How to clear disk space on mac

Robby Fester, 16 January 2018

It’s quite normal to encounter such a problem as a full startup disk. To tell you the truth, this is one of the most popular problems among Mac users. The latest Mac models come with only 128 GB of space, which means very soon you will notice that your startup drive is full. Therefore, if you’ve already purchased or plan to buy a PC, do not be stingy and buy an external hard drive or any secondary storage device. There, you could store all your photos, videos, music, movies, and other necessary files.

Now, let’s figure out what to do when Mac says startup disk is full. Today, we will present you several effective ways to free up space and make your Mac work better.

Reasons to Free up Disk Space

Each time the start-up disk (a.k.a. currently used one) achieves its full capacity, there is nothing left except for making clean hard drive Mac. No empty space left means you would not be able to download new music or videos until you solve this problem. Perhaps, you have already read a useful Apple support article on start-up and other disks. Further in this article, we’ll focus on fixing the described trouble.

Start with having a look at your hard drive disk, when it’s almost full. To discover what is the main cause for your startup disk full Macbook air, first click on the Apple icon in the opened menu at the upper-left corner. About This Mac is the required function. Move to Storage. If you’re using a system different from OS X Yosemite, don’t forget about clicking More Info before moving to the Storage.

In order to “refresh” your startup disk full Macbook pro, clean up cache files. It will take up to 30 minutes. These files are responsible for making Mac programs function smoothly. In some period of time, these files start overtaking too much space. Once you delete these old caches, new files will be downloaded. ~/Library/Caches is the only folder you’ll need to apply when doing this procedure.

Do This When Your Mac Startup Disk is Full

Manual disk cleaning is a time-consuming process, so you can take advantage of new technology, precisely of different Mac cleaning tools. For example, MacFly Pro is a nice solution when you need to deal with a full Mac hard drive. This useful cleaning software boosts Mac’s performance by removing all unnecessary files including cache, duplicates, temporary files, language files, downloads, and unwanted applications. It also has a user-friendly design and guarantees full optimization of your Mac. So, if you don’t have time for manual cleaning, don’t forget about those helpful cleaners.

1. Empty the Trash

The first option that comes to mind is to empty the Trash. Usually, people forget to empty their Trash cans from time to time, which may lead to gigabytes of junk occupying space on a hard disk. To prevent this situation, remember to clear out your Trash several times a week.

Empty your Trash quickly and easily

To do this, go to the Finder, and then press Command-Shift-Delete.

2. Clean the Desktop and Downloads folder

The second step to do when your Mac startup disk is full is to clear out Downloads folder and your Desktop. They usually contain a large amount of data and quickly accumulate a lot of files that you should get rid of. First of all, how can you find your Downloads folder?

There are two ways: you can do it through the Finder of through your menu. In the first case, click on the Finder icon > find the Downloads folder on the left-hand Sidebar > if it’s not there click on the Go menu at the top of your screen and choose Downloads. In the latter case, click on the Finder > Go menu > choose Go to Folder > in the window that appears type in ~/Downloads.

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Once you’ve found the Downloads folder, it’s time to clean it up. Here you also have two options: if you want to delete all the files in this folder press Command+A. Or you can choose your downloads one at a time and remove them by dragging into the Trash. This way you can keep those that you still need or that are important for your computer performance.

Keep your Downloads folder organized by Date Modified or Date Last Opened

A lot of people have messy and cluttered Desktops not even thinking that it can take up a significant amount of the startup disk space. To avoid this, you should clean icons and other unnecessary documents on your desktop on the regular basis. All you have to do is to drag them to the Trash. After that don’t forget to emty the Trash bin to get rid of the files completely.

3. Check out Your Movies Folder

The movies folder is another great file storage that takes much space on the hard drive. To open it, you should go to Users/YourUserName and then tap on the Movies folder. After that, press Command-I and in the upper right corner of the window you will see how much space this particular folder occupies.

Movies folder is a great file storage

Of course, there are many media files you need, like for example, movies or videos that you downloaded but forgot to watch. Therefore, drag-and-drop to the Trash any files that you’re sure you don’t need anymore and do not forget to empty your Trash.

4. Clear up Pictures, Music, and Apps

Another way to clean your full hard disk on Mac is to clean up music, pictures, and applications. Folders with your images (iPhoto or Photoshop data), audiobooks, music, games, and mobile apps usually take up much space on a startup disk, just as that Movies folder. So firstly, try to sort all your media carefully by size so that you will see the greatest storage space eaters. Secondly, don’t hesitate and move files, especially mobile apps and games, that you haven’t even tried to the external drive or Trash. And also, try to prioritize correctly and not download everything that attracts you.

5. Remove Cache

Cache files are not actually harmful to your hard drive or Mac, but they accumulate so fast that you’ll soon face slowdowns and lags. To avoid any inconveniences, I recommend you to dispose of them. There are three different types of cache – user, system, and browser cache, and all of them should be cleaned from time to time.

To do this manually, you need to open the Finder app, hold down the Option key, and then tap “Go” in the menu bar. Next, you click on the hidden user Library folder to find the “Caches” folder. After that, you may sort the folders by size to detect the biggest folders.

Remember to delete temporary files from your Mac

If you find it difficult to delete cache files manually, download a free cleaning application that will care of your Mac.

6. Scan Your Mac

The last step to follow if you notice your Mac drive is full is to scan the system after you complete all the operations mentioned above. This will not only speed the PC up but also contribute to your macOS security.

To run a scanning, you may have a try of some cleaning tools like MacFly Pro. So that in the future you don’t ask about “What to do if your startup disk is full on Mac?”.

How to Check Available Disk Space

To check how much space you are using for different categories such as audio, movies, photos and applications, select About This Mac from the Apple Menu, click the More Info button followed by the Storage tab. A summary of each category is shown, which may help you to decide how best to reclaim disk space.

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About this Mac, Space is available on your hard disk, Mac OS X, About This Mac shows how much space is available on your hard disk

2. Uninstall Unused Applications

Applications can take up large amounts of space. For example, Pages is 266 MB and iPhoto a whopping 1.1 GB. Uninstalling applications in Mac OS X couldn’t be simpler – just delete the application by moving its icon to the Trash. In Lion it’s made even easier – open Launchpad and hold down the Option key until the icons wiggle, then just click the small white “x” icon that appears next to any app that was installed from the App Store. Note that there may be a few preferences files left behind by uninstalled apps, most of which can be found in the ~/ Library / Preferences folder and safely deleted.

Deleting unused applications is easy in Mac OS XDeleting unused applications is easy in Mac OS X

3. Find and Remove Large Files

To find particularly large files on your Mac’s hard disk, the quickest way is to use Finder:

  1. Open a new Finder window
  2. In the search field just enter a space asterisk this will ensure that all items are included
  3. Click on the little + icon located just below the search field
  4. Change filter #1 to File Size. Click on the drop-down menu and choose Other. Locate the File Size item and hit OK
  5. Change filter #2 to is greater than
  6. Enter the size you want to search for in the adjacent text field (for example 5 MB) and change filter #3 to either MB or GB as appropriate

Finder displays all the files matching the criteria you’ve entered. You can also choose Save to create a smart folder of such items and add it to Finder’s sidebar, so you can find large files more quickly next time.

When you’ve located the largest files on your Mac’s disk you might choose to compress, delete, or copy them to an external drive.

Finder locate large filesUse Finder to locate large files

4. Empty Application Caches and Preferences

Some applications use caches to store various bits of information, but these files can grow very large over time and consume valuable disk space. A typical example is Safari which has an Internet cache to save it re-downloading content from frequently visited websites. Most applications store their caches in one of the following two folders:

  • The systemwide cache folder at // Macintosh HD / Library / Caches
  • Your local user’s cache folder at  / Library / Caches

Cache files can be safely deleted, because an application will just create a new one when needed.

Empty application cache SafariEmpty application caches, such as the one in Safari

5. Delete Old and Unwanted Media Files

Delete Files iTunesDelete old media that you don’t want to keep

Pruning your media libraries is a great way to save space. Start by checking if there are any duplicates in iTunes (choose Display Duplicates from the File menu) and then delete any you don’t want. In iPhoto, keep only your best pictures and delete the ones that you really aren’t ever going to view again, or simply move them to an external disk or burn to DVD.

In iTunes, create a smart playlist to show all the old content that you haven’t played in aeons (or items you’ve rated as 1 or 2 stars) and decide which ones to keep. Songs typically take up several megabytes each, so it’s possible to free up quite a lot of space this way.

smart smart playlist delete old iTunes media filesUse a smart playlist to locate old iTunes media files

It’s also possible to use Finder to located old or particularly large media files.

6. Compress and Archive Old Files

Any files you’ve identified as too large or old can be deleted or compressed. Compressing a file will normally reduce the disk space it needs, so you might then decide to keep it on your hard disk or move to external storage. Either way, it’ll free up some space depending on the type of file – for example, compressing text documents can reduce the space they take up considerably, whereas images and movies are usually compressed already so you won’t gain much by trying to reduce them in size even further.

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Fortunately, Mac OS X already includes the Zip built-in file compression utility:

  • Select the files and folders you want to compress
  • Right-click and choose Compress Items to create a Zip file archive

Then you can delete the original, uncompressed file.

7. Archive Emails and Remove Attachments

The number of emails in Mail and the disk space they need can grow enormously over time, especially because mails with attachments can be very large indeed. Old emails can be archived and attachments removed to save space.

To archive an email:

  1. Select the email(s) you want to archive
  2. Right-click and choose Archive

The selected emails are moved to the Archive mailbox for the account in use.

Archive old emails Mail OS XArchive old emails

To help keep the size of your mailbox as small as possible, remove attachments from messages and save them to local folders on your Mac, which can then be dealt with in the normal manner (i.e. compressed, deleted, or moved to an external disk).

To remove attachments from email:

  1. Select the email(s) you want to remove attachments from
  2. From the Message menu, choose Remove Attachments

Remove attachments messages in Mail OS XRemove attachments messages in Mail OS X

8. Clear Out Old Junk Regularly

If you have more disk space than you’ll ever need, you can keep old files on your Mac without any problems. However, periodically clearing out your old and unused files, media, and applications is a good habit to get into. Your Mac should also be more responsive (because Spotlight won’t need to index so many files) and it’ll mean you’ve got the maximum space available at all times.

A few more tips to remember are:

  1. Regularly scan the Documents folder within your Home Folder and delete/compress/archive items you never use
  2. Clear out the Downloads folder regularly as it tends to fill up over time

9. Delete Duplicate Files

You’ve probably got lots of duplicate files on your Mac without even realising. This could include identical iTunes content and other media, as well as identical files that simply have different filenames. There are a few ways to remove duplicates:

  1. Download a third-party app from the Mac App Store
  2. Use Finder
  3. Use a command or script in Terminal

10. Delete iTunes Album Artwork

iTunes album artwork can occupy several hundred megabytes of disk space. If you don’t mind not having the album artwork visible, it can be deleted as follows:

  1. In the Library section on the left, choose Music (or Films, TV Programmes, etc) and select all items using CMD + A
  2. Select Get Info from the File menu, or just CMD + I and choose Yes when prompted if you want to edit multiple items
  3. A window appears with various options. Under the main Info tab, click the Artwork box in the lower right corner and tick the unlabelled checkbox next to it. Hit OK, and all your album artwork will be removed

Note that iTunes may also be slightly more responsive when scrolling through the library, because it won’t have to display the artwork.

Remove iTunes ArtworkiTunes artwork can use hundreds of megabytes

Top tip: CleanMyMac 3 can perform almost all the tips in this post freeing up a great deal of disk space painlessly – Clean My Mac 3 is available as a FREE download here.

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