Using Content Caching

You can instruct your Mac to cache software updates, app downloads and iCloud content so the other devices on your home network can access these quickly. This works best if you have plenty of hard drive space to spare and many Apple devices in your home.

Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Using Content Caching.

So have you ever had the situation where there's a large Mac OS update and you have several Macs in your house and each one has to download the update. It could take awhile if you have a slower connection. It would be great if you could just download it once and then the other Macs can access it. Well, actually Mac OS High Sierra has this feature and more. It's called Content Caching.

You get to it in System Preferences by going to Sharing and then look for Content Caching on the left. I have it turned on here and you can see the green light is on which won't come on right away. It takes a little while to get started. Basically what Content Caching does is it will store local copies of things like Mac OS Updates, App downloads. Even your iCloud data like files and photos and things like that on your Mac's hard drive.

So you only want to do this if you have a Mac that has a large hard drive. If you already are limited with space on say a MacBook or something then this isn't for you. But if you have a desktop Mac and it has a big hard drive and you have plenty of extra space then you can use this. You can also use an external drive. You go to Options here and you can edit the cache location and use an external drive for this. You can limit how much space is used for this cache on your drive. Unlimited allows your Mac to just basically manage it itself and use any extra space available. But if I limit it all the way down to 2 GB then it will basically only have the latest stuff on there and maybe get rid of stuff it doesn't think it needs anymore.

Basically you can set it to All Content, Shared Content, or only iCloud Content. Shared Content would be things like Mac OS updates. Also iPhone updates and things like that will be stored as well. Also apps. iCloud Content would be things like your files and photos. Now think how great this is if you use iCloud Photo Library you may have everything on your Mac and able to view it there easily. But on your iPhone you're just pulling the photos from the internet as you browse through them. If you're in your house, this way it's getting those photos actually from your Mac, not actually pulling them all the way from iCloud. So it would be a lot faster because typically the network in your house is a whole level of magnitude or two faster than actually accessing data on the internet. So this is a really handy function to be able to have especially if you have a Mac like mine that has plenty of hard drive space.

Apple has all sorts of information about the details of this feature. So you can find it here. I'll include a link to this on the MacMost post. They detail what Content Caching is. How it works. It gives some examples and things like that. Even some complex situations and how it works. So it tells you all this information. Also it tells you about how you can view the logs for it and statistics for it.

One way to do that is to go to the Activity Monitor. Under Activity Monitor you can actually switch to Cache which is only there if you have Content Caching turned on. This shows you things like in the last thirty days, seven days, and twenty-four hours how much the cache has been used. So you can see if it's getting used. If it's actually helping you.

So you can read a lot more about this feature. You can enable it if you want and speed up downloads. This is especially great if you have a lot of hard drive space and if you have lots of Apple devices in your house.

Apple’s support document: About Content Caching

Comments: 10 Responses to “Using Content Caching”

    1 year ago

    Thanks! This is a great one!

    12 months ago

    So, you set content caching ONLY on the Mac with the large disk space and the other Macs benefit via sharing, but content caching is not activated on those other Macs, right?

    12 months ago

    Ron: Right. They just use the cache, they don’t become a cache themselves.

    12 months ago

    Gary, I like the idea but where are the files stored. Apple says the root directory but after downloading an app from the store I couldn’t locate it in the root. I is in the Applications folder. And does the cache automatically broadcast to the other Macs? Maybe I just need to look in the Apps folder of my laptop.

    12 months ago

    Steve: This doesn’t change what happens when you download a Mac app. It installs in the Applications folder as before. I’m not sure if it then makes the download available to other Macs like it does for iOS downloads on your network. The whole thing works automatically and there isn’t a place for a typical Mac user to look to see those data files it caches.

    12 months ago

    OK, can’t freeload anymore. I am now a Patron…thanks for all you do for the Apple community

    12 months ago

    Steve: Thanks!

    Steve & Sharin Housley
    12 months ago

    Thought I’d add to the discussion. I downloaded the latest OSX update to my iMac. It took 22 minutes, not including the install. The I opened the download on my 2016 MBP. the download took 2 minutes!!!

    12 months ago

    I have High Sierra V 10.3.4 but could not locate sharing. in System Preferences.

    12 months ago

    Paulette: If you are having trouble locating something in System Preferences, use the Search box at the top. You can also go to the View menu in the menu bar to see an alphabetical list.

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