How to Clear up Storage on a Mac

Mac Storage Clearing Steps

If the storage on your Mac is full or getting out of control, you may be facing the extremely daunting task of clearing out some of the old and unnecessary data that is taking up space on your Mac. Mac users often dread this task, not because the process is incredibly difficult, but because it takes time and patience.

In fact, clearing out the old or unwanted data on your Mac to create more storage is incredibly simple, and there are tricks for making it even easier. While it may take you a bit of time, and you may find you are resistant to deleting some of the data on your Mac, anyone can easily create some extra space on their Mac by following the steps below.

In this guide, I show you how to clear out the storage on your Mac, creating space for all the many new bits of data you will accumulate.

MacBook Pro ×1

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Click the Apple Logo

First, click the Apple logo in the upper left-hand corner.

Select "About This Mac"

Select "About This Mac."

Click "Storage"

Click "Storage" to view your Mac's in-depth storage details.

Click "Manage"

Select "Manage."

Determine Storage Needs

Now, take a peek at how much storage you've used versus your storage capacity. Once you know the difference, determine how much space you need moving forward.

How to determine your storage needs:

  1. Storage used- Check how much storage you have used versus what the storage capacity of your Mac is. In my case, I have used 167.11 GB out of 245.11 GB. This leaves me with 78.01 GB left. So, in my case, I don't really need more storage. If you have less than 10 GB of storage, you should really be doing some work to make sure you create more room. At all times, you should have at least 5 GB of free space that you will not use. This is simply so that your Mac can function fully, and you don't experience slow performance.
  2. Future needs- Do you need to download a large program or app? If you have a good amount of free capacity on your Mac, but you know you need to download a large program, check the size of that program and determine how much you will be left with.
  3. Mac uses- What do you use your Mac for? Many first-time Mac buyers make the mistake of buying a Mac that doesn't meet their storage needs. It is important that your Mac can meet your storage needs before buying it. If you are quickly realizing it doesn't meet your needs, consider returning it if you are within warranty or getting an external storage device like a flash drive to keep non-essential data.
Consider the Recommendations

In the current window, you will see about four general recommendations to help with storage. Most of these recommendations come with both instant reductions in storage and are preventative of storage issues in the future.

  1. Store in iCloud- Storing in iCloud keeps iCloud data like files, photos, and messages in iCloud, meaning it doesn't take up space on the Mac, but will still be accessible.
  2. Optimize Storage- Optimizing allows you to save space by removing movies and TV from the device after watching them. This means that the data doesn't take up space once you watch it.
  3. Empty Trash Automatically- This recommendation simply clears your trash every 30 days. I highly recommend enabling this if you often forget to empty your trash.
  4. Reduce Clutter- This recommendation will give you the option to review files and delete them based on size and relevancy. If you'd like to reduce clutter, move on to the next step with me!
Reduce Clutter

To reduce potential clutter, click "Review Files." This option creates fairly large results quickly depending on how you use your device.

Delete Files

By default, you will automatically see the largest files that take up the most space, so I recommend starting here and deleting anything you no longer need. To the right of each file, you will see the size of each file. This allows you to know exactly how much space you are creating as you go.

How to delete files:

  1. Click the file in question
  2. Click "Delete" in the lower right-hand corner
  3. Once you are done with "Large Files," click "Downloads," :Unsupported Apps," "Containers," and "File Browser." Downloads and Unsupported Apps take up a lot of space and often serve every little purpose, so don't overlook those files.
Use the Side Bar

On the left-hand side of the window, you can cycle through each category. I recommend starting from the top and working your way down.

How to delete data using the sidebar

  1. Click the section in question. In my case, "Applications."
  2. On the right, you will see all the data for that section. You can then click on any of that data that you no longer need or want.
  3. Once you click on something, click "Delete" in the lower right-hand corner.
  4. Some deletions may require an Administrator password.
  5. Continue doing this by clicking each section in the sidebar, deleting the data from that section you don't want or need, and moving forward.

Please note that you cannot delete the macOS or system data. Unless there is a wild number showing next to one of those two categories, like 100GB, you shouldn't worry about these sections. If you do see outrageous numbers here, look into troubleshooting this and/or reindexing your spotlight.


Now, review the storage and access if you need to do more work and part with more data.

How to review:

  1. Click the Apple logo
  2. Select "About this Mac"
  3. Click "Storage"
  4. See if the amount you needed to delete is gone. If it's not, go through the steps again.
Upgrade your Mac for Apple's latest software!
2 hours

Mac users are often intimidated by large upgrades, scared that they might lose data or end up dealing with installation errors that take up more time and energy than they anticipated, but the truth about upgrading is that it's actually relatively simple and easy. Even though upgrading your Mac can be intimidating, it's really about following the steps and waiting it out. Yes, it takes some time to upgrade your Mac, but you aren't obligated to sit and stare at your Mac's progress during that time. Actually, it is better to go through the steps and let your Mac upgrade seamlessly on its own as it's designed to. In fact, most upgrade errors that occur are actually caused by user error, when users get impatient with the speeds of the upgrade process or try to use it while the upgrade is downloading and before the steps are complete. Before upgrading, it is important to follow a few steps to simplify the process and avoid complications. Before upgrading: Set aside the time to upgrade- As I mentioned above, expect to be near your computer, even if you are just in the other room watching television or cooking dinner. Don't try to upgrade when you only have an hour until work, or will not be near your computer to finish the job! Check your storage- Your Mac needs to have plenty of space to accommodate the upgrade. Before beginning, check your Mac's storage to make sure it has enough space. Generally, an upgrade is around 13 GB, but your Mac also needs space to do all that it does in a day. So, avoid upgrading unless you have at least 20 GB of free space on your Mac. If you don't, consider clearing up some space. Consider your internet and location- What you are about to do requires a flat surface that will not absorb heat and that is close to your router. Don't upgrade your Mac on your bed. Find a flat surface that will allow the needed ventilation. Also, If you are far from your router, move closer. If there is a fridge, microwave, and other possible causes of Wi-Fi interference, change your Mac's location, so that you are getting the best internet speeds possible. If able, I recommend using an Ethernet cord so that you have the fastest speeds possible instead of Wi-Fi, though if you have good Wi-Fi and are within the range needed with your internet plan, don't worry about connecting directly to the router! Back up your Mac- Make sure all your data is safe and sound, and follow along with me as I upgrade from MacOS Big Sur to MacOS Monterey. While date loss when upgrading isn't incredibly common, it can and does happen. So, backup your data. Don't skip this step before following along! Plug in your Mac- If you don't plug in your Mac, you won't be able to upgrade (depending on which MacOS you currently have). The software will otherwise automatically prompt you to plug in your Mac. To make your life easier, you can also set up automatic updates. Now, let's get started! Follow along with me as I upgrade from MacOS Big Sur to MacOS Monterey! Note: Some of these steps may vary depending on the version of MacOS you have and are upgrading to.