Must-have macOS security, productivity, and performance utilities

A selection of the best performance, security, and productivity apps and utilities to help you get the most from your Mac.

If, like me, your main work machine is a Mac, you need it to be ready for anything life and work can throw at it. This means that having the right performance, security, and productivity apps and utilities.

Disclosure: ZDNet may earn an affiliate commission from some of the products featured on this page. ZDNet and the author were not compensated for this independent review. 

Authy

2FA app that works on almost every device and platform

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I used to be a Google Authenticator user, but this 2FA (2-Factor Authentication) app is old, and has a number of limitations, so I made the move to Authy. Authy is great because it works on almost every device and platform, and allows me to keep a backup of my codes, which comes in real handy when swapping devices. 

Best of all, it's free!

View Now at Authy

CleanMyMac X

Scans your mac and removes junk, large hidden files, old archives, unused apps, and malware

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Without a doubt, CleanMyMac X is the best way to rid your Mac of the digital detritus that it accumulates, allowing you to free up storage space and even speed things up.

I'm always amazed by its capacity to seek out digital junk that's otherwise buried deep within the bowels of the operating system.

$29 at MacPaw

SnagIt 2020

The ultimate screen-capture tool

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My job involves taking countless screen captures every week, and of all the tools and utilities I've tried -- even the tools built into macOS -- nothing comes close to the power and flexibility of SnagIt.

Not only does this tool allow me to capture all sorts of screenshots -- from simple captures to complex stuff like scrolling windows and such -- it also features powerful editing tools to help me get those screen captures ready for posting on the web or putting into publications.

$24 at TechSmith

Parallels Toolbox

All-in-one solution with over 30 tools for macOS (and Windows 10)

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Parallels Toolbox is a suite of easy-to-use tools that streamlines all routine computing chores that you do many times a day and turns them into actions you can carry out with a click or two, massively boosting productivity.

This suite of tools allows you to carry out a variety of tasks, from creating animated GIFs from videos to batch resizing images.

$19 at Parallels

Google Chrome

Still my favorite browser

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Best Mac browser. Yes, it eats quite a bit of system resources, but it's rock-solid even with dozens of tabs open, and the ability to expand its capabilities using extensions makes it a powerful web browsing platform.

View Now at Google

Freedome VPN

Secure your internet connection

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Browsing the web without a VPN leaves a digital footprint that others can use to track you down. A VPN can allow you to step over the geographical fences that some want to put around content. On top of that, a good VPN can keep you safe when accessing the web using wired and wireless networks that are not under your control.

Having tested many VPN offerings, I settled on Freedome, because it offered good security and high levels of reliability at a reasonable price.

$34 at F-Secure

Backblaze

Cloud backup made easy

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While Time Machine is good for carrying out local backups, it's also a good idea to have an up-to-date offsite backup, and I've found that Backblaze offers the best combination of value, storage space, and performance.

$6 at Backblaze

iStat Menus

Geek out on everything that's going on with your Mac

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I love this app because it allows me to geek-out on a massive amount of system information!

iStat Menus is an advanced Mac system monitor, covering an enormous range of stats from system temperatures to CPU performance.

iStat Menus puts an awful lot of important and useful information right at your fingertips.

$11 at Bjango

Amphetamine

The small app that does an important job

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Amphetamine is a little app that lives in your menu bar and allows you to quickly and easily override your energy saver settings and keep your Mac awake.

If you need a simple on/off switch for the power settings, this is your app. Need more control over power saving features? This is also your app!

View Now at Mac App Store

Parallels Access

Fast, simple, and reliable remote access tool

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After trying many different solutions, Parallels Access is my favorite method for accessing my systems remotely. With Parallels Access I can connect to my Mac (or PC) from pretty much any device, and work with the applications and files on that system as though I'm sitting at it.

This has been an absolute lifesaver for those times when I've left an important file on my computer at the home or office.

$19 at Parallels

The Unarchiver

File compression and decompression made easy

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While the tool built into macOS can do a reasonable job with some compressed file archives, the Unarchiver has you covered no matter what crazy file format you have to deal with.

It will open common formats such as Zip, RAR, 7-zip, Tar, Gzip and Bzip2, more obscure formats such as StuffIt, DiskDoubler, LZH, ARJ and ARC, and can extract files from ISO and BIN images.

It can also extract files from some Windows .EXE files.

It's an excellent tool that I use regularly!

View Now at Mac App Store