Despite my MacBook Air having a 120GB hard drive, I always struggle to keep enough free storage. Whenever I look at my available space, I always hover around 15-20GB.
Which you might think is not a small amount, but when it drops below 10GB, the computer starts throwing constant startup error messages.
Since I bought my first MacBook in 2012, I have tried various methods to keep my computer as clean as possible. Here are the proven methods I’ve come up with. Some are obvious while others are not.
Find your largest files
The first step is to find your biggest space hoggers.
Some things will be evident. If you use iMovie, for example, the video files you are currently working on will take up a huge amount of space. If you download music from iTunes, all those m4a files will take up a lot of space. If you use the Photos app, your photo library is likely to take up a lot of space.
The iMovie library is located in the “Movie“and mine is currently 12GB in size (right click on the file and choose”Get Info”To see its dimensions). ITunes media, including music and movies, are in the “Musicfolder “(another 15 GB). The photo database is naturally in “Images“.
The best solution for things like iMovie and iTunes is to simply move the folders to a large USB stick or attached portable drive and direct the apps to the new locations.
Sort files by size
The next step is to sort all files on your hard drive by size. To do this, open the seeker then in the top menu, select to go then Recent. If you don’t see recent, click All my files.
This then mixes all your files together. If you had to click on All My Files, click on the icon with three horizontal lines to show the files as a list.
Click Dimension in the header until the largest file appears at the top. Note, this listing does NOT include apps and system files. If you don’t see Dimensions, right-click on any of the column headings (type, name, etc.) and select Dimension.
If you right-click on one of the files, you can delete it. Or, if you want to see which folder it is in first, right-click on it and select Show in include folder.
There I am apps that do all this large file sorting for you, like free OmniDiskSweeper. But after trying it, I’ve concluded that it doesn’t do much more than what I’ve described above.
Delete all unnecessary files or move them from your computer
The next step is to perform a great elimination of elimination.
Focus on the areas where a lot of files tend to accumulate. Usually these are the Downloads folder, the desktop, and the Trash. Delete anything you don’t need and empty the Trash. Right there, chances are you’ll notice a big improvement in the space.
Then, throw anything you want to keep in one folder. So, get yourself a large 128GB USB stick or portable hard drive and transfer everything from your computer.
Use selective sync on Cloud Storage
If you don’t want to use a USB stick or portable drive, or still want to be able to easily get files back to your MacOS computer, then cloud storage is a solid choice. But to save space on your computer, you have to use a function called “Selective synchronization“.
Selective sync is offered by all major cloud storage platforms, including the one I use (Sync.com). This is where all your files are uploaded to the cloud storage service website, but in the desktop app settings you can choose which files are synced with your computer.
Then, in the preferences of the Sync.com desktop app, I can uncheck the boxes of the folders I want off the computer but they will remain in my online account. Dropbox and Google Drive also have this option in their preferences.
Uninstall unnecessary apps – correctly
Uninstalling apps is much easier on a Mac than on Windows. With a Mac, you simply need to drag the app to the Trash and delete it.
The problem is, like Windows, it doesn’t completely uninstall it. Temporary files are often left behind, accumulating a huge amount of raw material which, over time, accumulates and takes up valuable space.
This is why I love the free AppCleaner.
With AppCleaner, you can drag the app file to AppCleaner and it will hunt down all associated files to delete at once.
Or you can set it up so you can send the app file to the Trash and AppCleaner immediately opens on its own with all the related crud for bombing.
AppCleaner can also tell you how much space each app is taking up so you can decide if it’s worth deleting to make room.
And you can also remove widgets and plugins, which don’t return THAT space, but every bit counts.
Stop installing apps if a browser version exists
Many popular apps now have equally good, if not better, web versions. This eliminates the need to install desktop versions, which will save you space in the long run.
For example, LibreOffice takes up about 4GB of space on my computer. But if I were to uninstall it and use Google Docs instead, I will get back those 4GB and all the space the LibreOffice files would have taken.
Also, be sure to read our sister site article on how to use some web apps like desktop apps, thus getting the best of both worlds.
Other apps that have good web versions include:
Empty the iOS backup folder
If you are in the habit of using iTunes to back up your iOS devices to your Mac, you might want to consider deleting the iOS backup folder. When I checked it yesterday, it was almost 21GB, going back months!
To find the folder, go to Finder, then to go, then Go to the folder.
In the box that appears, type the following:
Delete the box that appears. Just remember to back up a new iOS again right after or back up to iCloud.
These are the things I do on a weekly basis to make sure the computer is as clean as possible. Every six months I take it one step further and completely reformat the computer, which I’ll cover very soon in an article.