How to Free Up Space on Mac: 8 Tips and Tricks You Need to Know
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The solid-state drive that came in your MacBook is a double-edged sword. SSDs make computers incredibly fast. But because flash storage is expensive, most MacBooks still ship with a tiny 128 GB SSD by default. And upgrading to a bigger SSD costs hundreds of dollars.

If you’re stuck with with limited storage space, you’ll need to be proactive. Take a look at these steps you can take (and later automate) to free up valuable storage space on your Mac. This way, your Mac won’t throw up the scary Your disk is almost full banner next time you’re downloading a big file.

1. Empty the Trash

Empty Trash Mac

Did you know that macOS doesn’t automatically delete items from the Trash? There’s a chance that you’ve got a few gigabytes of data just sitting in it.

On your Dock, right-click on the Trash icon and select Empty Trash. Once the data is deleted, you won’t be able to access it again (though there are specialized apps for recovering data on Mac The Best Data Recovery Software for Mac to Find Lost Data & Files The Best Data Recovery Software for Mac to Find Lost Data & Files Did your SSD happen to die? Digital camera SD card corrupted itself? Don't despair — here's what you can do to recover your files on your own. Read More ).

2. Uninstall Apps You Don’t Use

If you’re the kind of person who reads technology websites, you might like trying new Mac apps just to see what they’re about. But it’s easy to forget to delete them when you’re done testing.

Start by taking stock of what’s on your machine. You’ll need to download an app called AppCleaner (yes, it’s ironic that you need to download an app for this, but trust me, it’s worth it). AppCleaner is the best way to uninstall apps on Mac How to Uninstall Programs on Mac How to Uninstall Programs on Mac Need to uninstall programs on your Mac? You have several options! Here's how to remove programs and apps from your Mac. Read More because it automatically deletes all junk files related to the app.

Open AppCleaner, browse through the list, click on an app you don’t need, and press the Remove button.

AppCleaner Remove App

If you’re on macOS Sierra and higher, you’ll be glad to know that macOS has a built-in storage management feature (which we’ll refer to multiple times in this guide).

Click on the Apple icon from the menu bar, select About This Mac, and go to the Storage section. From here, click on Manage.

macOS Storage Section

You’ll see a couple of options. The first action you should take is to turn on the feature that automatically empties the Trash after 30 days.

Next, click on the Applications button. You’ll see a list of all apps, sorted by how much space they take up. Select one or multiple apps you want to uninstall and click on Delete.

Mac Delete Apps

The app and app data will be sent to the Trash. Empty the Trash, and you’ve just gained a significant chunk of space back.

3. Find and Delete Large Files

Mac Delete Big Files

From the same Storage Management window, click on the Documents option from the sidebar. Here you’ll see a list of all your files, sorted from biggest to smallest.

The best way to reclaim a big chunk of storage space is to remove a couple of huge files. Weeding through hundreds of small files takes a lot longer. Take a look at the files at the top of the list and see if you can live without them. To delete a file, click on it and press the Delete button.

If you have space in your Dropbox or Google Drive account, you can move the file to your cloud storage to free up local storage.

Once the big files are out of the way, it’s time to drill down. A 1.5GB folder filled with photos you no longer need takes up just as much space as a 1.5GB video, but is much harder to find.

macOS makes this easier. On top of the Documents view, you’ll see two more options for sorting through files: Downloads and File Browser.

The Downloads section gives you a breakdown of files and folders that are older than three months, six months, or one year. So you can go through files that you haven’t accessed in a long time, and decide if you want to get rid of them.

Mac Delete Downloads

The File Browser section is basically a Finder view in the storage management tool. You can browse through your entire file storage system and find files or folders that you want to delete.

Mac Storage Management File Browser

4. Delete iTunes Files and iOS Backups

If you back up your iPhone or iPad to your Mac, the backups could take up gigabytes of storage space. In the Storage Management window, click on the iOS Files section. Once you’re sure you want to delete your iOS device backup, click on it and press the Delete button.

In a similar fashion, you can delete data from the iTunes app from the iTunes section. Movies, TV shows, and audiobooks will show up here.

5. Take a Look at Cloud Storage Apps

Mac Dropbox Selective Sync

If you’re using the Dropbox or Google Drive app to sync your Mac files to the cloud, take a look at what exactly is stored on the cloud, and what’s on your Mac. By default, the cloud syncing services have a tendency to download all data to your Mac.

If you’re using Dropbox, switch to the Selective Sync feature. It lets you choose which folders to download onto your Mac’s drive.

Go to Preferences > Sync and click on the Choose Folders to Sync button. Go through this list and remove any folders that you don’t absolutely need. Remember, you can always access your Dropbox data from the website or mobile app.

6. Optimize Storage in the Photos App

Photos Optimize Storage

If you pay for a 50GB or 200GB iCloud Drive tier, considering using the Optimize Storage feature for the Photos app.

Optimize Storage feature in Photos works exactly as it does on iPhone. Instead of keeping your entire iCloud Photo Library on the device, it will only keep the most recent photos, along with low-resolution thumbnails of older photos.

When needed, your computer will download photos from iCloud. This little feature can help reduce your Photos library from tens of gigabytes to just a couple.

Open the Photos app, go to Preferences > iCloud > iCloud Photos, and select the Optimize Storage option to turn it on.

7. Store Desktop and Documents in iCloud

Mac Store in iCloud

The Store in iCloud feature automatically backs up all the data from your Desktop and Documents folders, and only stores the most recent files locally. When needed, you can download the old files with the press of a button.

While this feature is neat, it’s not the most reliable option. If your important work files are stored in your Documents folder, we would recommend you don’t use this feature. But for most users, enabling this feature can free up a good amount of storage space.

To enable it, open the Storage Management screen, and click on Store in iCloud button from the Recommendations section.

8. Automate Using CleanMyMac X and Gemini 2

CleanMyMac X for Mac Clean Up

The manual cleanup method is effective (I was able to delete more than 30GB using the steps outlined above), but doing it repeatedly becomes time-consuming. And if you’re a Mac power user, you may need to do so every month.

Thankfully, certain apps can help simplify some of these steps and automate Mac maintenance. CleanMyMac X is an all-in-one utility that helps you delete cache files, temporary files, and applications. It has an intelligent file browser that will help you get rid of old and unused files as well.

CleanMyMac X’s sister app, Gemini 2, specializes in finding duplicates. There’s a fair chance that you have two copies of the same photos (or three similar-looking photos), documents, or videos. Gemini 2 finds duplicate files on your Mac and helps you get rid of them. Both apps are available as part of the Setapp subscription service.

Download: CleanMyMac X ($35 per year | $90 one-time purchase)
Download: Gemini 2 ($20 per year | $45 one-time purchase)

Make Everyday Life on Your Mac Easier

Now that you’ve freed up some storage space, you can start using your Mac to get work done. Follow these steps once in a while, and you shouldn’t have to worry about low disk space any more.

There are more little changes you can make to improve your everyday experience of using a Mac 11 Small Tips to Make Everyday Tasks Easier on Your Mac 11 Small Tips to Make Everyday Tasks Easier on Your Mac Want to work more efficiently on your Mac? Try implementing some of these small but useful changes to save you a few minutes. Read More . Find out how to put the Dock on the right edge, use Stacks to organize your desktop, and start using Spaces for a more organized desktop space.

Explore more about: Computer Maintenance, File Management, Hard Drive, Mac Tips, Solid State Drive, Storage.

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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.

    Ciao

  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.