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15 Ways to free up space on Mac

Is your Mac’s storage space running low? If so, you are not alone. MacBooks tend to run out of storage space quickly. However, it’s recommended that you keep at least 15-20% of your Mac’s memory free to keep it running smoothly. But how? Let me share some quick and easy ways to free up space on Mac.

Doing these routinely will ensure you don’t face any storage issues and are able to make the most of your system. 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 → System Settings → General → Click Storage.
How to check your Mac's storage space

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 into how to free up space on your 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.

  1. Optimize storage space
  2. Deleted unneeded or unused media
  3. Clean up the Downloads folder
  4. Remove users
  5. Stop sharing files between users
  6. Delete unneeded emails
  7. Use an external storage
  8. Uninstall apps
  9. Compress files you infrequently use
  10. Find and remove duplicate files
  11. Clear temporary files
  12. Delete unused language files
  13. Clean your desktop
  14. Delete old backups
  15. Delete system junk

1. Optimize storage space

Apple has a built-in utility that helps you optimize your storage space. To access it, go to the Storage settings as mentioned above. Under Recommendations, you’ll see system suggestions that you may implement to free up space on your Mac.

Optimize storage space on macbook pro

I. Store in iCloud

iCloud is a handy external storage space that helps declutter your MacBook while ensuring that you can easily access your files. 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 downloaded movies and TV shows are, especially in HD. So, this feature helps you save space by automatically removing your purchased Apple TV shows and movies after you’re done watching them. You can always download them again.

Also, it keeps your recent mail attachments to prevent bulky attachments from cluttering your drive, especially when you need that extra storage space.

III. 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.

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 in 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:

  1. Open Podcasts → Select Downloaded on the sidebar.

    Open podcast on mac
  2. Select a podcast and click the More (…) button beside it.
  3. Choose Remove Download.

    . Leave empty if the image is purely decorative.

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. 

In addition to all the miscellaneous things you download, it contains all the files you’ve automatically and unknowingly downloaded and the app 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.

Clean up the Downloads folder to freeup macbook space

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.

Go to System Settings → Users & Groups → Click info icon beside the user you want to remove → Hit Delete User → Select Delete the home folder → Click Delete User.

Also, be sure to check the Users folder on your Macintosh HD to see if there are any undeleted files from the previous users.

Open Finder → Click Go in the menu bar → Select Computer → Macintosh HD → Control-click and Delete the user folder.

Remove users to freeup space on macbook

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 share. Delete the unnecessary ones to free up space on your Mac.
Stop sharing files between user to freeup space on mac

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. 

  1. Open Mail → Click Mail → Settings in the menu bar.
  2. Select the General tab → Select After Message is Deleted next to Remove unedited downloads.
select After Message is Deleted on macbook

To delete junk mail:

  1. Click the Accounts tab → Choose Mailbox Behaviors.
  2. Below Erase junk messages, set a time to delete junk mail automatically.
Erase junk messages in mailbox behaviors tab

To delete mail you’ve already sent to Trash, control-click Inbox → Erase Deleted Items.

Erase Deleted Items to freeup space on mackbook

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 to free up internal space on your Mac. 

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 up space. Worry not! There are various ways to uninstall apps on Mac.

Go to Finder → Applications → Control-click an app → Move to Trash. However, just uninstalling the app won’t restore all occupied space. You must delete the folders related to that app from your system.

9. Compress files you infrequently use

If you’re short on space, compressing or zipping files 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 from the contextual menu.

Compress files you infrequently use to freeup space on macbook

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, consume disk space, and clutter your backup. 

Several third-party apps and built-in tools can help you remove 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 → Hit Return. This will lead you to the cache folder. Select from the folders and delete cache files manually.

clear caches to freeup space on macbook

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:

  1. Open Chrome → Click the More (…) button at the top right.
  2. Click More Tools → Clear Browsing Data.

    Clear Browsing Data to clear up space on macbook
  3. Select a time range that you want to clear → Select Clear Data.

To clear Firefox’s cache:

  1. Open Firefox → Settings.
  2. Click the Privacy and Security panel.
  3. 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 only one language on your Mac, you may want to remove extra language files. You can use third-party cleaning software or delete them manually to free up space on your Mac.

Note: Deleting language files will affect your user experience. If you want to change the language, you will have to reinstall the app. 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:

  1. Go to Finder → Applications.
  2. Control-click an app → Select Show Package Contents from the contextual menu.

    Show Package Contents
  3. Open the Contents folder → Select the Resources folder.Delete unused language files to freeup space on macbook
  4. Delete all subfolders with the .lproj extension, except for the ones you need.
  5. 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 → Select List view. Click the Sort icon and select Size to see the largest files and decide if you can delete them.

Clean your desktop to freeup space on macbook

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 items by category, automatically organizing your desktop. 

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 data and user log files. To do this:

  1. Open Finder → Go → Go to Folder.

    Go to Folder in finder
  2. Type ~/Library/Logs → Click Return to open the folder.

    Type to open log files
  3. Select the log files you want to delete → Move them to Trash.

    Delete system junk to freeup space
  4. Head back to Go to Folder → Type /Library/Logs to access unnecessary system application logs.
  5. Type /Library/Logs/DiagnosticReports to find system reports.
    You can delete these too.
  6. 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. 

Why does my Mac system take up so much space?

It’s probable that it contains many cache files, boosting load speed and performance.

How do I transfer files from MacBook Air to an external hard drive?

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.

Wrapping up…

Files and miscellaneous items can quickly accumulate on your MacBook. This not only results in clutter but also significantly affects its speed and performance. So, do these steps every now and then to free up storage space on your Mac and keep it performing well.

Which process do you do regularly? Which ones are new to you? Comment them down!

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  • Rachel

    Rachel, an experienced Apple technology writer since 2021 and a long-time user since 2003, began her journey with a silver iPod Classic. Currently, she owns an array of modern Apple gadgets. At iGeeksBlog, her expertise shines through in the crafting of comprehensive how-to articles, informative guides, and well-curated roundups.

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