8 Tips on How to Free Up Space on Mac You Need to Know

By | May 3, 2022

Most MacBooks still ship with a small 128 GB SSD by default. And upgrading to a larger SSD costs hundreds of dollars.

If you are stuck with limited storage space, you need to be proactive. Check out these steps that you can take and then automate to free up valuable storage space on your Mac. This way, your Mac won’t give rise to fears. Your disk is almost full the next time you download a large file.

Empty Trash

Did you know that macOS doesn’t automatically remove items from the Trash? It’s possible you’re getting a few gigabytes of data just sitting in it.

In 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 even if there are special apps for recovering data on Mac.

Uninstall Apps You Don’t Use

If you’re the kind of person who reads tech websites, you might want to try out the new Mac apps just to see what they know. But it’s easy to remove them when you’re testing.

Start by noting what’s on your machine. You have to download an app called AppCleaner, ironically you have to download an app for this, but trust me, it’s worth it. AppCleaner is the best way to uninstall apps on Mac as it automatically deletes all the junk files associated with the app.

Open AppCleaner, browse the list, click on the app you don’t need, and hit the Delete button.

If you’re using macOS Sierra and up, you’ll be happy to know that macOS has built-in storage management features (which we’ll look at a few 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 Manage.

You will see several 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 Application button. You’ll see a list of all the apps, sorted by how much space they are taking up. Select one or more apps you want to remove and click Remove.

Apps and app data will be sent to Trash. Empty the Trash, and you’ve just got a significant amount of free space.

Find and Delete Large Files

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

The best way to reclaim most of the storage space is to delete some large files. Weeding through hundreds of small files takes 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 it and press the Delete button.

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

Once the big file is out of the way, it’s time to browse. A 1.5GB folder filled with photos you no longer need takes up as much space as 1.5GB videos, but is much harder to find.

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

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

The File Browser section is basically the Finder view of the storage management tool. You can browse the entire file storage system and find the file or folder you want to delete.

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Delete iTunes Files and iOS Backup

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

In the same way, you can delete data from the iTunes app from the iTunes section. Movies, TV shows, and audiobooks will be featured here.

Take a look at the Cloud Storage App

If you use the Dropbox or Google Drive apps to sync your Mac files to the cloud, see what’s actually stored in the cloud, and what’s on your Mac. By default, cloud sync services have a tendency to download all data to your Mac.

If you use Dropbox, switch to the Selective Sync feature. This lets you choose which folders to download to your Mac drive.

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

Optimize Storage in Photos App

If you’re paying for iCloud Drive tier 50GB or 200GB, consider using the Optimize Storage feature for the Photos app.

The Optimize Storage feature in Photos works exactly like it does on iPhone. Instead of keeping your entire iCloud Photo Library on the device, it will only store 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 few.

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

Store Desktop and Documents in iCloud

The Store in iCloud feature automatically backs up all data from your Desktop and Documents folders, and stores only the most recent files locally. When needed, you can download 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 the Documents folder, we recommend that you do not use this feature. But for most users, enabling this feature can free up a good amount of storage space.

To enable it, go to the Storage Management screen, and click the Save on iCloud button from the Recommendations section.

Automatically Using CleanMyMac X and Gemini 2

The manual cleaning method is effective (I was able to wipe more than 30GB using the steps described above), but doing it repeatedly becomes time consuming. And if you’re a Mac power user, you’ll probably need to do it every month.

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

CleanMyMac X’s sister app, Gemini 2, specializes in finding duplicates. It’s possible that you have two copies of the same photo (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 | $ one-time purchase)

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