When you run out of space on your Mac there are several steps you can take to quickly get more room on your Mac without spending any money. Whether you’re staring at the “Your startup disk is almost full.” error or “You disk is almost full.” error, we will show you how to get space back on your Mac.
This guide will show you how to get more space to store photos, videos, downloads, files and documents on your Mac by freeing up space. We’ll also explain how to find out what is taking up the most space on your Mac.
You may see one of these Mac storage error messages when you go to download a file or when you start working on videos or photos. We’ll show you how to free up space on your Mac with OS X El Capitan, macOS Sierra, and the upcoming macOS High Sierra.
How to Free Up Space on Your Mac
The first step is to find out what is using up all the space on your Mac. If you are on macOS Sierra or macOS High Sierra, there is a built-in tool that can show you what is using the space on your Mac and clean in off quickly. This won’t remove everything that you can get rid of, but it is a very good start and can easily free up a few GB of space so you can get back to work or play.
On OS X El Capitan, you will need to download a program like Disk Diag, which is $2.99 to download from the Mac App Store. Start with these tools and then we can dive deeper to find files using up space on your Mac.
- On macOS Sierra and macOS High Sierra click on the Apple in the upper left corner, and then on About this Mac.
- Now click on About this Mac.
- Click on Storage and then on Manage.
- Now you can use the built-in storage optimizer to get space back.
There are many options here. You don’t need to use them all, but it is a great start to freeing up space on your Mac. Unlike simply hunting for files and deleting them, this is a very safe way to remove files you no longer need.
Store in iCloud
If you use iCloud and have enough storage there, you can use Store in iCloud to keep files and photos on iCloud until you need them. This will only keep recently opened and optimized photos on your Mac. This is an easy way to free up space, but if you travel and are often without internet access, this may not be the best option.
Optimize Storage on Your Mac
This option will automatically remove iTunes movies and TV shows that you’ve watched and remove email attachments so that you don’t have un-needed files taking up space on your Mac. Click Optimize.
Choose how you want your Mac to handle attachments in Mail, and what to do with iTunes downloads and then click Optimize.
Automatically Empty Trash on Mac
When you delete a file on your Mac, it sticks around on your computer until you empty the trash. This is so that you can restore a file you accidentally delete. You need to remember to empty the trash to get storage space back. With this option, you can set your Mac to automatically delete files that have been in Trash for 30 days, which will keep your Mac storage space free without the need to do anything on your part. Click Turn On. to start using this.
Reduce Clutter on Your Mac
There are thousands of small files that you may download, but no longer need. The Mac can automatically find these files and then help you choose if you should delete them. Click on Review Files to get started.
This will show you a list of the biggest files on your Mac and allow you to decide what you should do with them. This is an area where you need to decide if you want to delete something instead of simply deleting it. You will see important files as well as ones you don’t need anymore. In many cases, you may want to move them to a spare hard drive for safe keeping.
You can click on the categories on the left to make changes based on the types of files. Plan on spending 15 to 30 minutes on this if you want to fully clean up your hard drive, but you can also finish in less than five minutes if you just need to delete the biggest file or files to get space back.
Where Else to Look to Get Space Back on Your Mac
There are several other places to look on your Mac to get space back. In most cases, the Reduce Clutter option above will find everything, but you can also look in these areas to free up space on your Mac.
The Downloads folder is where you save anything from the Internet by default. Open Finder and click on Downloads. Now you can start scrolling through the files and delete anything that you don’t need anymore. You can click on size at the top to sort by the largest files so that you don’t need to look through every file to find the ones that will have the biggest impact.
Delete iTunes Movies and TV Shows
If you didn’t already delete old shows and movies in the Optimize step, you should open iTunes and click on Movies and TV Shows to delete files you no longer need. One episode of a TV show can easily take up 1GB of space on your Mac and movies can take up 4-6GB. If you own the movie from iTunes, you can download it later from iCloud. If you don’t trust this option, you can move the movie to an external hard drive.
Delete iPhone Apps, Backups and Updates
When you download an iPhone app on your Mac, you’re not just telling it to install on your iPhone. You are also telling it to save a copy on your Mac. Open iTunes, click on Apps and then you will see the Apps that are saved on your Mac as well. Click on the app or apps you want to delete and press the delete key on your Mac. Then click Delete App. Before we started downloading from our iPhone we lost 4GB of space to years of iPhone apps stored on our Mac.
You can delete old iPhone and iPad backups that you no longer need in iTunes as well.
- Go to iTunes and click on Preferences.
- Click on Devices and you will see any backups.
- You can now delete old backups by clicking on one and then choosing Delete backup.
Make sure that you don’t delete all of your backups. Finding an old iPhone backup for a device you no longer use, and deleting it can free up a lot of space on your Mac.
Another place to look is in the iTunes folder, which is where you may see many iPhone and iPad update files stored. You can delete these old update files without worrying about losing any data. These are simply the files that Apple offers to update your phone. In most cases, you cannot use them anymore and if you can downgrade to the iOS version, you can always download it again.
- Open Finder.
- Hold Option on your keyboard and click on Go.
- Clikc on Library.
- Scroll down and click on iTunes.
- Check the iPhone Software Updates, iPad Software Updates and iPod Software Updates folders.
- If you see an update in that folder, you can click on it and then delete it.
This is another easy way to free up a lot of space on your Mac in just a short amount of time. If you update your iPhone or iPad without connecting to your Mac, you will only need to do this one.
How to Find Out What’s Using All Your Mac Hard Drive Space
If you’ve used all the methods above and you are still looking or a way to figure out what is eating up all of your hard drive space, download GrandPerspective. This app is free online and $1.99 on the Mac App Store.
It will show you what is using up all the space on your Mac and allow you to click on blocks to see more information about that item. You can then view in finder and delete if you need to. Keep in mind this shows you everything, even files you shouldn’t delete, so make sure you do some homework before you click delete on some of the large files that you find here.