5 Top Tips: How to Clear Disk Space on Mac

How Do I Free Up Disk Space On My Mac?

Last Updated :  |  Author: Dev Team

How to Clear Disk Space on Mac

What is taking up space on my Mac?

There comes a time in every computer's life when it is full of files and programs, slowing it down so much that its owner searches for an article such as this in order to cure it of these ailments (before it gets thrown out the window!). Worry not, you're in the right place. This article will take you through 5 steps which will free up space on your Mac - removing unneeded files and clearing space for the stuff you actually need. No matter if you're tech savvy or not, anyone can use these tips to breathe new life into their Mac.

The 5 sections below address the biggest culprits of space-hogging on your Mac and how to clean them up.

Jump straight to:

  1. Mac OS Storage Management
  2. Find Duplicate Files Mac
  3. Unused Apps- Uninstall Programs on Mac
  4. Delete iTunes backups
  5. Delete Temporary Files on Mac

1. Mac OS Storage Management

The first port of call when making space on your Mac is to see what tools your Mac offers you for such a task.

Your Mac has great built-in tools for managing files and optimizing storage. To access these tools, click the apple icon in the top-left corner of your screen > About this Mac > Storage > Manage…

Mac OS Storage Management

Let's have a look at each tool to see how it can help:

  • Store in iCloud: Quickly store files (Documents, Photos and Messages) from your Mac in iCloud. Enabling this option will allow your Mac to automatically save space when it’s needed. This is great as you’ll be able to access your files on any device using your Apple ID. However, if you have a large number of files, you’ll need to purchase more storage space than your allotted free amount (5GB)- obviously, depending on the amount of space you need, this can quickly become an expensive option.
    Store files in iCloud
  • Optimize Storage: For those who download and watch lots of movies and TV, this option can save you a lot of space and a lot of time. Enabling this option will allow your Mac to automatically remove such files (which can be HUGE depending on their length and quality) once you have watched them.
    Optimize Storage Mac
  • Empty Trash Automatically: Similar to the above, enabling this option allows the automatic removal of files, saving you time and space without having to keep on top of it manually. This will remove items in your Trash after 30 days of them being there. Be aware that once files have been removed from your Trash, you will not be able to retrieve them.

    Automatically empty trash on Mac

    Side note: Many points in this article will advise the removal of unwanted files from your Mac. However, these files are not completely removed from your computer until you empty the Trash (the space is not saved until they are removed from Trash). You can manually empty it by clicking the Trash Can icon in your dock, then clicking 'Empty'.

  • Reduce Clutter: Find large files on your Mac and delete them from your system. Review large and unused files. You’ll need to delete them manually, but it’s well worth it if you can remove files that you do not use.

    Navigate to files that you don't need using the 'Large Files' or 'Downloads' sorters, then hit 'Delete...'. Note that this action will bypass sending the item to Trash, so it's permanent.
    If you're finding unwanted files using the 'File Browser', you'll need to right-click > 'Move To Trash'.

    Find large files Mac to reduce clutter

2. Find Duplicate Files Mac

The quickest way to free up space on your Mac is to automatically remove files that you don’t need. Without realising it, you can accumulate gigabytes worth of duplicate files and folders on your computer.

The problem is that it can take so much time to find and delete these duplicates that people do not bother to do it even if they want to.

Luckily, you can use an app like Duplicate Sweeper to do this for you.

Duplicate Sweeper: Easily scan your Mac for duplicate files and photos. You can then select and remove duplicates based on your preferences. In this way you can keep your newest version of files and remove all duplicates with a click of a button.

In the example below, I was able to remove over 6000 files with one-click. This freed up 2.3 GB of space on my MacBook. Imagine manually going through and comparing 6000 files without Duplicate Sweeper... it would have taken forever!

For more information about Duplicate Sweeper, or to download the free trial:

Duplicate Sweeper homepage Delete duplicate files Mac with Duplicate Sweeper

3. Unused Apps- Uninstall Programs on Mac

Maybe unsurprisingly, apps on your Mac can be some of the largest files on your computer. Removing apps that you don’t use can free up a huge amount of space. Let’s list your apps by their files size:

Open Finder, then open the Applications section. Display the items as a list (using the button with 4 horizontal lines), then click the ‘Size’ header to reorder your applications by size. You can then work down the list and decide which applications you don’t use. Simply drag an application from the list into the Trash Can on your Dock to remove them.

Remember that you’ll need to empty your Trash Can to completely remove the applications from your Mac.

Uninstall Programs on Mac

4. Delete iTunes backups

Depending on the number of files, photos, messages etc that you have stored on your iPhone, iPod or iPad, it’s backup on your Mac can be huge.

Keeping backups of your devices is a good idea. If something was to happen to your device, your data can be restored to it (or another device) using your backup. However, these backup files can be massive, and you may never need them! For this reason, consider backing up your devices to iCloud instead – freeing up space on your Mac.

To set your device to backup to iCloud, go to Settings > (your name) > iCloud > iCloud Backup.
To initiate a backup, connect your device to a power source and also to a Wi-Fi network. Lastly, ensure that your device screen is locked and that you have enough free space in iCloud to store the backup.

How to delete backups on Mac - You can also delete the backups which you already have stored on your Mac. To do this, open iTunes and go to iTunes > Preferences > Devices. If you don’t need the backups in the list, select and delete them!

How to delete iTunes backups on Mac

Find out: where are iTunes backups stored?

Alternatively, if you don’t want to use iCloud for backing up your data, or if you only need certain data from your backups, you could use iBackup Extractor. This handy tool allows you to access and browse your backups, and extract any important photos, messages etc. that you need. You can save this data to your computer, then delete the backup from iTunes as seen above!

iBackup Extractor Mac

5. How to Delete Temporary Files on Mac

Temporary and cache are files that are stored locally in order to speed up processes. For example, images from a website that you visited can be cached, so that when you visit the page again, you don’t have to wait to download the images again, they are simply pulled in from the cache. That’s great for processes that you use regularly, but without care, your temporary and cached files can build up and eat away at your Mac’s performance.

Let’s see how to clear cache on mac – Open Finder > Go > hold ‘option’ and click ‘Library’ > Caches. Select and delete any cache files and folders that you don’t need to save space!


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