Clean Up Space On A Mac


Our last article went through a few tips on how to clean up disk space on your Windows computer. While Macs are less common in many large business workplaces, they are becoming far more prevalent in small business and among start up companies. The professional capabilities of Mac computers are particularly popular in creative and digital media disciplines.

There are many tools that are purpose built for cleaning up Mac computers. Many of these will make themselves very known through pop ups and ads. Most of these applications have a very limited free version that is rife with ads and lacks the capability to do what you really need. Sorting through these can be frustrating and we are here to help with some practical solutions.

We can start with simple and easy solutions:

Empty Your Trash

The trash on your Mac is the same as the recycle bin on Windows. Instead of permanently deleting a file when you press the “delete” key, the files are moved to the trash to give you an opportunity to later restore those files before deleting them. This fail safe is in place to keep you from losing data if you change your mind on what you delete. To completely remove these files and free up the space they require, you’ll have to empty your Trash. But Macs can actually have multiple trash cans, so you may need to empty several. Most users will empty the desktop trash on their Mac, but fail to clear all trash folders, leaving potential free space tied up.

In addition to the desktop trash folder, iPhoto, iMovie, and Mail all have their own trash cans. If you use these applications and have ever deleted any files or documents within the program, you’ll need to empty these trash cans too. To do this, just Ctrl+click or right click the trask option in each specific program as well as the desktop trask and select “Empty Trash”.

Uninstall Unused Applications

The next step in our space freeing process is to uninstall applications that you do not use. Applications installed on a Mac clearly take up space. The easiest place to see all applications in a somewhat orderly list is to open the Finder window and select Applications on the left sidebar. Click the “Show items in a list” icon on the toolbar and then click the “Size” heading to sort your installed applications by size. This will allow you to prioritize the largest idle applications for deletion.

If you backup your phone or iPad to your Mac using iTunes, you most likely have quite a few backup files. These files tend to be fairly large and are created on a schedule with most backups. This results in many large backup files for each device taking up space on your hard drive. In many cases these backups take up hundreds of gigabytes in total. To delete these manually, you can go to Library->Application Support->MobileSync->Backup in finder. This method is direct, but many users will be more comfortable sorting through backup files and choosing what to delete with a third party tool that provides additional information about each file.

Delete Temporary Files

Every Mac harddrive saves temporary files. These temporary files are associated with websites, helping to load some websites faster by saving some of the information locally on your computer. Others are associated with processes within applications. Your computer has built in options to clear browsing data within each browser. Most users stick to one browser, but if you use both Safari and Google Chrome, you’ll need to clear temporary files within each. Your web browser will automatically start rebuilding the cache as you browse, and it will just slow down web page load times as your browser’s cache grows again. Each browser limits its cache to a maximum amount of disk space.

There are many other temporary files on your system. You can see all of these by opening Finder, using Go->Go to Folder on the menu, and using ~/Library/Caches to get to the cache folder. This will pull up a folder that has a ton of folders in it, which you can select and delete manually if you choose. We caution against deleting folders at random to free space. Many users will feel more comfortable with a dedicated software tool for deleting these files. One of the most popular tools for this is CleanMyMac.

These three methods are the primary file deletion cleaning methods for clearing up mac disk space. Our next article will get into more detail and tips for finding more precious storage space on your Mac.


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