- Tired of seeing warnings about low disk space on your Mac? This article explains how you can tackle the problem.
- If possible, manual cleanup is the best way to clear your Mac’s storage, as you can choose the things you want to keep.
- Third-party cleaner apps handle this task effortlessly, so you can rely solely on them to declutter your system.
- Cloud storage solutions are very practical in such cases, as you can store your valuables there without the need for onboard storage.
Your Mac is running out of disk space — you probably know well that running away from this warning message is just like water off a duck’s back. If you don’t take care of it, this message will haunt your Mac forever and make your life a living hell.
Even though everyone knows that the only way out is to free up disk space, knowing where to look for and delete unwanted junk files is the be-all and end-all. Don’t worry, we’ll help you with practical and easy ways to free up space on your Mac. Let’s go!
Table of Contents
Where to Look for Your Mac’s Storage Statistics
The first thing you need to do is get an overview of your Mac’s storage space. To check for your device’s onboard storage-
- Call up the Spotlight search with the key combination Command + Spacebar.
- Type Storage and press return.
The page is mostly self-explanatory, as all you need to pay attention to is the percentage of storage utilized by various attributes such as apps, photos, documents, and others. This should give you a rough overview of the current state of your Mac.
A full storage space makes your Mac susceptible to numerous problems. Not only can you not download important things like applications and updates, but you can’t download other things like movies and files.
Your Mac will slow down over time, causing tasks to take much longer than usual to execute, not to mention the frequent crashes and freezes, which is the worst. All in all, you shouldn’t take a low storage warning lightly.
How To Free Up Space On Mac
The most obvious way to free up space on your Mac is to search for heavy files and programs manually. If you become aware of bulky files or applications yourself, e.g., games or movies, it’s best to delete them straight away.
If not, you can take some time to delete unwanted applications and old files individually. This may be a little tedious, but it’s better than being confronted with a warning about insufficient storage space every time you switch on your Mac.
To find out how much disk space a file is using, you can right-click on its icon and select “Get Info.” As you may find it tedious to check the file sizes one by one, you can change the type of file display. If you select the list type, the file size will be displayed next to the file name so that you no longer have to check it individually.
You can also sort the files in descending order of size to delete heavy files more efficiently. This is how you do it –
- Open the Finder.
- Navigate to the section or folder that contains multiple files to be deleted.
- Select the meatball menu icon (⋯) in the toolbar.
- Hover your cursor over Sort By and select Size.
Third-Party Cleaner Apps
In situations like this, cleaner apps are a godsend because they do all the work for you. Apps like CleanMyMac X, Cleaner One Pro, and MacKeeper are designed to scour your Mac’s internal storage, identify unwanted space wasters, and delete them with a single click.
If your Mac is old and needs to be regularly cleaned of junk and unwanted files, you also have the option of regular cleaning. But that’s not all because these apps also have built-in virus protection that warns you of potential dangers.
Clear Your Mac’s Trash
To avoid embarrassment later now is a good time to check if your Mac’s Trash is cluttered with junk files. As part of the overall system, the Trash is also responsible for your Mac’s overall storage, so a full Trash is the first thing you should get rid of. Follow the steps below to empty your Mac’s Trash.
- Open your Mac’s Trash, which is usually located in the Dock.
- Select the meatball menu icon (…) in the toolbar.
- Click Empty Trash.
Alternatively, you can right-click on the trash icon and select Empty Trash. Even better, macOS also has the option to automatically empty the trash every thirty days. This means you no longer have to empty the trash manually, but you can still do it if you want to delete something immediately.
- Open Finder.
- Click Finder in your Mac’s menu bar.
- Select Settings.
- Go to Advanced.
- Make sure that the option ‘Remove items from the Trash after 30 days,’ is activated.
Delete Installation Files of Apps
If you often install apps from third-party sources, you may have accumulated a lot of installation files with the extension .dmg (disk image) on your Mac. These files are no longer usable, so it’s best to delete them straight away. This is how you do it,
- Open Finder.
- Click on the search box in the top-right corner.
- Search for .dmg.
The corresponding files should be displayed. If not, you can select “Disk Image” from the drop-down menu under “Types“. This will filter the search results and only display the installation files with this extension. This can also be done for .zip files.
It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of deleting the installation files when you install apps from unknown sources. To further simplify the process, you can use the detector for clean apps and their installation files to get a one-click solution to this problem.
Remove Duplicate Files
Duplicates of existing images, videos, and other files can accumulate on your Mac and take up valuable disk space. This usually happens when you unknowingly download multiple copies of the same item.
While there is no official way to search for duplicates in macOS, you can rely on the tried and tested cleaner apps and their efficient duplicate file finder. Also, specialized apps like Duplicate File Finder Remover make finding and deleting duplicate files much more effortless.
Delete Apps Completely Using AppCleaner
If you simply drag an app to the trash and then delete it, not all of its components may be permanently removed. Sometimes, residual files and certain other file types remain and eat up your Mac’s valuable disk space.
This is where AppCleaner comes in and lets you thoroughly uninstall apps. To use AppCleaner, all you have to do is drag the desired app into the AppCleaner interface. AppCleaner will then list all the app’s deletable components, from which you can select and delete some or all of the app’s components.
Free Up Cache Memory
Cache memory is something your Mac builds up over time to improve things like app opening speed, load times, and more. Essentially, it speeds up repetitive tasks by storing important information in your Mac’s internal storage. Of course, this takes up your internal storage and needs to be cleaned up regularly.
While it’s best recommended to use cleaner apps like CleanMyMac X and Cleaner One Pro for this purpose, as they provide an easy-to-understand interface to remove cache files, you can surely take up the daunting task in your hands if you wish.
Of the system, app, and browser cache data, we recommend not messing with the former, as this can lead to total data loss in the worst-case scenario. Follow the steps below to identify and delete app cache data.
- Open Finder.
- Select Go from your Mac’s menu bar.
- Click on Go To Folder.
- Enter ~/Library/Caches/ in the search box and hit return.
Each browser has a different way of clearing its cached data, so the procedure may vary accordingly. Below you’ll find the procedure for the Safari, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge browsers.
- Open the Safari browser.
- Select Safari in the menu bar of your Mac.
- Open Settings.
- Select Advanced.
- Switch on ‘Show features for web developers.’
- Select Develop from your Mac’s menu bar.
- Click on Empty Caches.
- Open Chrome.
- Click on the kebab menu icon (︙) from Chrome’s toolbar.
- Select Settings.
- Enter Privacy and Security.
- Select Clear Browsing Data.
- Choose your preferred time range and select the things you want to delete.
- Click on the meatball menu icon (⋯) from Edge’s toolbar.
- Open Settings.
- Enter Privacy, Search, and Services.
- Click on Choose What to Clear under the clear browsing data section.
- Choose your preferred time range and everything you want to free from your Mac’s storage.
Delete Shared Folders
Shared folders are, as the name suggests, shared by all users of the Mac. If such a folder is no longer needed, it is best to remove it and free up valuable storage space. If you are the owner of the folder, it will not only be deleted for you but also for everyone else. If not, the folder will only be deleted for you.
Shared folders are located in the iCloud Drive section in the Finder sidebar. To delete a specific folder, drag it to your Mac’s Trash and then delete it.
Uninstall Unused Apps and Switch to Web Versions Instead
This is pretty self-explanatory because all you have to do is go through your Mac’s Launchpad and look for the apps you don’t use often. Also, if you have installed apps that only serve a one-time purpose, it’s better to delete them and reinstall them when needed.
A good way to reduce reliance on full apps is to switch to the web versions of supported apps. For example, you can replace full apps like WhatsApp, Spotify, and Telegram with their web versions without missing out on anything important. You can even install desktop sites as web apps for a more realistic feel. Here’s a guide that explains how to install the web app version of Netflix on your Mac.
Optimize Storage Space Using iCloud Drive
Apple allows you to move files, photos, videos, email attachments, Apple TV movies, and more to your iCloud Drive to free up space on your Mac. The best part is that iCloud Drive makes these files available on demand, and you can access them with the same Apple ID on any Apple device.
If you have movies stored in Apple TV on your Mac, you can automatically move the shows you’ve already watched to your iCloud Drive, freeing up your Mac’s internal storage. To explore more about these options, head to Settings > General > Storage.
Move Large Files to External Storage Drives
Unless you open them regularly, there’s no point in storing heavy files like videos and movies on your Mac. Movies are the single largest culprits of this, so it’s best if you move them into external storage drives, like pen drives or portable SSDs.
Portable SSDs and pen drives not only help to free up storage space on your Mac, but they also have the advantage of being portable. Pen drives and portable SSDs are plug-and-play accessories, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility with other devices.
Delete In-app Downloads
In-app downloads, such as movies from streaming apps like Amazon Prime Video and songs from music streaming apps like Spotify and Apple Music, take up a lot of storage space without you realizing it. In-app downloads are stored locally, so it’s important to delete them regularly.
Removing downloads is easy; just go to the download section of the app and delete as many things as possible. Don’t forget to deactivate the automatic download option if you have previously activated it.
Remove Old iPhone Backups
You may already know that iPhone backups are stored locally on your Mac. Worryingly, iPhone backups can become very large over time, especially if you have automatic backup enabled. It’s best to delete old backups that are lying around for no good reason.
If you’ve already connected your iPhone to your Mac to back it up, your iPhone should appear in the Finder sidebar. Go there and delete the backups you want. Oh, and don’t forget to disable automatic backups.
Delete Old Junk Mails
Mails can never be free of spam and junk mail, and the macOS Mail app leaves no stone unturned to save them all. The trusted Mail app shouldn’t be blamed here, but your Mac’s internal storage could be filled with truckloads of spam and junk mail.
If you find it too much work, the Mail app can automatically delete junk and spam emails. Here, you can find out how to delete junk mail –
- Open the Mail app.
- Select Junk in the sidebar.
- Select the emails you want to delete.
- Click on the Bin icon in the toolbar and confirm your action.
To set up automatic cleanup, follow the procedure below –
- Select Mail from your Mac’s menu bar.
- Click on Accounts and select an account.
- Select Mailbox Behaviors from the toolbar.
- Click on the dropdown menu under Erase Junk Messages and select your preferred time interval.
Furthermore, you can do the same for clearing trash automatically by selecting a time interval under Erase Deleted Messages.
Compress Large Files
It may come as no surprise to anyone, but uncompressed files take up much more space than compressed files. So, if you have large files lying around, it’s best to compress them and save them in zip files instead.
Compression does not affect the quality in any way, so you can rely on lossless compression. Plus, Zip files are just as easy to access and share, so compressing large files is a breeze. macOS offers an effortless way to compress files, and here are the steps to do it.
- Open Finder.
- Locate the files you want to compress. You can select a single file or multiple files if needed.
- Right-click on the file(s) and select Compress from the dropdown menu.
macOS will now create a zip file with the same name as the selected file. If you have selected multiple files to compress, the files will be saved in a single zip file named Archived.zip. You can now delete the original file as it is no longer needed. Here, you can find Apple’s instructions for compressing files on the Mac.
Cloud Storage Solutions
Cloud storage is a relatively new but promising technology that aims to eliminate one of the biggest shortcomings, namely the lack of storage space. With cloud storage, data is stored on servers that can be located anywhere in the world.
All you need for cloud storage is a stable internet connection, and you can access your data from anywhere in the world. Since the files are stored in the cloud, they don’t take up your Mac’s important storage space, which is an advantage.
Some of the most popular cloud storage services include iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, Mega, and Google Drive. iCloud makes the most sense of all, as it’s an official and integrated offering from Apple, but options like Mega offer much better value.
Delete Users That No Longer Access Your Mac
Separate user accounts and groups are great for creating a separate account that is in no way connected to the original account. In other words, they grant them their personal space within the same Mac so they can use it as their own. This new account cannot interact with the owner’s account.
This means users and groups share the same storage space, which of course is your Mac’s internal storage drive. This causes the storage to fill up much faster than usual, as multiple users now access the same storage space within their accounts by downloading and saving files, pictures, videos, and so on.
If you have users who no longer have access to your Mac, you should delete their accounts. Not only will this save you valuable storage space, but it will also protect your Mac from intruders trying to log in with their accounts. Here’s how you can do it.
- Go to your Mac’s settings.
- Select Users & Groups in the left pane.
- Find the account you want to remove from your Mac and click on the i icon next to it.
- Click on Delete Group.
- You will be asked to enter your password to authenticate the action.
Delete Language Files
Since developers have to serve a large number of language groups around the world, they often deliver their apps in a variety of languages. This ensures that the app can be used by as many people as possible, which benefits both the people and the developer.
As good as this may sound, it also means that the apps are delivered in languages you don’t understand, which makes them useless to you. Language files also take up disk space, so it’s right to delete the files of unwanted languages to free up space on your Mac.
Again, you can turn to the tried-and-tested cleaner apps, which offer an easy-to-understand interface for deleting language files from apps. However, it is also possible to delete language files manually using the following procedure.
- Open Finder.
- Select Applications from the left pane.
- Right-click on the application whose language files you want to delete. Try to select popular applications as they are more likely to contain language files than less popular applications. One such application is the Chrome browser.
- Select Show Package Contents from the dropdown menu.
- Select Contents.
- Now, open the folder named Resources.
This folder contains all language files of the app that end with the extension .lproj. The file names consist of a two-letter word that indicates the language for which they are intended. For example, ja.lproj stands for Japanese, hi.lproj for Hindi, es.lproj for Spanish, and so on.
A good way to delete the language files is to select all files with the key combination Command + A and then deselect the languages you know or need by holding down the Shift key and clicking on the file icon of the respective language file. You will probably keep the files for the English language, so deselect the files that start with the initials en or en_GB.
Clean Up ‘Other’ Storage
If you’ve been keeping track of your Mac’s storage allocation using the method explained at the beginning of this article, you’ll know that macOS puts a lot of things under the “Other” category instead of describing them in more detail. In fact, macOS is notorious for doing this.
No one can guess what is in this category, but whatever it is, you need to remove it to save storage space. The linked article explains very well how to clear “Other” storage on Mac.
Perform a Factory Reset
If you perform a factory reset, your laptop will basically be as good as new. This means that you lose all existing data and settings and get software that you have to set up from scratch.
It also means that your storage will be reset, and all the files, applications, pictures, and other things it previously contained will no longer be there. Since this method is associated with data loss, you should only perform it if your Mac has a backup. If your Mac is old and doesn’t contain any important data, a factory reset is the right choice to bring the storage back to zero.
Check out Apple’s guide on how to rest your Mac.
Upgrade To A New Mac
We might receive some flak for suggesting this, but as a last resort, you have no choice but to upgrade to a new Mac. Apple offers great trade-in deals, so trading in your older Mac for a new one with more storage capacity shouldn’t be a problem if you’re seriously running out of storage space and none of the above methods work.
Free Up Space On Mac Efficiently
Now that you’re here, we hope you’ve been able to remove a lot of the junk from your Mac’s storage. Maybe now you’ll agree that freeing up space on your Mac is easy; you just have to look for the right thing in the right place.
While obvious methods like manual searches, deleting duplicate files, and deleting large files like movies and large programs work well for most users, you’re better off switching to cloud storage solutions and storing large files on external storage drives if the traditional methods don’t work for you.
FAQs about ways to free up space on Mac
1. How would I know if my Mac’s storage is about to get filled?
When your disk space is running low, macOS will notify you at regular intervals. If you still want to check how much storage space is left on your Mac, you can do so on your Mac’s settings page.
- Open Spotlight search using the shortcut command + space.
- Search for Storage and hit return.
This will show you your Mac’s storage allocation, and you can see how much space is taken up by apps, pictures, system data, and more.
2. Why is my storage this filled up?
The most common reasons for your storage space being full are automatic backups and downloads, large applications such as games, movies, and more. Such files take up a lot of your storage space and should be removed as soon as possible. Movies and other heavy files are best stored on external storage devices such as USB sticks or portable SSDs.
3. How can cloud storage be of help here?
If you’re familiar with cloud storage, you’ll know that you don’t need internal storage space to store your data. So you can store large files without worrying about your Mac’s storage space.
Cloud storage platforms do charge for the work they do, but that’s still better than upgrading your entire device. Plus, you can access files stored in the cloud from anywhere, which is a big advantage.
4. Why do apps occupy so much storage space?
Aside from app data, apps often need to download several things in order to function properly. Apps also need to be updated to the latest versions, which requires additional storage space over time. In-app downloads also contribute to the app’s total storage space. So, if you download more, the app will also take up more storage space.
5. What are third-party cleaner apps?
Third-party cleaning apps like CleanMyMac X, Mac Keeper, and Cleaner One Pro are specifically designed to make it easier to take care of your Mac. You can rely on them to clean your Mac of malware, viruses, junk, and many other valuable features.
These cleaner apps also come with storage managers that allow you to identify space hogs and delete them directly in the app. Once they have access to your Mac’s storage, they can dig deep and find every single error.
6. Why has my Mac slowed down?
One of the reasons why your Mac has slowed down could be low storage space. Every computer needs free storage space to function optimally. If this is missing, the system may find it difficult to start programs, execute commands, and load output.
Heating issues and the inability to download important things also contribute to slowing down your Mac. The only way out is to free up your Mac’s storage drive, which isn’t that difficult.