9 Ways To Free Up Space And Clean Macs

Here are some suggestions on how to clean Macs hard drive and get some more free space on your mac running OS X.

A full hard drive can be one of many reasons your mac is running slow. Knowing how to find files that take up unneeded space isn’t always easy but there are tools available to help out with this. Both free and paid ones.

However before we get to that lets do some easy and simple tasks first, shall we?

1. Empty the trashcan

When you delete a file on your Mac, it gets placed in the trashcan. This is a security feature if you accidentally delete a file. To really get the file deleted and reclaim the space it took, you need to empty the trashcan. Do so by right-clicking or holding cmd while clicking on the trash can icon. Select “empty trashcan” from the menu that pops up.

empty trash mac

2. Photos have a trashcan as well

If you delete images from Photos they will be placed in an internal trash can in Photos and deleted automatically after a month or so. To delete the files now you need to find “Recently Deleted” in Photos.

If you dont see “Recently Deleted”, you probably have the side-bar turned off. Turn it on by having the Photos application open and press the following keys at the same time: alt cmd S

Find “Recently Deleted” in the sidebar, and click the Delete All button at the top right corner in the Photos app. Easy! Oh, and if you accidentally deleted an image, here is where you can restore it. Consider it a bonus tips.

recently deleted

3. Check the Applications folder

Do you really use all applications? Take a look in your Applications folder and see if you have something that you dont use anymore. Installation image files like “Install OS X El Capitan” often take over 5GB of storage and can be safely removed. Or put the file on an external hard drive if you need it at a later date. They are only used to install your system and isn’t needed when your system is up and running.


Also, do not forget to empty the trashcan when you have deleted something. 😉

4. Check the Downloads folder

Everything you download with Safari will by default be stored in the Download folder. Make sure you clean it up once in a while and delete files you dont need anymore. For example installation files for Applications. Not needed after the Application is installed on your system and you can always download it again if you have to.

5. Free Cleaning Tools

Here are some free cleaning tools for your Mac you can try out. They all work pretty good and are able to remove a lot of un-needed files.

EtreCheck – Simple and respected diagnostic tool developed for Macs with adware detection and removal capabilities. Currently over 500,000 users and a worldwide following.

CCleaner – This can clean your Internet Cache from Safari, Firefox or Chrome (among other things). You can reclaim a few MB to a few GBs. I got 1,4 GB removed and most of that was Internet cache, not bad.

Onyx – Onyx have been around for a long time but always gets updated when new OS X releases ship. This is a good and safe tool to run. Dont be afraid of all the options, just use the default settings and run through them. It shouldn’t hurt your OS X installation.

Monolingual – Useful tool for removing unnecessary language resources from OS X. You can get a few hundred MB back if you use this.

6. Clean My Mac

This is a tool you have to pay for but it is very good. I consider myself an advanced user and are able to remove most files by myself, but this tool really gets deep in there and remove things even I didn’t think about. If you dont want to do all this yourself and just want an extremely easy and convenient way of getting more space this is the tool you should buy.

After running Onyx, CCleaner and doing the things mentioned above I did a run of Clean My Mac and this was the result:

clean my mac

Over 10GB more of data to remove. Interesting. So what does it remove? Here is a short breakdown of it.

System Junk

  • Outdated cache files
  • Old logs
  • Extra application binaries
  • Broken app data

Photo Junk

  • Photo cache files
  • Faces cache

Mail Attachments

  • Locally stored attachments
  • Recoverable mail downloads

(Any of the removed files can be restored by accessing Mail again.)

iTunes Junk

  • Old iOS device backups
  • Used iOS software update files
  • Copies of iOS apps stored on your Mac
  • Broken iTunes downloads

Trash Bins

  • Contents of your main trash bin
  • Mail and photo library trash

This amounted to 10+ GB for me and that is pretty significant.

Not only that, it can also uninstall applications for you and show you things you maybe forgot, like I did.

clean my mac

17GB of firmware files lying around from work. I dont need old firmware files.

Get Clean My Mac now, and by doing so you are directly supporting me and this website. The free version will scan your system just as the paid version and it will show you everything you can remove, but it has a 500MB limit.

7. Move Your Photos Library to External Hard Drive

If you have a lot of photos it can take up a significant chunk of your available storage. Depending on how many photos you have and what camera you use of course. To reduce this you have a few options. The most obvious one is to delete images you dont need or want and the most easy one. Just remember to delete the trash as well!

Buy an external hard drive and copy your Photos library over to that hard drive. When you have copied the file over to the new hard drive. Hold the alt key down while you click on the Photos icon. You should now be able to choose a new library. Navigate to the library on the external drive and bang, there you go. You should be able to delete the library on your main drive now. But be sure its really there! And backup everything before you make big changes.

change photo library

Having to use an external drive could be an hassle, especially if you use one of the laptops Apple makes. If you upgrade your iCloud storage plan you could have all your images stored there. Then go into the photos settings and turn on “Optimize Mac Storage”. It will store the full resolution images in iCloud and locally on your Mac if you have room for it. It is a pretty neat feature actually but it needs some time to adjust itself to your system. And you have to pay for iCloud storage. It does its magic work in the background though.

I have tried it, and it works. But I would like to adjust how much available space it should target for. We have no option for that yet, and I dont believe Apple will add it.

8. Move Your iTunes Library to External Hard Drive

You can move the iTunes library as well in the same manner as I mentioned above. Copy the entire iTunes folder to another place. Then hold the alt key down while clicking the iTunes icon and navigate to the new library. Easy.

9. Disable Time Machine local snapshots

If you use Time Machine as a backup solution thats good, but it also stores some of its backups to your startup drive called snapshots.

If you have your backup drive occasionally disconnected and move around a lot time machine snapshots may start to fill up your drive. With that said though, they will automatically be removed if your storage gets low so think of this as an last resort. Backup is important.

If you still want to disable this you have to start terminal from Applications/Utilities/Terminal

Type this is in the terminal: sudo tmutil disablelocal and hit enter. Then enter your password and your are done.


So there you have it. I hope some of these suggestions helps you reclaim some space on your Apple device. Its not always easy to know where to look. The last option is to wipe your hard drive and do a clean re-install of your system and selectively put the data back. A tedious and time consuming job but sometimes it just the best thing to do.

Do you have any suggestions on how to free up space that I didn’t think about? Please leave a comment below. Also if this helped you I appreciate some feedback as well.

CleanMyMac 2 Hard Drive Diet

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