Does your Mac run out of space frequently? You most likely have tried to remove some files and apps that you no longer needed but this problem keeps happening! You run out of space again and now you have run out of options on what to delete and what to keep.
Hey, I have been there so many times. I used to rely on a MacBook Air with only 128GB of storage for college a few years back and as you have guessed, I was freeing up space on my Mac as often as once or twice a week! Overtime I learned more tips to free up space on my Mac without necessarily deleting apps and files and often recovering more than 50GB of space.
Given that now I understand how frustrating this situation can be, I want and I'm ready to share with you my best and top 20 tips to free up space on your Mac.
Why is your Mac is running out of space?
That's the right question to ask. Before we go and discover every single way you can do to free up space on your Mac, we need to figure out why your Mac is running out of space first.
- Click on the Apple logo () on the top right and choose About this Mac.
- From the window, choose Storage, then Manage... .
This is System Information. In this case here, you will see in details where your storage is being used. The good thing with this, is that you have all your files categories as Applications, Documents, etc which makes it easy to see where the majority of your storage is being consumed. Let's do an example.
- From the list on the left, choose Documents.
- You should see all of your large files, but that's not the full story.
- Select the File Browser tab on the far right of the window.
- Here you will see all of the directories which contain your files including their size.
Here, you may notice that my Desktop directory is almost 60GB and the Downloads folder being almost 40GB and that's a big difference compared to the rest of the directories. Maybe something is going wrong there? Or, these directories could be ok and all of your directories are small in size, but your Other storage or your System Storage is just too big? That's absolutely fine, because this step was just a quick diagnosis to see what's up with your storage. Roughly what kind of files take too much storage.
Once you are ready, let's dive into my 20 tips on how to free up space on your Mac as soon as possible!
Mac cleaners, do they really get the job done?
Mac cleaners can help, but most of the Mac cleaners nowadays, offer a one-button solution, which is something that you are mostly going to use the cleaner, right? There are many good Mac cleaning applications out there, but almost all the good ones, only offer a free trial with some features. Some of them, only offer the scanning option in the free trial and you basically have to purchase the software in order to do the real job, so clean up your Mac. Of course, if you have the budget, it might be useful as a worst case scenario, but all my tips guarantee to not only help you free up space on your Mac, but also help you maintain a significant portion of your hard drive to be free in order to prevent slowing down your Mac and worry much less about your Mac from running low on storage without spending a single penny!
So, how to free up space on your Mac?
Here are the 20 best tips I could find and have been using for the past few years!
1. Identify large Apps you are no longer using
During college, you may be asked to download apps and programs which are necessary to move forward with your studies. However, when you graduate, you no longer need them. The good news are that if you have paid for a software and you delete it, you can still downloaded for free as you have already paid for, as long as you still have the login information and the license noted down. If you have bought large apps form the App Store, you can download them on any Mac as long as you are logged in to your account.
Here is how to find the top Apps consuming most of your storage:
- From the System Information window as we saw earlier, click on Applications from the list on the left.
- Sort the list by size.
- Look at the applications one by one and check whether you need this app or not.
- If you no longer need an app, then select it and click on Delete... at the bottom right.
- From the prompt, click Delete.
- The app has been removed from your Mac.
Of course, if you don't want to delete your apps, but instead you would like to keep it, then I highly recommend you to at least move it to an external hard drive. In case you are looking for options for external hard drives, then feel free to check my other article showing my top choices for external hard drives to buy in 2021!
2. Identify large files in your Mac
Of course, not only apps consume a lot of space on your Mac, but also other large files which you may have downloaded or created overtime. You may be surprised to see files you no longer need, which consume so much space which you didn't even think they existed. That way, I freed up about 10GB of space by deleting large useless files in my system!
- From the System Information window as we saw earlier, click on Documents from the list on the left.
- By default, you will see a list of all of your largest files in the directory, to see everything in more details, select File Browser.
- Choose the directory consuming the most space.
- Within the directory, check the largest files and delete the ones you no longer need.
Of course, you may find files that you never thought they were there. Also, you could find files that are large enough, but you don't want to get rid of them, but move them somewhere else outside your computer, for instance, to an external storage device.
Now once you have done that, repeat the same process by opening other directories within Documents, for instance, the Downloads folder, Movies, etc. You may have some large files there that you no longer need.
3. Optimize storage be deleting purchased movies
If you have purchased movies via iTunes and you have watched them, then you can delete them all at once. Although it's great to keep the movies and TV shows you have watched in your collection, but mostly, you're going to watch a movie once, correct? Don't worry. You can always re-download your purchased movies without having to pay for them again.
- On System Information, choose Recommendations.
- Click on the Optimize... button.
- From the dialog box, click on Optimize.
Now all of the movies and TV shows you have downloaded will be removed to save space. Depending on how many movies you have purchased, this will free some space in your disk. If you haven't downloaded any movies or TV shows, then this step will likely not help much. Don't worry though, we have so much to discuss and so many tips left for your to try!
4. Delete installer .dmg and .pkg files
Once you download a new application from the internet (outside the app store), it's very likely they will be download in the format of disk image file (.dmg) or package file (.pkg). Once you install the application, you no longer need these files and they are only consuming extra space if you are not planning to transfer these files to another computer and install the applications there.
- From System Information, go to Documents and open the Downloads directory.
- Scroll down and right click on every .dmg or .pkg files you find and select move to Bin.
- Repeat this for every .dmg or .pkg file within the Downloads directory.
- Go to the Bin and delete immediately all the files.
This tips may seem like you are not doing anything productive because each file may occupy a few MB's or every a few hundreds of MB's. But deleting multiple of those, you may end up freeing up a few gigs of your hard drive!
5. Move photos and videos to an external hard drive
If you are a big fan of taking many photos and videos with your phone, you most likely be storing your photos on your Mac too, to save space on your phone. If that's the case, then there's a big potential to save more space on your hard drive by moving your photos library to an external hard drive.
- Open to Finder and from the menu bar, click on "Go" and then select Go to folder.
- On the input box, type "~/Pictures" and hit enter.
- On the Finder window, you should see a "Photos Library" file.
- Drag and drop the Photos library to your external hard drive to copy it.
- Delete the Photos library file from your computer.
If you have a lot of photos and videos stored on your computer, then this should release a lot of free space on your Mac. In my case, it freed up 67.3GB of space.
In case you are wondering how to access your photo library from your external hard drive, here is how to do it.
- Launch the Photos app by going to Finder > Applications.
- You should get a dialog Photos cannot find the System Photo Library named “Photos Library.photoslibrary”. Click on Open Other... .
- From the "Choose Library" window, click on "Open Library".
- Open your External Hard Drive and drag and drop the Photos Library which you have just copied pasted on your external hard drive to the Finder window and press on Open.
- The Photos app should now read, update your library and then open it.
Here's our top recommendation for an external hard drive to hold your photos:
6. Upload high-quality photos to iCloud
If you haven't yet used your free 5GB of iCloud storage yet, then now it's the time! there's a trick which you can use with iCloud where your Mac automatically uploads high-quality images on iCloud and keeps the same photos on your Mac, but with a lower resolution. Whenever you are viewing your photos and you are connected to the internet, the high resolution will be downloaded at real time. This method reduces the size of your photos stored on your Mac dramatically, allowing you to not only store more photos, but also save more space on your hard drive!
This step assumes that you haven't followed step 5 and your photo library is still stored in your Mac.
- Open the Photos app.
- From the menu bar on the top, select Photos then choose Preferences.
- On preferences, choose the iCloud tab.
- Make sure the iCloud Photos and Shared Albums boxes are checked and the Optimized Mac Storage options is selected.
Now all images (until iCloud space runs out) in the Photos app will be uploaded and the lower resolution alternatives will remain on your Mac. Whenever you view an image, the full resolution image will be downloaded at that time. Pretty cool feature, eh? This should release a few MBs or even GBs of space, depending on how many photos you have stored on your Mac.
7. Move any other large programs/apps/files to your external hard drive
If you have an external hard drive laying around in your place, then this could be a good idea to find all the large files and programs, which you are not using that often, to move them to your external hard drive. This could be applications you have downloaded from the App Store, games, and large projects.
- Open System Information, and this time, go to Applications.
- Sort by size from the largest to smallest.
- Select the app you would like to move to your external hard drive and click on Show in Finder.
- Drag and drop the app selected on finder to your external hard drive.
- Launch and run the application from your external hard drive to test if it works.
- Delete the application from your computer by going back to System Information and with the app selected, right click and select Delete... .
While that's only part of the story, you may have other large files which you don't need much but you still want to keep them. You may do a further inspection by going to Documents and click on File Browser again. Here you can dig into all the directories and identify all the large files you have. Then click on Show in Finder to get to the Finder location of the file and move it to your external hard drive. Remember to delete the app from your computer after the transfer is done.
8. Remove songs and Music collection you no longer need
If you love music, then chances are that you have a big library with hundreds or even thousands of songs in it. Though each song can consume a few MB's but don't let that fool you! Adding up all the songs, this can yield a few Gigs of space. While going through every single song you have, you can always begin by deleting your Music Collection from GarageBand.
- From System Information, select Music Collection.
- Click on Remove GarageBand Sound Library.
- From the dialog box, click on Remove.
Now all of your GarageBand Sound library will be removed from your Mac. Of course, you can always re-download the sound library to GarageBand later. If you have never used GarageBand before and you are not planning to, then you won't need to worry about re-installing the sound library in the near future.
Similarly, If you have too many songs in the Music app (iTunes formerly), then an idea could be to move it to your external hard drive, or to use an external app like Spotify. Because I rarely leave my office space, I tend to listen to music by creating a playlist on Youtube and let it play on the background.
- From System Information, select Music.
- Click on the Open Music button.
- This will open Music and show all the songs you have currently downloaded (or purchased) in your computer.
- Right click on any songs you no longer want and click on Delete from Library.
How to store iTunes Music to external hard drive?
If you music library is just way to big, you can move your Music library to your external hard drive and play it only when you connect your external hard drive to your Mac. This can also work perfectly with just a USB stick. Here are the steps to achieve this...
- Open Finder.
- On the menu bar on the top, select Go and click on Go to Folder... .
- In the input box, type ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media.
- This will take you to the iTunes Media directory where all iTunes music related files are located here. Your music library is inside the Music folder.
- Connect your external hard drive (or USB) to your computer.
- On your external drive and drag and drop the Music folder to copy all your music to your external hard drive.
- Delete the Music folder from your computer by moving it to the Bin.
- Open Finder, then go to Applications > Utilities and launch Terminal.
- In terminal, type
ln -s. Keep in mind that there's a space after the
- Now select and drag the Music folder which you just copied to your external hard drive.
- Go back to the iTunes media directory on Finder and press the cmd ⌘ & up arrow keys from your keyboard to go one directory back.
- Drag the iTunes Media folder and drop it in terminal.
- Now on Terminal, hit the enter key on your keyboard.
This has created a link for the Music directory which actually points to your external hard drive, where the Music app, thinks that your music is stored in your computer. By linking folders, it's a great way to move your Music libraries and backups to your external hard drive which of course, can save tens of gigs from your hard drive.
While this step deserves to be an article by itself, I am currently writing an article for this and making a video which will be linked here as soon as it's done!
9. Backup iPhone to your external hard drive
If you are an iPhone user, then it's very likely that you have done some backups to it. Backups are super important to be done regularly in case something happens in your iPhone and you lose all of your data.
While I have created a whole article and video about this step, I am happy to link it here and of course, include the video which shows this process step by step. This not only will show you how to backup your iPhone to your external hard drive, but also how to move all your existing iPhone backups to your external hard drive!
Here's how to backup your iPhone to your external hard drive step by step.
10. Delete old emails you no longer need
If you are using your emails a lot, then chances are that your emails inbox is already consuming too many GB's of your space. The good news are that you most likely don't need your very old emails. If you have been receiving emails since 2013 for example, then do you still need your emails from 2013 to 2019?
If you still want to have your older emails, then the best thing you can do, is to remove your account from the Mail app. This will delete all the emails in the inbox from the Mail app, but keep them on the server.
By either deleting your emails or removing your account from the Email app and use the online version of Gmail/Yahoo etc, then you're making your Mac a huge favor!
10.1 Here's how to delete your old emails on the Mail app
10.2 Here's how to disconnect/remove your account from your Email app
- Open the Mail app.
- From the menu bar, select Mail and click on Preferences.
- Click on the Accounts tab.
- Select the account you would like to remove and press on the minus "-" button on the bottom.
- If you see a button saying "Internet Accounts", click on it. This means that this email account is linked to the iCloud Keychain.
- This will open you Internet accounts connected to your Mac.
- Select again the account you want to remove from Mail and press on the minus "-" button on the bottom.
- From the dialog box, press on OK.
This will disconnect and delete all your emails from the Mail app. Keep in mind that this won't delete all your emails from the server, so if you login to your account on the web, you will still have all of your emails.
10.3 Delete Junk Emails
Same place in your inbox, you most likely be receiving multiple junk emails. While it's helpful to check your Junk emails before deleting them and see if you have gotten an email from someone you know or emails which are not scams, the vast majority of the emails need to be deleted.
- Right click on All Inboxes.
- From the dropdown, click on Erase Junk Mail... .
- From the dialog window, click on Erase.
- Again right click on All Inboxes and this time, click on Erase Deleted Mail... .
- From the dialog window, click on Erase.
Now all your junk and deleted emails will be gone and hopefully a few to a few hundreds of MB's will be released from your hard drive!
11. Delete email attachments
When someone sends you an attachment within an email and you download it, it stays in your hard drive. Chances are, you only need to look at the attachment for one purpose and then you no longer need it. Why keep files from email attachments later if you no longer need them? You can always re-download the attachments from the server at any time.
Large attachment sent to you via Mail Drop, will expire after 30 days.
How to delete email attachments in Finder?
- Open Finder.
- From the top menu bar, click on Go and select Go to Folder... .
- In the input box, type "~/Library/Containers/com.apple.mail/Data/Library/Mail Downloads/".
- Press Go.
This should take you in Finder and you should see lots of folders which contains email attachments.
- Open each folder and check the attachments it contains.
- If you are happy to delete it, move the folder to the Bin and delete it.
How to prevent Email attachments from being downloaded automatically on your Mac?
- Open the Mail app.
- From the top menu bar, click on Mail and select Preferences... .
- Click on the Accounts tab.
- Choose each email account from the list.
- Next to "Download Attachments", choose the "None" option.
This will prevent to automatically download the email attachment and only download it when you request it.
12. Reduce System and Other files size
This probably may be your biggest concern in your Mac. The more you use your Mac, the taller the pile of the System and Other section in System Information will be. Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do manually to reduce the size, other than following step 10, because doing so, you could ruin the filesystem of the OS (Operating System, so MacOS in this case) and cause many problems and issues.
The best and fastest way to reduce the size, is to update your Mac to the latest available MacOS Version. If you are not looking to update to the latest major MacOS release, then you can still update to the latest MacOS update in your current MacOS version. For instance, if you are currently on MacOS Monterey 12.0, be sure to update to the latest MacOS Monterey update.
In my case, I updated my Mac from MacOS Big Sur, to MacOS Monterey and I got over 100GB of free space which were occupied by the System.
13. Use an external storage for editing videos
If you are editing videos and you are using Final Cut Pro X (FCPX), then make sure to follow this step. Given that FCPX tends to store large render and cache files to ensure editing is fast and responsive, even with large 4K video files, it consumes a lot of storage and even a single project with 4K video files, could cause FCPX to occupy more than 100GB of storage!
Now that's done, every future project will store cache and render files to your external hard drive.
Furthermore, you may ask, what do I do with the current cache and render files my previous FCPX projects have created? Here's how to delete them:
This will begin removing all the cache and render files that FCPX has generated. Don't worry, none of your projects footage will be deleted!
14. Clear app cache files periodically
While you are keep using your computer, the apps and programs you are using, are creating files and configuration files. These files not only accumulate too much space in your hard drive, but also cause your applications to run slower over time or even crash due to the complexity of the multiple files after a long period of time. This tip was also included in the top tips to speed up your slow mac guide.
Do NOT delete the folders themselves under
15. Delete Browser Cache
Who wouldn't spend hours using the web on their computer? Unless you are using your Mac solely for gaming, you'll be opening multiple websites where your browser wants to help you launch the websites as fast as possible next time, by storing cache configuration files. Of course, as we discussed in step 10, these cache files can end up being way to complex and cause the websites sometimes to load slower.
15.1. If you are using Google Chrome
- Click the three dot icon at the top right.
- Click on More tools and then, select Clear browsing data... .
- Choose a time range (I would go with "all time") to clear the browsing data.
- Check the box next to “Cached images and files” and "Browsing History" and "Cookies and other Data". *
- Click on "Clear data" to clear all the cache.
* The "Cookies and other sites data" box will remove all logins and sign ups from the websites which you are currently logged in and you will need to re-enter your credentials to login again to every website. If you think that you have lost some login information, then skip this checkbox.
15.2. If you are using Safari
- Launch Safari
- From the menu bar on the top, click Develop.
- Click on Empty Caches.
This will clear up all your cache data and depending on how much you use the web, you may free up to half to 1 GB of space off your hard drive.
16. Archive directories you rarely use
If you have folders with multiple files such as presentations, documents etc from college or high school, then chances are that you are not going to use the files within it that often. The good news are that you can compress this folder to reduce its overall size.
- Open Finder and go to Documents.
- Select a folder which contains files you rarely use (press on the command key and click on multiple folders if needed)
- Right click and choose compress.
You will notice a new files with a zip-like icon. This is the compressed file of the folder(s). Whenever you are looking to use any files within it, double click on it and the directories will open up again without any changes in the files and the file structure.
17. Delete Time Machine local snapshots
If you have enabled Time Machine, then you must have noticed that Time Machine is doing backups periodically (every 1 hour). While backups are being done in the background to your external hard drive, Time Machine is also creating snapshot files in your Mac which are kept for 24 hours. This is a good strategy in case you would like to recover the state of your Mac, say 2 hours back. Say that you have done some thing bad on your Mac (you corrupted a file) and you just want to go back in time. This is where local snapshots will help you go a few hours back in time. Of course, this can be an additional cause for having low free space on your Mac.
- Open Finder and go to Applications > Utilities and launch Terminal.
- Type the command tmutil listlocalsnapshots /
- This will show all the local snapshots created by Time Machine in the last 24 hours.
- To delete them:
sudo tmutil deletelocalsnapshotsto delete a single snapshot. For example,
sudo tmutil deletelocalsnapshots 2021-12-01-124512will delete the com.apple.TimeMachine.2021-12-01-124512.local snapshot.
for d in $(tmutil listlocalsnapshotdates | grep "-"); do sudo tmutil deletelocalsnapshots $d; doneto delete all the snapshots at once.
- Remember to hit enter once you type the above commands.
For me, this released about 10GB of storage, but it can release even more storage, depending on how big your storage in size is.
18. Delete other languages in your Mac
Unless you are bilingual or trilingual, you most likely will use your Mac in English or in your mother tongue. I always use my Mac in English, despite (almost) not being my first language. This should release hundreds of MBs of space.
Please, keep in mind that some users may experience problems and crashes when apps come with more languages which they have deleted. Please, follow this step in your own risk!
- Download the Monolingual app and install it.
- The app should open. Uncheck all languages you don't want to get rid of and leave the languages you would like to remove checked.
- Once ready, press on Remove... .
Now unwanted languages will be removed from your Mac. Hopefully some more space has been released!
19. Use free 3rd party software (CCleaner)
At this point, you may feel like you have tried whatever you could to free as much space as possible. But what if I told you that there are actually some free 3rd party utility programs which can help you to release some free space on your hard drive for free?
To be honest, almost every paid Mac cleaner app would help you follow all tips I gave you and perform them much faster and even do some parts with a single click. Of course, the point of this guide is to ensure that every step is free of cost and can be done from home.
Download CCleaner for Mac
CCleaner has been a free and simple utility app for Windows for many years with purpose to free up some space on your hard drive. Not only has been reliable for so long, but also my favorite for many years.
- Download CCleaner here and install it.
- Follow the instructions to allow CCleaner to access your hard drive.
- Once ready, click on the Analyze button and let CCleaner analyze your hard drive.
CCleaner will analyze your hard drive and look for files which can easily be deleted. These files are: browser caches, history, download history, cookies etc. While we have dealt with browser caches, there is still lots of cache hidden under different browsers that we may need to deal with. Once CCleaner is done analyzing, press on the Run cleaner button.
As you can see, in my case, it found about 2GB of storage which could be removed.
20. Empty your Bin (I mean it)
When you delete files or move them to the Bin, they actually are not deleted. They stay in your bin in case you change your mind to recover it. Thing is that, if you don't empty your Bin, you are not releasing any space in your hard drive. If you followed the first few tips, and you saw no change in your free space, that must be the reason.
If your files are still in your Bin, it's a good time to check all your files again in there and have a final thought if you still want to get rid of them.
- Right click on the Bin icon by moving your mouse to the bottom of your screen.
- From the dropdown menu, choose Empty Bin.
- A dialog box should appear. click on Empty Bin again.
All of your files in the Bin should be now deleted. Note that once the Bin has been emptied, you can no longer recover your deleted files.
Phew! So many steps and so many tips to follow, but I am sure you have managed to not only freed up space on your Mac, but also learned new tips and ways to keep your occupied storage to as low as possible. The key is to only consume as much space as you need and keep your Mac functioning as best as it should.
In any case you are also looking for ways to speed up your Mac, I have written another detailed guide which includes every single tip I have been using and could find to get your Mac up to top potential speed.
While this article took me a while to write, I enjoyed every single minute writing it. Hence, I would like to hear from you. Which tip was the most effective and how much space did you manage to free up after following this guide? Please let me know in the comment section below and I will congratulate you!
If you have any further tip, please don't forget to leave it down in the comment section as well and I will make sure to include it, if it can help this guide to become better.
In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!