How to Find and Delete Large Files on Your Mac

Freeing up disk space on a full hard drive can be difficult, especially when it’s full of small files. However, there are some excellent tools for macOS that let you find the files taking up the most space and delete the ones you don’t need. Ready to get your disk cleaned up?

Check The Most Likely Places

Most of your files will only be in a couple of folders. The Downloads is one of them, and a lot of people fill it up and forget to empty it, but files are hiding in places you wouldn’t expect. One such place that can take up a lot of space is the folder where iTunes saves backups of your iPhone or iPad. That folder is located here:

~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup

Depending on how big your device is, and how often you back up, these backup files can take up tens of gigabytes.

The Trash folder in macOS also can take up quite a bit of space if you haven’t emptied it in a while, so it’s worth taking a look to see if you’re still storing some large files.

Find Large Files Manually

Finder has a built-in way for finding large files with Spotlight search. Click the drive you want to search, open the search window, and hit the + button next to the “Save” button at the top right. You can then use the drop-down menus to select the “File Size” and “Greater Than” options. Type in the minimum file size you want to search for (over 100MB or so will do the trick) and you’ll see a list of all files over that size. You can then choose which ones you want to delete.

However, there are two drawbacks to this method:

  • The Finder only shows single files over a certain size, not folders full of smaller files, such as Downloads or program installs.
  • It’s hard to select specific files for deletion because you’re not given a proper context for where the files are stored or how important they might be.

A much better interface is the Storage Management app built into macOS, which displays all files sorted by size, and shows the date you accessed them last:

The Storage Management app has some other useful tools, as well. You can use it to configure iCloud storage and set your Mac to empty the Trash automatically, for example.

Use a Third-Party Tool For Even Better Control

Disk Inventory X is an excellent free tool for visualizing disk space. You can see which sections are taking up the most space by which squares in the visual display are the largest. Click any square to view the associated file name. There’s also a tree view on the sidebar that lets you see how much space every folder takes up, and you can drill down to find the files you might want to delete. You can right-click each file to move it to the Trash or view more info about it.

There is one important thing to keep in mind when using Disk Inventory X, though. It does show system files and will let you delete them, so you’ll want to stick mainly to your home directory unless you know what you’re doing.

If you don’t like the Disk Inventory interface, there is a paid tool with a more modern design called DaisyDisk. Though it’s functionally much the same as Disk Inventory, DaisyDisk does offer a different way of looking at files that some people might prefer.

It also does a good job of showing how much space you’re saving with each scan of your drive and it offers a “Collector” feature that which stores items you mark for deletion before doing a full delete.

Automated Cleaning Tools

While those manual tools are useful for finding large files, they’re not able to clean up the system junk and temporary caches that can take up a lot of space—and are often hidden in system folders you don’t want to touch. This is where an automated tool like Clean My Mac comes in handy. When you launch the app, it performs a scan of your drive, looking in those junk and cache folders that you may miss in Disk Inventory. It then clears them out for you automatically.

Clean My Mac also has some other useful tools, such as an Uninstaller for cleaning up old applications, maintenance scripts, and a shredder for securely deleting files. It also has a tab that lets you view large files, albeit in a list view rather than the partitioned interfaces of Disk Inventory or DaisyDisk.

Anthony Heddings is a tech writer and freelance React developer. He enjoys spending most of his time debugging JavaScript and yelling at his terminal. He's @AnthonyHeddings on Twitter.