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5 Ways To Free Up Disk Space on Your OS X Mac

free-up-disk-space-on-macbook

It’s 2014, shouldn’t we stop worrying about disk space? Nope, not at all! A modern MacBook might have a solid-state drive with just 64 GB of space. You’ll want as much space for your important data as you can get.

You can likely free up quite a bit of space by pruning away files and applications you don’t care about. Not everything here is obvious — did you know that each user account on a Mac has multiple Trash cans?

Empty Your Trash Cans

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The Trash on a Mac is equivalent to the Recycle Bin on Windows. Rather than delete files form within the Finder, it’s sent to your Trash so you can restore it later if you change your mind. 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.

To empty your user account’s main trash can, Ctrl+click or right-click the Trash icon at the bottom-right corner of the dock and select Empty Trash. This will delete all the files you sent to the trash from the Finder.

empty-trash-on-a-mac

iPhoto, iMovie, and Mail all have their own trash cans. If you’ve deleted media files from within these applications, you’ll need to empty their trash cans, too. For example, if you use iPhoto to manage your pictures and delete them in iPhoto, you’ll have to clear the iPhoto trash to remove them from your hard drive. To do this, just Ctrl+click or right-click the Trash option in that specific application and select Empty Trash.

empty-delete-photos-from-iphoto-trash

Uninstall Applications

The applications you have installed on your Mac are taking up space, of course. You should uninstall them if you don’t need them — just open a Finder window, select Applications in the sidebar, and drag-and-drop the application’s icon to the trash can on your dock.

To find out which applications are using up the most space, open a Finder window and select Applications. Click the “Show items in a list” icon on the toolbar and then click the Size heading to sort your installed applications by size.

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Clear Temporary Files

Your Mac’s hard drive probably has temporary files you don’t need. These files often take up disk space for no good reason. Mac OS X tries to automatically remove temporary files, but a dedicated application will likely find more files to clean up. Cleaning temporary files won’t necessarily speed up your Mac, but it will free up some of that precious disk space.

There are many temporary-file cleaning tools available for Mac. CCleaner, the most popular temporary-file-deleting tool among Windows geeks, now even has a version for Mac. Download CCleaner for Mac and run it to clear some of those useless files, just like you can on Windows.

clean-temporary-files-on-a-mac-with-ccleaner

Bear in mind that clearing your browser cache isn’t necessarily a good idea. These caches contain files from web pages so your browser can load the web pages faster in the future. 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, anyway.

Analyze Disk Space

To free up disk space, it’s helpful to know exactly what is using disk space on your Mac. A hard disk analysis tool like Disk Inventory X will scan your Mac’s hard disk and display which folders and files are using up the most space. You can then delete these space hogs to free up space.

If you care about these files, you may want to move them to external media — for example, if you have large video files, you may want to store them on an external hard drive rather than on your Mac.

Bear in mind that you don’t want to delete any important system files. Your personal files are located under /Users/name, and these are the files you’ll want to focus on.

analyze-disk-space-used-by-files-on-mac-os-x

Remove Language Files

Mac applications come with language files for every language they support. You can switch your Mac’s system language and start using the applications in that language immediately. However, you probably just use a single language on your Mac, so those language files are just using hundreds of megabytes of space for no good reason. If you’re trying to squeeze as many files as you can onto that 64 GB MacBook Air, that extra storage space can be useful.

To remove those language files, you can use Monolingual. This is only necessary if you really want the space — those language files aren’t slowing you down, so keeping them is no problem if you have a big hard disk with more than enough free space.

remove-language-files-with-monolingual-on-a-mac


Be sure to also remove other files you don’t need. For example, you can delete downloaded .dmg files after you’ve installed the applications inside them. Like program installers on Windows, they’re useless after the program is installed. Check your Downloads folder in the Finder and delete any downloaded files you don’t need anymore.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 03/9/14

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