How to Reclaim Hard Drive Space on Mac

A Mac’s hard drive tends to get filled over time. Even high capacity drives end up being stuffed to the gills with data some of which is needed and some of which is not. Movies, photos, and music always find their way onto a storage device, thereby leaving its owner to wonder why they have only 8GB of free space left. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it. The two primary options resorted to by Mac owners are hard drive upgrade and archiving. If you are not attracted by either option, keep reading to find out how to clean up Mac hard drive. I’ve compiled ten nifty tips that will help Apple aficionados to claim back valuable storage space.

How Much Free Space is Available

Before discussing different avenues for reclaiming disk space, it is necessary to consider how one can check the amount of available storage on their Mac. To this end, go to the Apple menu and select the About this Mac option. Click the More Info and go to the Storage tab, where you can find detailed information about your Mac’s storage. In a window that opens, you’ll be presented with a visual summary of space claimed by different file categories: audio, movies, photos, apps, backups, and other. The summary will help you to decide which files should go.

check mac disk space

1.     Empty the Trash

The obvious place to start is to empty the Trash. It can contain multiple apps and files that claim the disk space. There is no need to keep them in the Trash bin if you are regularly backing up your Mac. However, it should be kept in mind that some Mac OS X apps such as iMovie, iPhoto, and Mail also have individual Trash bins, which should also be emptied. By tweaking app settings, it is possible to ensure that their Trashes are emptied automatically.

2.     Uninstall Unneeded Apps

Apps that are no longer in use can take substantial amounts of drive space. For instance, iPhoto alone weighs more than 1GB. If you are not using the app, there’s not much sense in keeping it on your Mac. To understand how much space can be freed by removing unneeded apps consider a recent report according to which more than 90% of all apps are used only once.

To uninstall useless apps, you have to open the Finder and select the Applications option from the sidebar. Then, locate an app you wish to remove in the list and drag it to the Trash. You can check app sizes under the Size heading. This will help you to determine which files should be deleted first. Don’t forget to empty the Trash bin after you’ve uninstalled all unused apps. Note that some apps leave behind preference files. To find and remove them, go to ~/Library/Preferences.

move to trash

3.     Delete Large Files

Another thing you can do to gain additional storage space is to remove particularly large files. One way to do it is to use the Finder. Launch the app and do the following:

  1. In the search field of the Finder, enter a space asterisk to include all items;
  2. Click the + button and change filter 1 to File Size;
  3. In a drop-down menu, select the Other option;
  4. Find the File Size menu item and click the OK button;
  5. Set filter 2 to the value is greater than;
  6. Enter the size of files you are looking for and set either MB or GB

By using the Finder, it is possible to find all files matching certain size criteria. One can also save search results, which will make the next search quicker.

search for mac applications

Another way to go about locating large files on a Mac is to download and install a third-party disk-scanning utility. Such utilities analyze a storage media and provide users with a convenient visual representation of its contents. After locating the largest files on a drive, you can either move, archive, or delete them.

4.     Clear App Caches and Preferences

A large percentage of Mac apps creates temporary files that tend to expand rapidly and fill up the drive. The obvious example is Safari. The browser creates caches, which keep it from constantly re-downloading Web content from regularly visited pages.

You can find and remove the system-wide cache folder by going to //Macintosh HD/Library/Caches. To clear a local user’s caches, go to <Your Home Folder>/Library/Caches.

Don’t be afraid to drag and drop cache folders to the Trash. If an app needs some cache files, it will create new ones.

5.     Remove Useless Media Files

Another way to gain additional disk space is to trash useless media files you store on your Mac. If you’ve owned a Mac for some time, you know that the media library always tends to swell. Mac OS X can help you to prune your audio collection by locating duplicate times. In the File menu of iTunes, select the Display Duplicates option and then, remove those you don’t need. You can also use the Smart Playlist feature of iTunes to better understand your music listening habits. This will allow you to get rid of those tracks that are never played. Given that each song takes several gigabytes, you can reclaim a considerable amount of drive space. After pruning the audio library, do the same with iPhoto.

6.     Compress Large Files

compress files

File compression is one more way to free up disk space. After identifying particularly large files that are no longer needed, you can compress them, thereby reducing their size. The amount of the reclaimed space depends on the type of compressed files. Specifically, by compressing text files, it is possible to considerably diminish their size, whereas the compression of photos and movies will not be so gainful. The software market and Mac App Store have a large number of free compression apps. You can either use them or Mac’s built-in Archive Utility. To zip up a file, find it in the Finder. Then, right click on it and select the Compress options. By doing so, you will create a Zip file archive; however, the original file will be left intact. To reclaim disk space occupied by the file you have to delete it. Don’t forget to empty the Trash afterward.

7.     Archive Emails

Mail has a substantial number of emails. Taking into consideration the fact that some emails have attachments, their collective size can reach enormous proportions. For this reason, it is recommended to regularly archive old emails. This can be done by selecting a letter, right-clicking on it and choosing the Archive option. This will move the email to the Archive mailbox, where it can be accessed later. To further reduce the size of Mail files, it is recommended to remove attachments from emails, compress them, and save to local folders of the computer. This can be done by selecting the Remove Attachments option, in the Message menu. If the attachments are not needed, you can simply drag and drop them to the Trash, thereby freeing up even more space.

8.     Remove Junk Files

It’s always a good idea to periodically remove junk files. This habit will prevent you from feeling up your drive with needless media files and apps. By keeping the drive clean, it is possible to make the computer more responsive since it won’t be hampered by the need to index useless files. Therefore, get used to occasionally scanning the Documents folder and either compressing or removing its contents. It also won’t hurt to clear out the Downloads folder every once in a while.

9.     Find and Remove Duplicates

An almost mandatory step in the process of freeing up Mac space is the removal of duplicates. Every Mac has mounds of identical iTunes files, videos, and documents. Sometimes duplicates have different names, which makes it more difficult to detect them. To find and remove identical files, get a third-party duplicate cleaner from the Mac App Store. You can also use the Finder to locate duplicate files; however, this approach is less efficient.

10.  Remove Album Artwork in iTunes

Your iTunes tracks have artwork attached to them. If you have a large library, the images can consume hundreds of megabytes of storage space. If the removal of album artwork doesn’t seem like a sacrifice to you, delete it by following these steps:

  1. Launch iTunes;
  2. Go to the Music section on the left and select all tracks by using the Cmd + A combination;
  3. Go to the File menu and select the Get Info option;
  4. To confirm the editing of multiple items, click Yes;
  5. In the Info tab, select the Artwork option;
  6. Select the Delete option and click OK.

In addition to freeing up disk space, the removal of album artwork will make iTunes more responsive.