The three basic ways I recommend to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to keep their Macs running in pristine condition (knowing the resulting support that comes with a personal recommendation).
First up on my list is to do nothing. OS X is a highly evolved operating system, and there’s not much that needs to be done other than leave it running overnight every now and then so certain caches and system logs can be updated properly.
What about all those advertisements floating around the inter webs which tout this Mac utility vs. that Mac optimizer? If we’re talking about MacKeeper, some Mac users consider it a must to avoid (what with having been forced to settle a class-action lawsuit brought about by a gazillion disgruntled users). If we’re talking about other Mac utilities, let’s narrow the list.
Second on my list is really a trio of free utilities for maintaining and customizing your Mac, though each is decidedly more geeky and complex than most Mac users need. Onyx, Maintenance, and Deeper are multifunctional utilities to clean, maintain, optimize, and customize OS X, some basic apps. These are mature products which have been around for years and give you access to options and functions not easily handled in stock OS X.
Finally, there’s a utility I’ve used for many years (bought it back when it was dirt cheap). It’s called Cocktail. It does more than OS X’s built-in maintenance and optimization routines, but less than any combination of Onyx, Maintenance, and Deeper, but is much easier to setup and use.
I like the automated Pilot tab which does much of what OS X does, but when you want, according to your schedule (it has a built-in scheduler).
Cocktail is more self explanatory than most such maintenance utilities with options for Disks, System, Files, Network, Interface, and the Pilot mode.
There’s a healthy mixture of obvious functions and useful tweaks that are easily accessed and implemented. In Disk mode, Cocktail and repair permissions, and configure sleep settings for connected disks. The interface mode gives you options for menu settings for Finder, Dock, Login, and Safari.
System settings are a bit geeky but help users learn about and manage various scripts, purge inactive memory (good to use on Macs with limited RAM), adjust Spotlight and Time Machine settings, and much more.
Getting your geek on can be useful and scary. The Network settings tab gives you options to adjust configurations for your connected primary network interface which can– can– improve network performance. Caveat emptor with those settings.
If you’re a Mac user on a tight budget and have a hankering for digging a bit deeper into the nitty gritty of OS X settings, then Onyx, Maintenance, and Deeper cannot be beat. If you just want ease of use and have a need to tweak a few settings, Cocktail is a good candidate.