How to free up space on a Mac

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Matthew Wilhelm Kapell
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If you've been using your Mac for a while, you might have come to a point where you've run out of storage. This makes it difficult to download files or install new programs.

Mac does not always allow freeing up space easily or directly. Use this guide to get more storage for your favorite photos or videos.

Free up space on your Mac

Newer Mac models come with more storage capacity with each update. However, users also have more files than ever. Luckily, your Mac has a few options to make storage management easier.



It's easy to check the free disk space on your Mac. Follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple icon.
  2. Click About This Mac.
  3. Select Storage. On older Macs, you'll need to select More Info, then Storage.

The menu will show the basic breakdown of managing your hard drive, and you can click each part to learn more about it.

If you see a lot of non-app files, such as photos and movies, those are files that are easier to move elsewhere. We're going to show you some handy ways to clean up your Mac.

How to Free Up Mac Startup Disk Space

If you receive a notification that your disk is almost full, your Mac will not be able to receive new updates. You'll also have a harder time updating your apps.


Your startup disk will contain your most used applications and most of the background data used by your system. Over time this will accumulate, so it is essential to control the size of these files.


Empty the trash

An easy way to free up space is to empty your Trash. Whenever you delete a file on your Mac, it is placed in the Trash app storage. If you don't delete it from there, it will still take up space on your hard drive.

To delete files in the Trash, right-click on the docked app in your toolbar and press Empty Trash. Another method is to open the Trash app and then click Empty at the top right.

If you're using a newer version of Mac (macOS Sierra or later), you can also set your Trash to automatically empty from time to time. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple icon.
  2. Open About This Mac.
  3. Select Storage, then select Manage.
  4. Next to "Empty the trash automatically", select "Enable".
  5. Your Mac will permanently delete files from the Trash that are older than 30 days.

Delete Caches

If you're still low on space, you'll want to delete your app caches. Deleting the cache can save a lot of space depending on how long and how often you use memory-intensive applications, such as Photoshop.

To clear cache for most apps, follow these steps:

  1. In the Finder, navigate to Go, then select Go to Folder.
  2. Type “~/Library/Caches”. This will open a menu of folders, each with a cache for an app on your Mac.
  3. Go to each of the folders and delete the files inside. This can be tedious if you have a lot of folders, so prioritize folders that take up the most space.
  4. Repeat the process when you navigate to "/Library/Caches" without using the ~.

A handful of apps will do this for you if you install them on your device. A quick Google search will bring you to an application such as Clean Up My Mac X, CCleaner for Mac, Mac Cleaner Pro, or many others. Some of them will not be chargeable and will be available for trial.



When you delete these files, make sure to clean the Trash folder afterwards.

Clear the browser cache

Browsers can also store a lot of data on your Mac, which can accumulate over time. To delete the Safari browser cache, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Safari icon to open your browser.
  2. In the menu, click on “Preferences”.
  3. Select "Advanced" and check "Show Develop menu" in the menu bar.
  4. Click on the “Develop” button in the menu bar and choose “Empty caches”.
  5. Close the Safari browser to complete clearing the cache.

If you're using another browser, go to its settings to clear its cache.

Clear downloads

Another folder that can take up a lot of space is your Downloads folder. You can find it at the following location: /Macintosh HD/Users/Current User/Downloads

Delete old downloads you no longer need or any outdated app installations. You can sort files in the Downloads folder by name, size, type, date, and various other options, letting you find what you don't need and delete them quickly.

Delete mail downloads

If you use the Stock Mail app, you may need to check that too. The easiest way to find the folder that contains these downloads is to type Mail Downloads into the Spotlights search box.

Another way to open the folder is to go to Finder (shortcut Shift+Cmd+G) then type ~ / Library / Containers / com.apple.mail / Data / Library / Mail


Once there, select the files you don't need and delete them. Make sure to empty the Trashafterward.


How to Free Up Space on Mac by Deleting Photos

If you have a lot of photos, they are probably the main source of your space problems.

The default destination for your photos is the Photos library, located at Users > [your username] > Photos. You can store photos elsewhere on your Mac, so just adjust the steps accordingly.

Once you've opened the Photos Library, you can delete any photos you don't want to keep. You can also move them to an external hard drive or the cloud.

To store photos in the cloud, open storage management options as described above. There, locate the “Store in iCloud” option. Click on the option and then select the Photos option there. All your high resolution images will be saved in the cloud and only the optimized versions will be on your Mac. Every time you need to open a photo, the Mac downloads the full file from iCloud for viewing.

The Cloud option can also save your documents in the same way and can do the same with your messages.

If you want to use an external hard drive to store your photos, plug the drive into your Mac and move the photos from the libraries you use.

How to Free Up Space on Mac Catalina

macOS Catalina is one of the newer versions of macOS and will have all the options mentioned earlier. More importantly, Catalina has access to the storage management options described above.

Another storage management option you can use is to clean up clutter. You can access it through the Storage Management menu. Select Reduce clutter. The app will open a list of any large files that you may no longer need. From there, you can easily delete them and save valuable storage space.

Catalina can also automatically delete old videos that you have already watched. To do this, navigate to Storage Management and select the “Optimize Storage” option. All the movies you downloaded and watched through iTunes will be deleted this way.

How to Free Up Space on Mac Yosemite

If you're using an older version of macOS, such as Yosemite, the options are more limited. As stated above, Yosemite does not have a built-in management option. So the only way is to find the files you want to delete manually. You can also download a storage management app to do this job for you.

How to Free Up Space on Mac El Capitan

Also, since El Capitan is older than the Sierra model of macOS, it also lacks a built-in storage management option. To check which version of macOS you have, go to the Apple menu, then select the "About This Mac" option. The Overview tab will let you know which version you are using.

If you want to use Mac's default management options, you'll need to update your operating system. Otherwise, all you can do is search for files to remove manually or use some of the more popular files software to do it for you.

Finally free

Managing your storage on your Mac is a great way to avoid headaches with limited space and the inability to download updates. Luckily, newer Mac versions have all the right options to make this hassle-free, and all you have to do is check them and forget them.

Which of the storage management options worked for you? What version of macOS are you using? Let us know in the comments below.

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