When making the big move to a new OS, it always takes time to settle in and learn the ropes. Switching from Windows to macOS is not an exception. While these operating systems obviously don’t share interface similarities, they branch even more under the hood. In other words, it’s not just lack of Start Screen and Menu and touchpad scrolling in reverse. When opening Command Prompt in Windows, you enter DOS commands to get around, on macOS, however, it’s Unix commands that you need to use. Such distinct changes affect the way you interact with your computer and the way you approach its maintenance.

Windows vs macOS: How to Clean Registry on Mac

On PC, registry is where the information about your settings and preferences is stored. This refers to all settings for third party programs as well as Windows operating system itself. Often, numerous installations and uninstallations lead to registry entries becoming broken or outdated. The broken registry then results in error messages popping up in specific programs. Windows even features built-in tools to help fix such errors. The tools can be used through Command Prompt (Admin) by typing specific commands.

On the other hand, macOS has and needs no registry. It is based on Unix and manages third-party parameters and settings by keeping them in Mac Preference Files, which come in .plist format. Some of the preference files can be found within application’s contents. To access the file, go to Finder>Applications and Right Click the app of your choice, choose Show Package Contents.

application preference file

Despite the differences in format and name, Mac preference files are also subject to corruption. To fix the corrupted .plist file you will have to delete it from your Mac. This allows the application to rebuild the default file and lets you set new preferences from scratch. The app needs to be relaunched in order to re-create the file.

Note: If you are tinkering with system preferences, you will need to fully restart your Mac so it can rebuild the missing preference files.

Access Preferences by opening Finder window and pressing Shift+⌘+G. In the popped up Go to the folder window paste ~/Library/Preferences and hit Go. This is where all user specific Preference files are stored.

mac preferences location

Note: Follow the same steps to the directory /Library/Preferences (without the tilde ~) to get to the preferences set for all local users.

To make finding the correct file easier, set Show Items to “in a list” and use Search to sort out unneeded files. Applications’ .plist files normally follow the same naming pattern — com.company.application.plist, where company is the vendor and application shares the name of the program. Use that to you advantage to speed up the process of locating the right preference file even further, beware of the exceptions though.

search preferences mac

Most applications will have the exact name of the app within the name of a .plist file. Make sure to eliminate the spaces. Once you have found the files you need — drag them to Trash and launch the corresponding application to rebuilt the default preference file. Don’t forget to make a backup copy and keep it until you are sure that the application works as intended and .plist files are rebuilt.

Preferences/Registry Cleaner for Mac

While we have already established, that Apple computers don’t have a registry, and, therefore, don’t need a cleaner, it’s important to stay away from any freeware apps (or paid ones for that matter) that claim to do the job. Applications that promise to provide registry cleanup for MacBook will do you no good and should be avoided.

Moreover, take Preferences cleaning utilities with a grain of salt as well. Preferences should not be removed on regular basis, but rather only when you start experiencing specific issues with an app. In such cases, it’s best to look up information online regarding the preference files that need to be reset. Alternatively, you can locate the needed preference file yourself by following the tips above. Make sure to create backup copies to prevent potential consequences of the trial and error method.