How to free up space on a Mac OS X computer QUICKLY

Even though my MacBook Air has a 120GB hard drive, I’ve always struggled to keep enough free storage space. Every time I look at my free space I always hover around 15-20GB.

You might think it’s a small amount, but when it drops below 10GB, the computer starts sending constant startup error messages.

Since I bought my first MacBook in 2012, I’ve tried various methods to keep my computer as clean as possible. These are the tried and tested methods I came up with. Some are obvious while others are not.

Find your biggest file

The first step is to find your biggest spatial triggers.

Some things will be self-evident. For example, if you use iMovie, the video files you’re currently working on will take up a lot 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 can take up a lot of space.

iMovie library window

The iMovie library is located in “Film“And my folder is now 12GB in size (right click on the file and select“)Receive information“To see its size). iTunes media, including music and movies, is located in “MusicFolder” (another 15GB). The image database is of course located in “Pictures“.

The best solution for things like iMovie and iTunes is to simply move the folders onto a large USB stick or attached removable drive and point the apps to the new location.

Sort files by size

The next step is to sort all the files in your hard drive by size. To do this, open Seeker then in the top menu select To go afterward Recently. If you haven’t seen it recently, click All my files.

Recently selected in the Go menu

This then merges all your files together. If you must click All my files, click the icon with three horizontal lines to display the files as a list.

Click Size in the header until the largest file appears at the top. Note, this list does NOT include system files and applications. If you don’t see Dimensions, just right click on any column header (type, name, etc.) Size.

Files in Finder are sorted by size

If you right click on one of the files, you can delete it. Or if you want to see what folder it’s in first, right click on it and select Shown in Surrounding Folder.

Right click on the menu Show in Selected Include Folder

There to be apps that do all this organizing for you, such as the free OmniDiskSweeper. But after trying it out, I concluded that it doesn’t do much more than what I described above.

Delete all unnecessary files or move them from the computer

The next step is to do a massive delete purge.

Focus on areas where a lot of files tend to build up. This is usually the Downloads, Desktop, and Trash folders. Delete everything you don’t need and empty the Trash. Right there, you can notice a huge improvement in space.

Next, throw everything you want to keep in a folder. Next, grab a large 128GB USB stick or a portable hard drive and move everything off the computer.

Use selective sync on cloud storage

If you don’t want to use a USB stick or removable drive – or you still want to be able to easily restore files to your MacOS computer – then cloud storage is a good choice. But to save space on your computer, you need to use a feature called “Selective sync“.

Selective sync is offered by all major cloud storage platforms, including the one I use ( This is where all your files are uploaded to the cloud storage service’s website, but in the desktop app settings you can choose which files are synced to your computer .

So in the desktop app preferences I can uncheck the boxes of the folders I want to shut down but they will still be in my online account. Dropbox and Google Drive also have this in their preferences. Advanced Control Panel

Uninstall Unnecessary Apps – The Right Way

Uninstalling apps on a Mac is much easier than on Windows. With a Mac, you can simply drop the app in the Trash and delete it.

The point is, like Windows, this doesn’t completely uninstall it. Temporary files are often left behind, accumulating large amounts of debris that, over time, accumulate and take up precious space.

This is why I love the free AppCleaner.

With AppCleaner, you can drag application files into AppCleaner and it will search all related files for you to delete at once.

AppCleaner window

Or you can set it up so you can send application files to the Trash and AppCleaner immediately opens itself with all the relevant information for you to deal with.

AppCleaner can also tell you how much space each app is taking up so you can decide whether to delete it to free up space.

And you can also remove widgets and plugins, which won’t return THAT much space, but every bit counts.

Window App Cleaner Widgets

Stop installing apps if a browser version is available

A lot of popular apps these days actually have web versions that are just as good – if not better. This eliminates the need to install the 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 uninstall it and use Google Docs instead, I get that 4GB back and all the space the LibreOffice files took up.

Also, be sure to read our sister site articles on how to use some web apps as desktop apps, thereby getting the most out of both worlds.

Other apps with good web versions include:

Empty iOS backup folder

If you are in the habit of using iTunes to back up your iOS devices to your Mac, you may want to consider deleting the iOS backup folder. When I checked it yesterday, it was almost 21GB, months ago!

To find the folder, go to Finder, then To go, afterward Go to folder.

Go to Selected Folder in Start menu

In the box that appears, type the following:


Clear the box that appears. Just remember to back up your new iOS right after, or back it up to iCloud.


Here’s what I do weekly to make sure my computer is as clean as possible. Every six months, I go a step further and completely reformat the computer, which is something I’ll cover in a very soon article.

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