If your hard disk is full and you need to clear out some space fast, here are 20 places to look. In macOS Monterey you can use the Storage Manager to clear out a lot of unneeded files, plus I'll show you some places to look in your Library folder, Applications, Photos, Documents, iCloud and more.
Check out 20 Ways To Free Up Disk Space On Your Mac at YouTube for closed captioning and more options.
Is your Mac’s hard drive full, or nearly so? The long-term solution is to remember to get a larger drive on your next Mac, as it looks like you underestimated how much storage you need. But in the meantime, here are some places you can look to free up space on your drive.
The TV App
The TV app is one of the many places where large files can easily accumulate. If you have purchased movies or TV shows from Apple, then you may have downloaded them here. They can take up several GB of space each. But purchased video can be easily re-downloaded, so there is no need to store them here when you are in need of more space.
Launch the TV app and look in the left sidebar for “Downloaded.” If you see it there, you have some downloaded content. Click on that and see what you have.
You can click on the three-dots button on each item or Control+click and then select Remove Download to delete them.
But another place you can see these, along with sizes, is in the Storage Manager. Go to the Apple Menu and choose About This Mac. Then click System Information. Then click Storage at the top. Now you are looking at the Storage Manager. We’ll be using this utility often here. Click on TV in the sidebar. Now you can see all of the video content in a list. You can click on Size at the top to sort by size if you like. Select any item and you can click Delete at the bottom to remove it. You can even Shift+click to select a range of videos, or Command+A to select all, and then Delete.
The Podcasts App
You can do the same with the Podcasts app. Podcasts can be tricky because it is easy to subscribe to a daily podcast, forget about it, and find out you have months of large daily downloads stored on your drive, waiting for you to listen.
In the Podcasts app, look for Downloads in the left sidebar, then Control+click on any item and Remove Downloads. You can also see and sort a list in the Storage Manager, under Podcasts.
The Books App
In the Books app sidebar, look for All under Library. Any book you see with a little cloud icon is not currently taking up space. Everything else is local. You can just go through them and click on the three-dots button and select Remove.
But it is probably better to go to the Storage Manager and remove them from there. It is easier to see what you have and what is really taking up space, and what is not. Some books are just a few MB in size and not worth worrying about, while others can be 100s of MB or more.
GarageBand and Apple Loops
Ever use GarageBand? If you do, then you probably don’t want to delete it or any of the files it needs. But if you don’t use it, or having space is just more important right now, then look in these folders:
/Library/Audio/Apple Loops Index
Note that these are all at the top level of your drive, not in your user folder. So open a new Finder window, choose Go, Computer. Then dig down into your internal drive (usually Macintosh HD) and then into Library. Then look at each of these four folders. If they aren’t there, that’s fine. Otherwise, select the folder and use Command+i to get the size of the folder contents.
That’s how much space you’ll save deleting these folders. You can do that one of two ways. One is to delete these folders. The other is to use the Storage Manager, select Music Creation on the left, and then press the big “Remove GarageBand Sound Library” button. But even then, you may want to go back and check these folders again as some of the items may be left behind because technically other apps, like Logic, can use them.
Maybe you aren’t a developer, but one day you decided to download Xcode and play with it. Now you need some space and are willing to dump it.
In addition to the app, Xcode stores a lot of stuff in a lot of places. Here’s where to look. Note that anything starting with ~/ is in your Home folder Library folder. To get there, hold the Option key down and choose Go, Library. You won’t see Library in the Go menu until you hold Option.
Note: Caches will just be rebuilt when you use Xcode. But if you aren’t using it right now, you can delete these to get some space back temporarily. Plus, if some of the cache is for old projects that you’ll never work with again, then it could be worth it. The best place to delete this is in the Storage Manager, in the Developer section.
This is one place old versions of iOS are stored for use in simulators. There’s a good chance you don’t need them anymore. And if you do, you can always re-download them inside of Xcode.
When you build a project and send it into the App Store, the archive is saved here. But it doesn’t get deleted later when you have a new build. The best place to handle there is in Xcode, Window, Organizer. And keep in mind there are valid reasons to keep old archives around, such as using them to figure out debug messages sent in by user crashes. You can also delete these in Storage Manager, Developer. Look for Project Archives and Project Build Data.
You can check to see if you have any simulators here you don’t need. Maybe you just want to test on the current version of iOS, or at least the latest version of each major release. The best place to delete these is in the Storage Manager, in the Developer section.
~/Library/Developer/Xcode/UserData/IB Support/Simulator Devices
Here’s another place you can clear out some things. Anything you need here would be regenerated when you needed them while using Xcode.
You can clean out old build data by opening a project in Xcode and then choosing Product, Clean Build Folder. But you’d need to open every project you have ever worked on to do it all. Instead, you can just delete the contents of this folder.
If you still back up your iPhone or iPad to your Mac, you’ll have some large files containing these backups. Even if you have switched to using iCloud, you may have some old orphaned backups you can delete.
Go to the Storage Manager and select iOS Files. This is the easy way to see and delete them.
Old iOS Software Updates
Remember when we used to have to update our iPhones through our Macs? You can still do that, or maybe you just have some old updates left behind.
Check out ~/Library/iTunes/ and see what is in there. If you see a folder with updates you can delete it.
Old Application Libraries
Today Applications aren’t supposed to store much outside of the application itself. But some still put things in the Library folder. Worse, some apps you may have last used years ago may have left some things behind.
Go to ~/Library/Application Support in List View. Sort by size. Turn on Calculate All Sizes by going to View, Show View Options.
Now see what is taking up space. Notice some old app you don’t use anymore taking up a huge amount of space there? Delete it.
Also check in /Library/Application for more. These would be at the system level, not just for that one user.
You can make your Mac read text to you, use Siri, and a variety of Accessibility functions that use speech. Maybe at one point you thought it would be fun to download a bunch of extra voices to hear what they sound like.
Go to these two locations to find voice:
Note the second location is not just for voices, but you can usually see which ones are voices by looking at the names. You can’t do anything to these files here and you shouldn’t try. This is part of the system and is protected.
So how to get rid of them? Go to System Preferences, Accessibility, Spoken Content. Where it shows System Voice, select that and go to the bottom of the list to choose Customize. Now you can uncheck any voice you want to remove. Some of these will barely save anything. Others, like the Siri voices, will save half a GB. Leave at least one Siri voice, and maybe Samantha and Alex there. The rest are up to your personal preferences.
So here is where a lot of advice goes wrong. You’ll hear people telling you to remove your cache files to speed up your Mac. Actually, the whole point of cache files is to speed things up. Deleting them will slow you down, at least while the caches are built up again.
Caches represent either downloaded data or data that needs to be generated for an app to work efficiently. Deleting it won’t hurt too much, but it will just regenerate anyway. However, sometimes there are cache files that were put there by apps you no longer use. You might as well get rid of those.
Go to these two locations, use List View, sort by size. Turn on Calculate All Sizes again. See what is large and what is labeled as coming from an app you no longer use, or maybe don’t plan on using again for a while. Delete those. Don’t obsess over the smaller folders. They aren’t worth your time.
If you get a lot of messages in the Messages app, it could be worth checking out the largest attachments you have and deleting them if you don’t care about them anymore. No use keeping that meme GIF that someone from work sent you 6 months ago, right?
Go to the Storage Manager and choose Messages. Sort by Size. See if the largest ones are taking up too much space. Select and delete. Shift+select and Command+A works here too.
Photos and iCloud Photos
Launch Photos, then choose Photos, Preferences, and then General. See the Library Location? Go there. You can actually click it right there and it will open in the Finder. Now Command+i to see how big it is so you know what you are dealing with.
If you want to shrink it, one way is to use iCloud Photos. Yes, this will take up space in iCloud. Yes, you will probably need to choose a paid subscription plan. But for that you not only free up some space on your drive, you also will have your precious photos stored somewhere other than your house where a single disaster could make them vanish them forever. And you get to access all of your photos on your iPhone and iPad too. Not to mention the automatic syncing — never connect and sync your iPhone photos again!
Note that turning on iCloud Photos won’t make a difference right away. All of your photos will have to upload. Then over time some of the older, less viewed photos will be offloaded so they aren’t taking up space. You’ll need to make sure you choose “Optimize Mac Storage” in Photos, Preferences, iCloud to get the storage-saving benefits.
If your Photos library is big, one reason could be the videos. You can have a ton of photos in your library, but only a handful of videos could weigh more than those easily. One way I deal with that is to simply not store videos in my Photos library.
Instead, I put them in a separate folder in a separate location, often on an external drive. To export them from your library, select the video and choose File, Export Unmodified Original. Then delete the library copy as soon as you confirm you have the video as an independent file now. Then store them as you like. Good file names help here too so you can find them later.
This idea isn’t for everyone. If your main use of your iPhone’s camera is to take short videos, not photos, then you probably want those all in your library.
Old Photo Libraries
It is so easy to have old Photos libraries left lying around. Maybe you duplicated your library at one point as a backup. Maybe you create a new library for a special project and forgot about it. Maybe you upgraded from iPhoto to Photos back in 2013 and kept the old iPhoto library around just in case.
Do a Finder search for “.photoslibrary” to see what you can find. Then do one for “.iPhoto” for those old iPhoto libraries. Then access what they are and whether you need them anymore. Maybe archive them to an external drive if you want to keep them, but want to save space on your internal drive right now.
When you download something from your web browser or even an app like Mail, the default location is the Downloads folder. Perhaps your Downloads folder has accumulated a lot of junk you don’t really need?
It is best practice to download something and then immediately move it to a better location, or use it right there if it is an installer of some kind. Then delete it. But if you haven’t done that, it may be time to look through this folder and get rid of everything you don’t need anymore, and more things you do want to the Documents folder or elsewhere.
The Trash (Bin) folder is another place things accumulate. You should never put anything in the Trash unless you are fine with it disappearing forever immediately. It is a safety net, not a part of any workflow.
So if your Trash has some things in it, it is a good idea to empty it often. Look inside now and sort by size to see if you can expect any relief from this if you want. But empty either way.
If you find that your Trash often gets pretty large, then go to the the Storage Manager and click Recommendations at the top. Then look for Empty Trash Automatically. Click Turn On. Now items that have been in the Trash for more than 30 days will delete themselves.
I previously mentioned files used by GarageBand and Xcode. If you want you can delete both of those apps in addition to their Library files.
Use LaunchPad to do this. In LaunchPad, click and hold any icon. Then click the X above any apps you wish to delete.
If you want to see what other apps are taking up space, go to the /Applications folder. Sort by size. Turn on Calculate All Sizes too, as some apps may be storing themselves inside of folders.
Now you’ve got to make judgment calls. If an app takes up a lot of space and you don’t really need it, consider deleting it. To delete an app, use LaunchPad. If the X doesn’t appear for that app, that means it could be a system app that can’t be deleted. Don’t worry about those.
Other apps that LaunchPad can’t delete are third-party apps you may have downloaded. These require that the developer provide some sort of official uninstall method. So go to the developer documentation or website and look for that. Often it is as simple as just moving the app from the Applications folder to the Trash and emptying the Trash.
Large Mail Messages
Normally a single email message isn’t going to use much space. But maybe someone emailed you a huge file at some point and that one message can be deleted so you can recover some space.
In the Mail app, go to each email account in the left sidebar. Choose the mailbox/folder that represents where you store most of your saved messages. For iCloud and Gmail, it is usually “Archive.” Then go to View, Sort By, Size. Now you can see if there is a message large enough to deserve your attention. Remember to set the sort back to date afterwards.
Find Large Files
After you have done everything above, you only have your own documents to worry about. The easy thing to do now is to search for unusually large files.
In the Finder, start a search. You can restrict your search to just your Home folder or just iCloud Drive if you like by starting there. Or, choose “On My Mac” at the top of the search window to look everywhere.
Then set up the search for “File Size” is greater than 100 MB. You’ll probably have to choose “Other” as the search criteria and then look for “File Size” in the list.
See if this reveals a few huge files that you maybe forgot about and don’t need anymore. You can select them and Command+Delete to move them to the Trash right here from the search results.
Examine Your Documents
So this leaves one more thing, your own document files. They are probably in only one of two places: your Home folder and your iCloud Drive folder.
Go to each one, use List View, and turn on Calculate All Sizes. Then click on the little triangles to the left of any folders to peak inside and dig down. Use this to figure out which folders are taking up the most space and see what you have inside them.
If you see something you don’t need, delete it. If you see something you don’t need but want to keep around, move it to an external drive to archive it.
Bonus: Time Machine Local Snapshots
One more thing that could be using space is Time Machine Local Snapshots. Say you have a MacBook and have set it up with Time Machine. But you haven’t connected to the Time Machine drive in a while. Your Mac will still back up data, but it can’t put it on that Time Machine drive. So it stores it in unused space on your drive until it can.
Now this should only use unused space. But your Mac can’t read your mind and know you need to 30 GB to download some video file, so it won’t know how much space to leave free.
To clear out local snapshots, simply connect your Time Machine drive and allow it to continue its regular backups.
Or, if you simply can’t do that and don’t mind maybe losing some backup data since the last time you connected that drive, you can clear out Local Snapshots another way. Just go to System Preferences, Time Machine. Turn off Back Up Automatically. Then wait. Give your Mac some minutes to delete the Local Snapshots. Then turn it back on again.
Gary: is the only way to get the advanced search window by pressing Ctrl F" ? I thought there was an icon or menu option for this. thx
sorry..meant CMD F, btw couldn't see in your video how you start a new advanced search in a new tab. thx again
nick: If you just start typing in the search field, you can then click the + button and add the size criteria. But it makes more sense to use Command+F to get there.
Great advice... my Outlook Message Sources file under users etc is 199GB. Can I delete it? And, what is it? I use outlook for all my email...I do not use the mail app. Thank you!
Paul: I don't use Outlook so I can't say for sure. But it would make sense that it is your Outlook email messages and that deleting it may delete your Outlook email. It probably depends on your settings. I can't help much since I don't use Outlook so I can't investigate. I'd ask in a forum for Outlook users how you can reduce that.