Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac
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Your Mac only has a limited amount of available disk space – even more so if you’re using a laptop. You might feel like you’re locked in a constant battle for breathing room, trying to squeeze every last morsel of space from your computer on a daily basis.

It’s time to fight back and free up some serious space on your Mac.

Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac world warrior ryu ken

Empty The Trash Can

Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac osxtrashcan

This is a no-brainer. Allowing your trash to accumulate only takes up precious space (just like your apartment). Empty it periodically and you will be surprised how much space you will get back. Especially if the trash is full of video files.

Use Selective Sync To Remove Cloud Storage Folders

Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac selectivesync

Next, cast a critical eye on your cloud storage folders. The big services – Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive – allow you to choose which folders you want downloaded and synced to your computer, and which ones should remain in the cloud. This is critical for managing your space on various devices.

Right-click on each service’s icon in your menu bar and navigate to the preferences for your provider. There should be an option for each that allows you to choose which folders to sync, simply uncheck the ones you’re not interested in. Then watch the folders disappear, and reclaim that disk space.

Find Out Exactly Where Your Disk Space Has Gone

Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac diskinventoryx

There is an absolutely spiffing piece of software available for the Mac called Disk Inventory X. This first scans your hard-drive and then tells you which folders and files are to blame 3 Free Apps to Analyze & Inspect Your Mac's Hard Disk Space 3 Free Apps to Analyze & Inspect Your Mac's Hard Disk Space Wondering where all of your Mac's storage has gone? These free apps will let you know. Read More  for your current situation. You can then decide whether or not to delete or keep the files. This app has helped me enormously in keeping my limited MacBook Air’s space under control.

Depending on how much data you have on your hard-drive, the scanning can take some time – and will take significantly longer on hard disk drives as opposed to speedy solid state drives.

Use CCleaner

Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac ccleaner

Now time to clean out the crap by running CCleaner. This piece of free software needs no introduction Full Version of CCleaner Now Released For The Mac Full Version of CCleaner Now Released For The Mac No matter how intuitive and reportedly "trouble free" Macs are to run, believe me, several months after you add hundreds of files, applications, and download thousands of webpages, your shiny new iMac or MacBook Air... Read More , as it has made numerous appearances on MUO.

It’s a case of ticking the boxes and hitting a button. Choose all of your browsers, but with everything else choose carefully. The cardinal rule here is always, if you don’t know what it is or does, then leave it well alone.

Using this method alone I managed to reclaim a whopping 3 GB! I’m having a pretty good day.

Move your iPhoto & iTunes Libraries Elsewhere

Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac itunespreferences

This is one I had to research online, because I don’t use iPhoto, and all of my music is on Amazon Cloud Player. I still have an iTunes library though for the backups of my apps and photos. If your iPhoto and iTunes libraries are quite full, then moving them to a removable hard drive or even a USB stick could free up masses of space.

We’ve covered this little trick in the past, so head on over to James’ article all about storing libraries remotely Save Space On Your Mac By Storing iPhoto & iTunes Libraries Remotely Save Space On Your Mac By Storing iPhoto & iTunes Libraries Remotely With my head held low with shame, I publicly admitted last week that I'm a digital hoarder. My once blazingly fast Mac is now left with just 100GB of a 1TB drive left. I've already... Read More  to find out how. There’s also Apple’s official documentation about doing this with an iPhoto and iTunes library.

Use Web Apps Instead

Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac spotifydt

In the mad and frenzied rush to install the latest and greatest software, it may not occur to you that there are many equally good – if not better – alternatives online. Does one of your desktop apps also have a web app? One example that springs to mind is Spotify Spotify Music Streaming: The Unofficial Guide Spotify Music Streaming: The Unofficial Guide Spotify is the biggest music streaming service around. If you're not sure how to use it, this guide will walk you through the service, as well as offer some crucial top tips. Read More , which has both a desktop app and a web app. Skype is about to roll out a web-based version which will render the desktop version obsolete.

Others to think about include Slack, Amazon Music, Evernote How to Use Evernote: The Unofficial Manual How to Use Evernote: The Unofficial Manual Learning how to use Evernote on your own takes a long time. This is why we've put together this guide to show you how to take full advantage of the most important Evernote features. Read More , Pocket, Instapaper, Twitter and many online image editing suites Crop, Retouch, Fill, And Create New Images With These 4 Online Photo Editors Crop, Retouch, Fill, And Create New Images With These 4 Online Photo Editors While there is simply no comparing robust photo editors like Photoshop or Gimp to online alternatives, sometimes a simple online tool is all you need to get the job done. We've put together a list... Read More . Imagine all the space you could make if you removed them all and bookmarked their web versions instead?

Remove All Other Unnecessary Software

Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac macapplications

I also think it’s necessary, perhaps once a week, to review your installed software, and see if anything can be chopped. Take a good long look at each one, and ask yourself the following questions :

  • When was the last time I used this?
  • Am I ever likely to use it again?
  • Is there another tool on the computer that does the same job, allowing me to uninstall this?
  • What is that annoying rash?

Keep on top of that task every week or so, and you’ll be golden. I just reclaimed 9GB by removing apps I never use.

Disable Dictation

Dictation is a neat little party trick, but on the Mac, it’s very much a hit-and-miss affair. Being so uncultured, it doesn’t understand my deep Scottish brogue, so when I say “thank you for your recent letter”, it comes out with “tanqu fore yoor racy lutter”. So in all honesty, I prefer to use Dragon Dictate if I need to do any dictating.

Someone on the MacRumors forum claims you can get back 1GB of RAM by disabling Dictation. Your mileage may vary!

To disable dictation – and remove the dictionary that was installed with it – go to System Preferences–>Dictation & Speech.

Everything You Can Do to Free up Space on Your Mac Screen Shot 2015 01 19 at 19

Uncheck Enhanced Dictation (ignore the warning it then throws up), and then click the Off option under Dictation.

I can’t say that I have noticed that 1GB appearing, but I have gained about 500MB in space – and every little counts.

If All Else Fails…

You could always try reinstalling Mac OS X and starting over How to Reinstall macOS for a Fast and Squeaky Clean Mac How to Reinstall macOS for a Fast and Squeaky Clean Mac Need to restore your Mac to factory settings? Here's how to install a fresh copy of macOS and erase everything. Read More !

What tips do you have for making more space on your Mac? Let it rip in the comments below.

Explore more about: Hard Drive, OS X Yosemite, Solid State Drive.

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  1. Pepito
    January 17, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    The best trick that I've learned to save space on my Mac is to redirect the BackUp directory. If you have several Apple devices, the backup directory can increase dramatically.
    I created a backup directory on an external drive and made a link pointed from the default system backup to the external drive.
    You need to have connected the external drive for backup and restore tasks.


  2. Anonymous
    July 14, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Maybe you can try uFlysoft Data Recovery for Mac, it can recover LOST DATA on Mac only in three steps:
    Step 1. Launch the software to scan the device where your files deleted
    Step 2: Preview the scan result files and make mark if it is the one you find
    Step 3: Recover files

  3. Anonymous
    February 24, 2016 at 5:54 am

    I think duplicate files and unused language files in apps are both huge space-hoggers, and I personally like to use the app MacClean to get rid of them and to clean caches or temp files. It's free and gathers basically all the cleaning tools in one app.

  4. james
    January 16, 2016 at 12:20 am

    I'm getting ready to download onto a 250GB Flash drive, all my files from my '07 iMac to sell it with the original discs that came with it....Question: My hard drive has several apps-GarageBand,iMovie, etc. Does it make sense to download these, since they are Apple aps, and I'm going to buy a DELL desktop. (?)

    • Mark O'Neill
      January 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      If you are moving to a Windows computer, then no it doesn't make sense. GarageBand and iMovie are Apple products.

  5. ptrix
    February 5, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    One very helpful tip that you didn't include was removing unused OSX Language resources, using a tool such as Xslimmer or Monolingual. Almost all mac applications includes language resources so that they can be used in other languages, but you can safely remove the languages that you don't use without affecting the app's function, and save hundreds of MB of space easily.

    • Mark O'Neill
      February 5, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      That's very interesting. Thanks for that. I'll check out those tools you mentioned.