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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

This week, readers sent in questions on topics including the usefulness of maintenance and cleaning utilities in OS X, and how to recover files from a dead Mac Mini.

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which I answer Mac-related questions e-mailed in by our readers.

This week, readers wrote in with questions on how to read older AppleWorks documents in newer versions of OS X, how to get files to all open in a specific application, recovering a Mac Mini's files from a system that will not boot, and whether or not cleaning utilities are useful. I welcome views from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, please post them in the comments!

Question: Managing old AppleWorks documents
MacFixIt reader Don asks:

I have dozens of AppleWorks Draw program documents, ".cwk". How can I convert them? I was hoping Pages would work, but apparently not.

Unfortunately, Apple removed support for these older formats, so your best bet is to get access to an older Mac on which you can run AppleWorks (you should be able to do this in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard) and then use that to convert the older documents to a more universal file format that can be opened in Pages, Word, or another word processor.

If your Mac was able to run Snow Leopard at one point and you have the installation discs available, then one option is to install Snow Leopard on an external hard drive and then boot off of that to run AppleWorks and convert your documents.

Question: Setting a default application for a file type
MacFixIt reader "tytwins" asks:

I am trying to get all .jpg files to open with Photoshop by default. I go through the Get Info window to make this change, and it sticks until I shut the computer down or restart it. Short of reinstalling the OS, is there a way to fix this behavior so that it works properly?

Try using Get Info and selecting the desired application, and then click the Change All button below the menu where you selected the application. If this does not work then it indicates a problem with the system's launch services. Try running the commands I mention in this article to clear this and rebuild it to hopefully fix the problem. Then again try clicking the Change All button to assign the file to your application of choice.

Question: Recovering a Mac Mini's files if it cannot be repaired
MacFixIt reader Burneto asks:

My Mac Mini is dead. I think it overheated. Is it worth fixing? Can I recover disk contents?

It may be simply a matter of a dead power supply, which can be fixed easily; however, I am not certain of the costs. If it will not power up then you will need to take it in for a repair estimate, and if you find it not worth fixing after getting repair quotes, then you can still recover the disk's contents by removing it (check out the how-to guides at iFixit) and then using an external drive enclosure to attach the drive to another system, which should allow it to be read like any standard USB or FireWire drive.

Question: Whether or not cleaning utilities are useful
MacFixIt reader Michael asks:

I have been around the Apple Support Forums a long time as a user and throughout my membership, I have heard arguments for and against using cleaning utilities such as OnyX on your Mac. The claim against the utilities is that they obstruct the OS in normally taking care of old caches and hidden maintenance routines, which may lead to problems in the future. Another opposing viewpoint is that Macs simply behave differently from Windows PCs when it comes to cleaning, and ... that these cleaning utilities are more for the world of Windows than in a Mac.

As a result of this confusion, I was wondering what your take is on this topic and whether it is necessary or not to use cleaning apps such as OnyX (or even MacKeeper) on your Mac. All I can say is that I personally use OnyX for Internet cache cleaning and nothing else.

My stance on these utilities is they should only be used when needed. Often they offer scheduling options for cleaning numerous features all at once, but if your system is running fine then there is no need to periodically run them. If you find slowdowns in the system, then some of the routines these programs have can be beneficial.

Ultimately they should only target temporary files and so should not harm anything; however, as with any program there is the chance that a bug or two could cause problems. This is why it's best to leave well enough alone. However, the clearing of caches and the running of other maintenance scripts will not hurt the system as some have claimed.

The Windows registry has been a source of problems with performance in some situations, which is why some folks have assumed these programs are necessary on that platform. However, even the "need" for these is often questionable.

I keep OnyX on my systems as well, but do not have it configured to automatically clean or run on a schedule.

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