to be the tool’s catch-all term for various files, including those that take up a large amount of space. You can also safely delete any DMG (disk image files with the extension .dmg) for which you have installed the corresponding application. 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 have old iOS backups stored on your computer. You can easily delete them too.

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Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

By this point, your hard drive should be in pretty good shape. If you want to take some extra steps to clean it up, there are special apps that can help. I like one named CleanMyMac X. It comes out for $40 a year and will save you the time and trouble of doing everything I mentioned above (and then some) yourself. It also serves as a malware removal tool.

Tips and tricks for keeping your desktop and Finder clean


Igor Bonifacic

Let’s start with the menu bar. It might not technically be part of the desktop, but a tidy one can go a long way toward making everything else look less cluttered. My recommendation here is to download a $16 app called Bartender. At first glance, this is a simple program that allows you to hide unwanted menu bar 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 move the battery status icon out of hiding when your computer is not connected to a power outlet.

While we’re on the subject of the menu bar, take a second to go to System Settings > General > Login Items and take a look at all the apps that launch when you boot your system. You can speed up your system by reducing this list to only the programs you use frequently.

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

If you’ve ever had trouble finding a specific file or folder on your computer, try using your Mac’s bookmarking capabilities instead. Start by opening the Finder settings menu (“command” + “,”) and click on the “Labels” tab. You can use the default ones provided by macOS or make your own. In either case, drag the ones you think you’ll use most often into the Favorites areas 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, click on it while holding the ctrl key and select the desired ones from the drop-down menu. You can also bookmark a file while working on it in an application. Note that you can apply multiple tags to a single file or folder. You can even apply them to applications.

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

One tool that can help you supercharge your Finder experience is Alfred. It’s effectively a more powerful version of Apple’s Spotlight feature. Among other things, you can use Alfred to quickly find and launch applications. 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


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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 click and hold the green fullscreen button to place a window on the left or right side of the screen, but that’s about it, and the feature has always felt less precise than its Windows counterpart.

My suggestion is to download an app that replicates the snipping feature of Windows 10. You have several competing options that more or less offer the same functionality. My choice is a $5 program called Magnet. If you want a free alternative, take a look A rectangle. Another option is BetterSnapTool, which offers more functionality than Magnet, but doesn’t have as clean an interface. All three apps give you many more ways to configure your windows than what you get with the built-in tool in macOS. They also come with Quick Access support, which means you can quickly set up your windows and get to work.

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