Have you ever gotten a notification that you're running low on disk space on your Mac? Or have you checked your storage only to find that your Photos are taking up an appalling 84GB?

If you've had one of these experiences and now need to clean up your Mac, this is the guide for you.

First, check what's taking up so much space

Click the little Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen. Select the first option, "About this Mac", so you can see what's going on.

Once you're there, select the Storage option (in the middle) and check out what's taking up space. You can hover over unnamed sections to see what they are and how much space they're taking up.

So many photos...

If you click the "Manage" button, you can see what Apple recommends to help you clean up your Mac. So let's dig into those options a bit more now.

Manage your storage

The first important task is to manage your storage properly and efficiently. There are several ways to do this, and Apple recommends a few:

Store your content on the cloud

Instead of storing all your old photos, college papers, and projects on your actual computer, move that stuff to the cloud. That's why it exists.

And you know what's great? You can access anything in the Cloud, from any device, just by signing in with your Apple ID. It's like magic!

Just click "Optimize" next to the "Store in Cloud" option when you're managing your storage.

Optimize your storage

Say you've downloaded a movie but you've already watched it. Like 5 times (no judgement).

But do you really still need it on your Mac? No! Five times is enough, even for gems like Princess Bride and Star Wars (ok, no it's not). But still, get rid of it. You can just download it again if you really need to rewatch.

You'll find the "Optimize Storage" option right below the "Store in iCloud" option - just click that "Optimize" button on the right.

Empty trash automatically

Make sure you move any unneeded files (especially large ones) to the trash - and then empty that trash often.

How to manually empty your trash

If you leave items in the trash, they're still taking up space. If you set your trash to empty automatically it'll delete items (as in, remove them from your computer) after 30 days.

Just go back to your storage management recommendations (Apple logo -> About this Mac -> Storage -> Manage and then look at "Recommendations", the top left tab) and click the button next to "Empty trash automatically."

Reduce clutter

There are bound to be old documents and other clutter on your Mac that you no longer need. And some of these items might take up quite a bit of space. So you can sort through and remove the chaff.

Some of those files are pretty big! Maybe they can be removed...

It'll sort by file size and will tell you the date you last accessed that file. This should make it easier to decide what can go.

You can delete some files directly. Others require you to go into the app and delete the files there. Either way, you can get rid of them.

Move files to an external drive

Here's a little bonus option not listed above. You can also remove large items (like movies) and store them on an external hard drive.

Remove duplicate files

You probably have a ton of duplicate files on your computer and don't even realize it.

Trouble is, it can be really time-consuming to search through manually and find them all.

So find an app to help you do it. Some commonly recommended options are Duplicate Sweeper, Gemini 2 (the free trial should do it), or CleanMyMacX.

Uninstall unused apps

Would it surprise you to learn that your apps take up quite a bit of space? Some of those files can be pretty large.

But I bet you don't use every app on your computer. Which means you can probably go through and delete those that are just wasting space.

Open Finder and select the Apps tab in the left sidebar menu. View the apps as a list by clicking the four little horizontal lines at the top. Then sort the apps by size by clicking on the "Size" tab towards the right.

Have a look at your apps - you might be surprised how many you don't use.

Then you can scroll through and delete those apps that you don't use (and hopefully some of them are pretty big!). Simply drag the app to the trash to get rid of it.

And then empty your trash :)

Delete iTunes backups

iTunes backups are useful - you certainly don't want to lose all that angsty 90s music you've been collecting since, well, the 90s. Oh, just me...? Ok.

Regardless, it's valuable stuff. But you can back it all up to iCloud instead of keeping those massive backups of your device on your computer.

How to enable iCloud backup

To set your phone to back up to iCloud automatically, just go to Settings, select your name, and scroll down to "iCloud Backup". Just turn it on, and your precious songs/photos/etc will be backed up to the Cloud.

Then you can go into your Mac and delete any backups you have stored there. Just open iTunes, go to Preferences, select Devices, and delete those backups you no longer need.

Delete temporary files (clear cache/cookies)

You might be aware of caching. It allows sites to load faster because resource-intensive files, like images, are stored locally on your machine. That way if you visit a site often you don't have to sit around waiting each time for hefty image files to load. They're already there.

But if you don't clean these up every now and then they can really build up and slow your machine down. Just be aware: even if you remove them now they'll get re-added the next time you visit that site or use that app.

How to clear the cache

Open Finder, and from the menu along the top of your screen select "Go." Scroll down to "Go to Folder", select it, and then enter ~/Library/Caches in the dialogue box.

From there you can clear out any cached files you don't need.

Still need more space? Here are additional things to try:

  • Delete unneeded email
  • Delete downloads
  • Remove logs
  • Remove language resources
  • Compress files
  • Restart your Mac

Now go forth and clean up that Mac!