Keep your Mac Running Smoothly with OnyX

This tutorial will guide you through using OnyX, an excellent system maintenance tool for OS X.

Start out by downloading OnyX. Make sure to pick the correct version for your OS – as there are different versions for Jaguar, Panther, Tiger and Leopard. The installation is very straight forward – open the .dmg file and double-click OnyX.pkg. You’ll click Next a bunch of times, enter your password, and that’s about it.

Launch OnyX from your Applications folder. Each time it opens, it will suggest that you verify the S.M.A.R.T. status of your hard disk. You don’t need to do this each time you use OnyX, but it’s a good idea to run it once in a while. Click Continue to run it.

OnyX will check the S.M.A.R.T. status. It only takes a minute or two.

Once that has completed, you’ll be prompted to verify your startup disk. Before clicking Continue, save any work you’re doing, and close all of your open apps (otherwise OnyX will close them for you, and you may lose any unsaved work).

If by chance you get a prompt asking you to select DockVol, click Cancel. I honestly have no idea why this sometimes pops up – no amount of research would tell me why. If you happen to know, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

OnyX will now check your startup volume. This can take several minutes, and as you were warned, things might become unresponsive and the spinning pinwheel will almost certainly make an appearance. This is totally normal, just give it time to finish.

Assuming all is well, you’ll be notified telling you as much. If there’s a problem, you’ll be told what it is, and what steps to take to resolve that problem. Click OK.

Right away you’ll be asked for your password. Enter it and click OK again.

The main OnyX window will launch, and so will an Important Information screen. Review the info in the Important Information window – it’s quite important. If you insist on ignoring it, at the very, very least, make sure you have an up to date backup of your Mac. Though OnyX is very stable and widely trusted, you never know what might go wrong. In the unlikely event that something does, a backup is vital. Once you’ve reviewed all the tips, close the Important Information window.

Select the Verify button from the top toolbar. The first tab, S.M.A.R.T. Status should show that you’ve just ran a check, so there’s no need to run it again.

Select the Structure of volume tab. Again, you’ll see that a check has just been performed, so no need to run it again.

Now select the Maintenance button from the top toolbar. The first tab, Permissions, will scan your drive for all file permissions, and repair them when needed. Note:I’m going to walk through each scan and cleaning separately, but by jumping all the way down to step #33 below, you can run them all at once, which is faster because you won’t need to reboot each time.If you want to continue with repairing the file permissions, click the Execute button in the bottom right corner of the window.

This process will take a fair bit of time. You may want to go grab yourself a cup of coffee or your beverage of choice.

Once it has completed, you’ll be provided with a summary window of all the incorrect file permissions that OnyX repaired.

Select the Scripts tab. This section will list the daily, weekly and monthly Scripps that OS X runs, and the last time they were executed. If there seems to be a delay (the daily script hasn’t run in a few days, the weekly script hasn’t run in the last week etc) – select the one(s) that are outdated, and click the Execute button.

Now select the Rebuild tab. From here you can reset/rebuild a number of OS X features, including the Spotlight index, Sidebar of Finder, the Help Viewer menu etc. Unless you’re experiencing problems after you finish running the rest of the OnyX utilities, you may want to skip rebuilding these services.

Click the Cleaning button from the top toolbar. The first tab is System. From here you can clear a number of the system caches, which can (though won’t always) increase your overall system speed. Generally I would advice to leave the default options checked (or to put another way, leave the default unchecked items, unchecked). Click Executeto clear the caches.Again, this will just clear System caches, and once completed you’ll need to reboot. If you want to clear all the caches (System, User, Internet etc) at once, skip down to step #33 below.

Before the process begins, OnyX will prompt warn you that it’s going to close all open apps – so make sure to save any data from applications you may have open. Click Continue.

OnyX will now clear the System caches.

Once completed, it will tell you. Click OK.

And now you’ll be prompted to reboot. You may be tempted to continue using OnyX and reboot later, but it’s a very good idea to play it safe, and reboot now. Click Restart.

When your Mac starts again, re-launch OnyX. You’ll be prompted to run the S.M.A.R.T. and startup volume checks again. Cancel them. You’ll also be prompted to enter your password again, which you should do.Again click the Cleaning button from the top toolbar, but this time select the User tab. From here you can clear the User caches. Click Execute to do so.

Accept the prompt to quit all open applications by clicking Continue.

And the user caches will be cleared.

Again you’ll be notified that the process has completed, and again you’ll be prompted to reboot. Do so.

Once you’ve restarted and OnyX is running again, click the Cleaning button, and this time select the Internet tab. From here you can clear your Internet cache files. You can also do this from directly within Safari, so I’ll be skipping this one.

Select the Fonts tab. There’s some debate as to how helpful, or how much of a “speed increase” you’ll get by clearing the System and user font cache. This is a step that I would recommend taking only after you’ve used the rest of the OnyX utilities, similar to Rebuilding services (back in step #16). If after running the rest of the OnyX utilities you still have problems with your Mac, then try clearing the Font cache(s), and Rebuilding services.

Select the Logs tab. Generally, I leave the log files alone. It’s unlikely that they’ll cause any kind of slow-down on your Mac, or be responsible for erratic behavior.

Select the Misc tab. As expected, from here you can delete/clear misc items.

Click the Utilities button from the top toolbar. The first tab, Manuals, allows you to rebuild the Manual files included with bash or whatever shell you may be using (probably bash). You can also print them as PDF files, which can be very helpful if you frequently use a command that has a lot of syntax options.

Select the Trash tab. As expected, you can clear the Trash from here. Next…

Select the Find tab. From here you can rebuild the database used by locate (found by default in /var/db//ocate.database). Again, this database is pretty unlikely to be causing any problems on your Mac, so you may want to leave it be.

Click the Automation button from the toolbar. From here you can run a slew of the features that were covered in the above steps – but all at once. If you run a bunch of them from here, it can take quite a while to complete, so be patient. And the Font Cache is selected by default – you may want to unselect it (see #27 above for the reason).

Finally, select the Parameters button from the top toolbar. This section doesn’t include any system maintenance features, but does offer quite a few OS X “tweaks”. Explore each tab and see if there are any settings that you’d like to change.

Comments [19]

  1. Thanks for this. Had never really given Onyx a try, but your step-by-step breakdown was a great primer and got me going. Much appreciated!

  2. I have been having a lot of problems with my iMac G4. I've run Onyx once and it repaired some things and then I started having problems again, so there is probably something deeper happening. I was able to get my Mac up and running again today after resetting the CPU. I started to run Onyx again and the verification window has been running a long, long time. What is considered too long and if it is locked up, how do I cancel out of Onyx without damaging anything?

  3. I'm having the same problem, my computer is locked up because of that program, i don't know… what can I do?

  4. I downloaded OnyX–per directions I dragged the icon to the applications–then clicked on the icon in the folder–it appeared in the toolbar–I clicked on the icon in the toolbar–it jumos once, sometimes twice–then–nothing. It won't open. Any advise–other than re-installing?

  5. I was looking for something like this. I am using onyx step by step as per your instructions. Thanks for posting.

  6. its asking for DiskVol as Onyx can see its running and wants to quit it, before running its scripts. Tell it where it is and it will never bother you again, automatically quitting this app for you. If you are running beta versions of Firefox it may ask for 'Firfox-bin' = you just point to the app icon in the list. done.

  7. Definitely agree with Lorne; this really explained things clearly. I first tried watching a youtube video of someone explaining Onyx, but it was very, very uninformative in comparison to these instructions. Thanks!

  8. Thanks so much!! Really easy to run thanks to this manual. Is there any way to automate this so that it runs a check once a week or do I do it manually when mac seems to be going slow?

  9. I have heard that we should run the onyx software every 5-6 months on Mac. I last used it some 7-8 months ago. It tends to get quite slow when iam working on my design softwares.

  10. I followed these instructions exactly, and despite assertions to the contrary, onyx wiped out all my browsing history.

    I wish I had known it would do this.

  11. Would be good if there was a Print button, so we could save this for future reference.

  12. This is helpful. I have used ONYX a long time. sI'm till not sure I understand all of it and am afraid to clean certain items. Everytime I get the notice to upgrade, and try it, it never works. I have to go to google and find the tWeb site to download the upgrade. Do u know why? This time I when I put the downloaded upgrade to my utilities folder I got some kind of message that it couldn't be done because some items were locked or skipped. I had just run onyx with no problem so don't understand this. I did upgrade java, since it came up. Eventually when I put the new upgrade into utilities I said save bOTH. Once the new one was in, I deleted the older one. and the new one is up and running. One more question, there is a beta 246. I don't mind running beta, but this one said try it for free? Does this mean it will eventually have to be paid for?

  13. Mac cleanup applications play a very effective role in running the system smoothly and efficiently. The tool I have used is Stellar Speed up Mac 2.0. earlier I have also used onyx and found both of them are excellent utilities.

  14. i have downloaded the onyx thru safari and whn try to run thru application, it says since its not d/loaded thru app store, cant be executed? any way around? and if running out of app store, any issues?

  15. One of the most comprehensive and clear tutorials on Onyx I have come across. Thank you for it.

  16. Great article but would love it if the numbered descriptions e.g. step #33 were actually in place rather than alluded to and then not listed as such.

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