The cover artwork for Internet Cleanup 4 (IC4) may be a little OTT - all dark glasses and predatory, evil- eyed figures - but actively securing your interests online is a sensible course of action.

IC4 sets out to serve and protect, eliminating subversive cookies, ousting spyware, sluicing web caches and blocking pop-up ads to ensure a sparklingly clean online experience. We tested it for a while and found it functional if unexciting; the fact is, it doesn't really do much that you can't already do manually in OS X.

A Bumpy Ride

Allume has been criticised in the past for charging for small upgrades. IC4 continues in this vein - you have to pay £8 to step up from a previous version of the software.

There's further hoop-jumping when you want to upgrade from the demo to the registered version. When installing IC4, we had to uninstall the demo, find and remove some hidden preference files from that first install, then re-download and install the original file, just to get back to the panel for entering the serial code! It's hardly a smooth process.

It's not all plain sailing once you get into the software, either. Closure of browsers during cache-cleaning, for instance, means users are forced to log out of Mac OS and back in again to activate SpyAlert support.

Function-wise, the app is useful, but hardly revolutionary. It's inherited the cool SpyAlert - which scans your machine for spyware and keystroke and screen-loggers - from IC3, but the IC4 update is effectively just a refreshed list of spyware definitions. It seems wrong that you have to pay for this if you already own IC3. Allume hasn't seen fit to speed it up, either; it still runs too slowly for our liking.

Still, SpyAlert is just one of a series of tools, accessible via IC4's main interface. The others include Internet File Finder, IM Log Cleaner (Instant Messaging Cleaner), Mail Cleaner (for attachments in Mail, Entourage and Eudora) and NetBlockade. The latter is split into three further tools: Network SpyAlert, Scheduler (scripted clean-ups at preset times) and Secure Delete, an AppZapper-type uninstaller, tailored to IC4 search results.

One word of warning: after you sweep your Mac for erroneous files, think about what these files might be before you delete them. It's unreasonable to suggest that people confronted with cached web files named '5BB282Ded01' should know exactly what they're deleting. IC4 doesn't tell you which site the file is associated with, so when presented with 2,145 web files with similar names, you can either delete every file and know you've taken out the bad ones, or remove none and know you've kept the good ones. Neither option is viable: total blockout or total acceptance. Of more value would be a sidebar showing the files we've opted for and those planted remotely.

Blocking Pop-Ups

On a positive note, IM Log and MailCleaner perform their tasks at a good speed. You can delete unwanted attachments in your mail client and, once found, the files can be optioned for deletion or moved to trash by IC4. NetBlockade isn't new, but this upgrade enables you to decide which files to accept from the web and which to avoid. We set it to stop all pop-up windows and went surfing around online newspapers with Firefox set to allow pop-ups. NetBlockade did a grand job of overriding it.

IC4 is a good app for seeing how the internet slips countless files onto your Mac, but not so good at isolating which ones you need to lose.