Our utilities update report is a list of updates for Mac utilities that have been released in the past week. Though a utility can be any tool that helps you perform a routine task (including image manipulation and synchronization), our focus in this column is to bring you those tools that help in troubleshooting Mac hardware and software problems.
TinkerTool System is a collection of useful utilities for OS X, which can tweak and customize the Mac experience as well as run maintenance routines to correct any system slowdowns. The latest version adds a new "Emergency Tool" that can verify and repair the hard disk, temporary system files, and permissions settings before start-up. In addition it can help troubleshoot by deactivating aspects of the system at boot, including input managers, user caches, user account preferences, and system preferences.
The new version of TinkerTool is a substantial upgrade and is free to try, but will cost $14 for a full license.
In other maintenance utilities, OnyX has been updated to allow for running from a nonadministrator account (albeit in limited mode without authentication). It also has new features for altering the iTunes 10 interface, and fixing a few bugs with the info panel and the log management. OnyX is free.
The only filesystem-related utility updated this week is Sqeezer, which applies filesystem-level compression to designated files. Filesystem compression is a highly efficient way to save space without an appreciable hit in system performance. Filesystem compression with Sqeezer should work in both OS X 10.5 and 10.6, and a license for the program is $12.95, although there is a free trial period.
Only a couple of hardware-related utilities have been updated. The battery-optimization utility Watts has been updated, but there is no description on the new features. Being a small point-release, however, makes it likely that only bugs have been addressed. The tool instructs you on how to calibrate your battery, and reminds you when you may need to calibrate the battery to not only get the longest life for it, but also to have the system accurately report the available charge. Watts comes with a 30-day free trial, and then costs $6.95 for a license.
The last utility this week is SMARTReporter, which has been updated to fix I/O errors on PowerPC machines that resulted in crashes. It also addresses issues with e-mail notifications. SMART technology keeps running tabs on a number of hard-drive attributes, and notifies you if any attribute falls below threshold values, indicating problems with the hard drive and potential failure and data loss. SMARTReporter is free.
For more utilities and other applications for OS X, including reviews and ratings, see CNET's Download.com.