Managing storage on Mac

Your Mac only holds so much. One of the most dangerous situations we encounter is full hard drives. If you see the message below, you need to take action IMMEDIATELY.


It’s a good idea to have at least 10 GB of free space available on your drive. Running out of disk space is serious and will cause a general breakdown of most computer functions.

Check your Mac’s storage under the Apple Menu – About This Mac, then click the Storage tab. See instructions.

We always recommend getting a computer with at least 250 GB of built-in storage. The internal storage of most Macs cannot  be upgraded later. If your disk is full, follow the steps outlined on this page. If you still need more space, you might consider purchasing an external USB hard drive.

What is taking all my space?

An inexpensive app called Disk Care makes it easy to find out what’s taking space on your drive and remove items you don’t need.

Don’t have Disk Care? Here’s how to clean out a few files without losing any of your data.

  1. Quit all apps. Click each application and choose Quit from its menu. Closing windows is not enough.
  2. Click the Finder, then the Go menu at the top of the screen. Choose Go To Folder.
  3. Type or copy & paste ~/Library/Caches and click Go.
  4. Select all the items inside and drag them to the trash.
  5. Click the Go menu at the top of the screen. Choose Go To Folder.
  6. Type or copy & paste ~/Library/iTunes and click Go.
  7. Look for iPad, iPhone or iPod Software Updates and drag them to the trash.
  8. Open the Mobile Backups folder inside the iTunes folder.
  9. Each device you sync with this Mac stores backup files here. You should probably keep at least the last backup of each device but you might consider dragging the older files to the trash. And it’s safe to delete backups of devices you no longer have.
  10. Restart the computer.
  11. Empty the trash.

Deleting other items you don’t use

You can remove most items you don’t need by dragging them to the trash, then open the trash and click Empty Trash.

If you’re running low on space, try removing videos first. Every minute of video takes as much space as 2 to 10 songs, 5 to 25 photos or 30 to 150 docs, depending on whether it's SD or HD. You can safely delete any music, movies or TV shows [Evernote] you purchased from Apple. They will still show in your library and you can stream or download particular items again whenever you have internet access. See strategies for managing large music, photo or video collections.

Transferring files to an external drive

When your internal storage is full, adding an external drive can help. The USB drives you find at computer and office supply stores are fine for most purposes. Seagate and Western Digital are good brands. Look for a drive at least 1 TB that features USB 3 for a fast connection. Be sure to reformat a drive for Mac before putting files on it, unless you will also use it with Windows.

Learn more about transferring files and backup.

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