New year, new apps?

Now we've taken our trees down, binned all the greetings cards, eaten the last of the yuletide scraps and are staring at the bottom of the bank account, January is a good time to take stock. Maybe you've made (and already broken?) resolutions, but here's one you should keep - look after your computer health and security. OK, it's not glam and shiny, not a bundle of laughs, but look after your MacBook Pro and it'll look after you.

My January app recommends are all utilities - the computer equivalent of heat, light and water. If digital housekeeping ain't your thing....well, I strongly suggest that you make it your thing! It doesn't have to be hard, and once you get into the habit you'll wonder why you haven't done it before. Honest.

None of these apps are 'new', but they may very well be new to you.

The fourth wall

I wanted to keep this short and sweet, so you get three apps here. They happen to be my favourites in three crucial areas - malware security, password protection and computer maintenance. Go and research the alternatives that work for you, there are plenty out there:- when I researched it, these are simply the ones that I ended up using, trusting and recommending.

Keeping this list to the Holy Trinity of utilities has left out one glaring area that really deserves a moment - VPN.

VP what?

A VPN is a 'Virtual Private Network', a secure connection between your computer and the internet. A good VPN will protect you from censorship, online snooping and unwanted interference.

Have you ever bought, say, a lawnmower and then been inundated on all platforms with ads for lawnmowers for the next three weeks? When I first started using a VPN, the first thing I noticed was that the usual targeted advertising bombardment stopped immediately. That was worth the pay in on its own. The rest is anonimity, privacy and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you're not being watched 24/7.

My VPN of choice is Express VPN - dead easy to set up across all your Macs and iOS devices. There are plenty of others, it'll cost you around £60 a year, but is worth every single shekel. Do it.

Then do this....


Malware security

Malwarebytes

Platform - iOS/MacOS

Price - free for manual scanning - subscription for scheduling

Macs don't get infected, right? Wrong. Sure, a Mac isn't as leaky as a Windows machine, but they are vulnerable to viruses, ransomeware and the dreaded adware. First time I ran MWB, my MacBook Pro came up with three adware infections, which this little beauty removed. My computer immediately started to run like stink - I'd just gotten used to it crawling with the germs in the background. Malwarebytes works.

The basic version of Malwarebytes is free, but you have to remember to perform manual scans. The premium version has real time protection and scheduling - which means it's set and forget. Also, check with your bank, as mine offers this programme for free!

Password protection

KeepassXC

Platform - iOS/MacOS

Price - free

Everybody should have a good, secure password programme. I think we all know by now (or should know) that using the same password on everything is bad news - as is using anything simplistic (your birthday etc.). So how do you remember the hundreds of passwords that you need to function in modern life?

When I ran into KeePassXC, I was looking for something that I could synchronise across all of my devices, and most importantly, something that was absolutely watertight. This was the absolute best that I found.

KeePassXC is 256-bit AES encrypted, cross platform (Mac, Windows, Linux) and is open source - so an app not likely to vanish due to lack of support. Your entire database is encrypted, not just the passwords. KeePass is the first password manager that features security-enhanced password edit controls, and none of the available password edit control spies work against these controls. The passwords entered in those controls aren't even visible in the process memory of KeePass.

One master password decrypts the database, but you can also opt (as do I) to use a 'key file'; so in practice, I open using my master password whilst pointing the programme at the key file that I store locally. Very very secure.

I've probably made all of this sound like you need a degree in quantum physics, but it really is very simple to set up and a breeze to use.

Computer Maintenance

TechTool Pro

Platform - MacOS

Price - £138.99

My talk of post-Yuletide empty wallet syndrome notwithstanding, this utility really is worth the overdraft. It's got me out of serious computer difficulties more times than I've had Christmas dinners (and I'm 58).

Apple's built in Disk Utility is all well and good, but it's a pretty basic offering. TTP does everything - hardware status checks, drive testing and repair (including externals and SSDs), volume rebuilds, defragging, file repair, undeletion and much more....the list is too long to detail in a roundup. This thing is good.

You can even use it to create an emergency startup disk - which, BTW, is the first thing you should do. The suite is very reliable, extremely well maintained and updated, and once you get over the initial buy-in shock, major upgrades are reasonably priced given the capability of this product.

The only downside of TTP is that you'll have a steady stream of Mac owners knocking at your door looking for a fix.


Tidy!

That's your basic starter guide to digital housekeeping. It's more than 'worth doing' - I really do think that these apps are basic essentials for keeping your Mac running smoothly. If, like me, you rely on your computers for work...why wait until something goes wrong?

Sleep well.

Next month, I promise to be more....fun?


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