Is your Mac’s storage space running low? If so, you are not alone. MacBooks tend to have hard drives become full quickly. This can make Apple’s recent offering of their newer Macs with double to quadruple the storage enticing. But don’t go swiping your card just yet.
Let me share some quick and easy ways to free up space on Mac without spending a dime. Let’s start with the basics!
How to check your Mac’s storage space
Before I tell you how to clear space on MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, you should know how much storage is left on your machine and how much you’re currently using.
To do this, go to the Apple menu → About This Mac → click the Storage tab.
Here you’ll see a storage bar with segments representing categories of files like Apps, Music, Documents, iOS files, and more. You can hover your cursor over each segment to learn how much space they take up.
Knowing what eats your storage space can give you insight on how to free up space on MacBook Pro or Air. However, a simple select-and-delete won’t get you that far. Read along to learn how to free up storage space!
How to clear space on MacBook Air or Pro
Below are tips to reclaim some of your drive space to make your Mac run faster again.
- Optimize storage space
- Deleted unneeded or unused media
- Clean up the Downloads folder
- Remove users
- Stop sharing files between users
- Delete unneeded emails
- Use an external storage
- Uninstall apps
- Compress files you infrequently use
- Find and remove duplicate files
- Clear temporary files
- Delete unused language files
- Clean your desktop
- Delete old backups
- Delete system junk
1. Optimize storage space
Apple has a built-in utility that helps you optimize your storage space. These features are stored within the storage management window. To access them, go to the Apple menu → About This Mac. Select the Storage tab → click Manage. Under Recommendations, you’ll see four features:
I. Store in iCloud
iCloud is a handy external storage space that helps clear space on your MacBook while ensuring that you can easily access your files using your devices. The feature allows you to store all the files saved on your Desktop and Documents, your Photos, and Messages.
When your Mac is low on storage, your Mac keeps only your recently opened files and space-saving versions of your photos to free up as much local space as needed.
II. Optimize Storage
We know how huge videos and TV shows are, especially in HD. This feature helps you save space by automatically removing your purchased shows and movies after you’re done watching them. You can always download them again.
It also keeps your recent mail attachments to prevent bulky attachments from cluttering your drive, especially when you need that extra storage space.
III. Reduce Clutter
This feature helps you find the largest files, books, movies, apps, and other items that take a considerable space on your drive and allows you to locate where they are stored and manually delete them.
IV. Empty Trash Automatically
While many of us habitually delete clutter on our desktop, only a few permanently delete items from the Trash, causing it to accumulate. This feature automatically erases items in the Trash for more than 30 days.
You can also select an item and press Control + Delete if you want to delete an item on the spot permanently.
Note: Recommendations you see vary based on how you’ve set your app and iCloud preferences.
You may refer to the available space at the window’s top to see how much disk space you’re reclaiming.
2. Deleted unneeded or unused media
Be sure to delete files you no longer need. For example, you may want to look for and delete .dmg files on your Downloads folder after you’ve installed the apps they contain.
To delete files, folders, or apps, control-click the item → Move to Trash.
You may also want to remove the podcasts that you’re done listening to. To do this:
- Open Podcasts → select Downloaded on the sidebar.
- Select a podcast and click the More (…) button beside it.
- Choose Remove Download.
The process is similar to removing downloaded songs from Apple Music.
3. Clean up the Downloads folder
The Downloads folder is another place where you can find many unnecessary files.
Aside from all the miscellaneous things you download, it contains all the files you’ve automatically and unknowingly downloaded and the apps installer from the apps you installed on your device.
Open the Downloads folder → control-click the files you want to delete → select Move to Trash.
4. Remove users
If you’ve set your Mac for multiple users, you can remove users that you no longer want to give access to your Mac. Be sure to check the Users folder on your Macintosh HD to see if there are any undeleted files from the previous users.
5. Stop sharing files between users
Aside from removing users, you should also check the Users folder on your Macintosh HD to see if there are shared files that you no longer need access to or no longer need to share.
6. Delete unneeded emails
If you’ve kept your email for a long time, there is a big chance that your mail is eating plenty of storage space. While emails themselves do not often clog your storage, attachments do. Once you open them, these attachments stay on your Mac unless you delete them.
- Open Mail → Preferences.
- Select the General tab → select After Message is Deleted next to Remove unedited downloads.
To delete junk mail:
- Go to Mail → Preferences.
- Click the Accounts tab → choose Mailbox Behaviors.
- Below Erase junk messages, set a time to delete junk mail automatically.
To delete mail you’ve already sent to Trash, control-click Inbox → Erase Deleted Items.
7. Use an external storage
You can also use external devices like hard drives or USB drives to offload your MacBook’s heavy data that you can’t delete. Here are the best external USB-C Mac hard drive and USB-C external SSDs for your MacBook.
Alternatively, you may use other cloud-based storage services like Google Drive or Dropbox.
💡Tip: You may want to use cloud storage apps for your iPhone or iPad instead of dumping your device’s data on your Mac.
8. Uninstall apps
If you’re like me, you probably download a free app to try it once and never use it again. Sadly, these apps take space. There are various ways to uninstall apps on Mac.
9. Compress files you infrequently use
If you’re short on space, compressing files or zipping them lets you save a little space without the need to delete them. To compress files on your Mac, control-click the file or files you want to compress → select Compress on the contextual menu.
10. Find and remove duplicate files
Duplicates are inevitable. We repeatedly download attachments and photos, make too many copies of the same documents and files, and place them everywhere on our Macs. However, duplicate files cause confusion and consume disk space and clutter your backup.
There are several third-party apps and built-in tools that you can use to get rid of duplicate files on your Mac.
11. Clear temporary files
If you’re a heavy internet user, you likely have tons of temporary files on your hard drive. Caches contain files from the web pages, so they would load faster the next time you visit them. They’re not entirely bad. However, excessive cache files can significantly reduce your storage space and slow down your Mac.
To locate and clear temporary files, open Finder → click the Go tab → Go to Folder. Type ~/Library/Caches → click Go. This will lead you to the cache folder. Select from the folders and delete cache files manually.
Safari also has a built-in feature that allows you to clear your Mac’s cache, history, and website data. To remove your Chrome’s cache:
- Open Chrome → click the More (…) button at the top right.
- Click More Tools → Clear Browsing Data.
- Select a time range that you want to clear → select Clear Data.
To clear Firefox’s cache:
- Open Firefox → Preferences.
- Click the Privacy and Security panel.
- Go to Cookies and Site Data → click Clear Data.
12. Delete unused language files
Apple has been doing a great job expanding its language support for its features like Translate and Visual Lookup. Each of these languages comes with language files.
Since you’re likely using just one language on your Mac, you may want to remove extra language files on your Mac. You can use third-party cleaning software to do the job or delete them manually.
Note: Deleting language files will affect your user experience. You will have to reinstall the app should you want to change the language. You may also need to reinstall your device’s macOS if you change the language of Apple’s default apps.
To remove unused language files:
- Go to Finder → Applications.
- Control-click an app → select Show Package Contents from the contextual menu.
- Open the Contents folder → select the Resources folder.
- Delete all subfolders with the .lproj extension, except for the ones you need.
- Empty the Trash.
13. Clean your desktop
If your desktop is cluttered with screenshots, last week’s reports, email attachments, and other miscellaneous files, it’s time you start cleaning up to free up a few gigabytes of storage space.
To help, you may go to Finder → click Desktop on the sidebar → click List view. Click the Sort icon and select Size to see the largest files and decide if you can delete them.
If you can’t delete files but still want to reduce the clutter on your desktop, control-click anywhere on your desktop and choose Use Stacks. This stacks item by category, automatically organizing your desktop for you.
14. Delete old backups
Backing up your iPhone or iPad is necessary to keep your data safe in case of crashes, breaks, or theft. However, these are supposed to be temporary files and should not stay permanently on your Mac. You may want to delete old iCloud backups to clear up some space. The same is true for old Time Machine backups on your Mac.
15. Delete system junk
System junk contains outdated cache files, app localizations, and old Time Machine backups. Deleting system junk manually takes effort.
I’ve already mentioned some items you need to regularly clean up, like cache, temporary, and language files. Additionally, be sure to delete system and user log files. To do this:
- Open Finder → Go → Go to Folder.
- Type ~/Library/Logs → click Return to open the folder.
- Select the log files you want to delete → move them to Trash.
- Head back to Go to Folder → type /Library/Logs to access unnecessary system application logs.
- Type /Library/Logs/DiagnosticReports to find system reports.
You can delete these too.
- Delete your Trash and restart your Mac.
If you don’t want the hassle, you can use cleaning software like CleanMyMac or Gemini 2.
These tools come with multiple functions, offering security and privacy while removing duplicate files and scanning for useless applications and junk files on your Mac.
You can use any external hard drive on your MacBook Air if you have a suitable connector for your device.
It’s probable that it contains many cache files, boosting load speed and performance.
Connect your external hard drive to your Mac → open Finder → select the files or folders you want to transfer, and drag them to the storage device.
Files and miscellaneous items can quickly accumulate on your MacBook. It not only results in clutter but also significantly affects its speed and performance. Try one or more methods above to free up storage space on your Mac.
The process may be time-consuming, but your machine will thank you. Do this regularly to ensure that you always have enough space to store more important files and media on your Mac!
Which process do you do regularly? Which ones are new to you? Comment them down!
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Rachel loves anything Apple —from iPhones, to Apple Watches, to MacBooks. She is also a medical writer and a ghostwriter for various publications.