How to Fix Issues With Other Storage on a Mac

What is "other" storage and how do you fix it?
20 minutes

Anyone who has ever had a computer, smartphone, or other techy gadget, knows storage can often be an issue in maintaining those devices. If you don't have enough storage to use your product the way that works for you, the convenience and joy of using it go down the drain.

There's nothing more frustrating than knowing the storage on your product is full, but not knowing how to fix it, what is taking up space, and how to delete or move the data to resolve your storage issue. That's often the case when it comes to Macs with "other" storage issues.

What is "other" storage

If you don't know what "other" storage is, "other" storage is basically a miscellaneous category for your Mac. This can include cache, temporary files, adware, browser extensions, and system files. Really, it includes anything that doesn't fit within the guidelines of the standard storage categories, which is pushed into the "other" category as a way for your Mac to accurately catalog the data on your Mac.

Other storage issues

Unfortunately, there can also be macOS issues that cause your data to be inaccurately cataloged within the "other" category even when it does fit within one of the standard storage categories (though this isn't a super common occurrence). Luckily, "other" storage issues are generally related to a macOS issue, and not a hardware issue, so they tend to be easy to fix.

Other storage mistakes

Often, Mac users download pesky adware (masquerading as helpful security and storage maintenance programs) thinking that adware or program will be able to remove the "other" data that they are having trouble locating. Sometimes, they delete data they don't want to delete to clear up space without making an actual dent in the "other" storage.

So, in this guide, I go over how to clear up "other" storage, how to know if you have an "other" storage issue, and how to fix "other" storage issues.

2020 Apple MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip2020 Apple MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip ×1

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How to Fix Issues With Other Storage on a Mac
Apple (Edited)

Knowing the standard storage categories can help you determine what may be taking up space in that pesky "other" storage category. Keep in mind that sometimes there are going to be exceptions. For example, some apps and/or their documents and data can end up in "other," especially adware, plug-ins, and extensions.

The standard storage categories include (but are not limited to):

  • Applications
  • Books
  • Documents
  • Mail
  • Music
  • Music Creation
  • iCloud Drive
  • iOS files
  • Photos
  • Podcasts
  • Trash

There is also:

  • System (system mainly includes the macOS and system files, but some system files are categorized as "other.")
  • Other

The categories will vary and be dependent on both what you have on your Mac and your macOS version.

Other Storage on Mac
Apple (Edited)

So, how do you know if you need to take action to clear up your other storage? That's easy! If your other storage is over 50 GB or so, then consider taking action to clear it up. Most Macs won't exceed 50 to 60 GB of other storage without a culprit taking up space.

Another issue that can occur is unstable "other" storage. Sometimes this is just the result of a computer that needs to be reindexed. Other times, there is a macOS issue occurring. I will go into the steps to fix that later.

How to Fix Issues With Other Storage on a Mac
Apple (Edited)

To check and clear your other storage, you will need to first navigate to the storage settings in your macOS. To do this, navigate to the following:

  1. Click the Apple logo in the upper left-hand corner of the Mac.
  2. Select "about this mac."
  3. Click "storage."
  4. Click "manage."

Jot down how much space "other" storage is taking up on your Mac. This will allow you to calculate your progress later. Here you can also view your Mac's storage, and you can also make changes by deleting directly from this window.

Consider taking a moment to select "documents." Deleting old downloaded movies, downloads you no longer need, etc., can help with "other" storage. Mostly, this is because of duplicate data or allocation issues. However, since we cannot click "other" storage and delete directly, we will take a slightly different approach.

Delete Cache Mac
MacPaw (Edited)

In order to clear out the cache on your Mac, we need to navigate to the library folder using Finder. Here's how:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Click the "go" option in your menu bar (upper left-hand corner).
  3. Press "go to folder."
  4. Type: ~/Library/Caches and click "go."
  5. Select "caches" to open the cache folder.
  6. Don't delete the cache folder itself, but delete all of the folders and files within that folder by clicking Command + A.
  7. Move all those documents to the trash can (you may be asked for your password).
  8. Empty the trash can.

There are still more temp and cache living on your hard drive. So, next:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Click the "go" option in your menu bar (upper left-hand corner).
  3. Select "computer."
  4. Click "Macintosh HD" (this sometimes is "untitled" or another name you may have given your hard drive.
  5. Select "cache" to open the cache folder.
  6. Don't delete the cache folder itself, but delete all of the folders and files within that folder by clicking Command + A.
  7. Move all those documents to the trash can (you may be asked for your password).
  8. Empty the trash can.

You have deleted your cache. This should reflect if you navigate back to apple logo > about this mac > storage> manage. If you are not seeing a change, consider rebooting your Mac or giving it some time to recalculate before moving forward.

Delete "Other" Storage from Finder
MacKeeper (Edited)

To get a more accurate selection of data that may be the culprit to your other storage, we will use Finder like we did above. If you have left that window, just navigate there again. Here's another way how:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Click the "go" option in your menu bar (upper left-hand corner).
  3. Press and hold the "option" key on your keyboard.
  4. While still pressing the option key, click "library."

From here, your Finder window will open to the library folder. Do not make any other changes to the library folder other than what is suggested in this guide.

Next:

  1. Make sure "this mac" is selected at the top of the Finder window.
  2. Select the '+" to the far right of the window.
  3. Click "kind."
  4. Click "other."
  5. Make sure "file size" and "file extension" are both checked in the drop-down and click "OK."
  6. Look through the data and delete only data what is suggested below by searching for that file type (you may be asked for your password).
  7. Make sure to clear the trash can after deleting data.

Here is where you want to be mindful. Only consider deleting:

  • .dmg (Apple disk images): These are absolutely useless after the corresponding app has been installed. They are initially downloaded when you download an app. After clicking a DMG, you install the app, so the DMG can be deleted as long as you've already installed that app. It will not harm your app to delete it.
  • .pdf (portable document format): PDFs accumulate over time. Here, be selective. Open the PDFs and see what they are. Then, make an educated decision.
  • .pages or .doc (documents): Be selective here as well. See what they are first. If they are just old documents you recognize, delete them. If they look like system files, or you aren't sure what they are, don't delete them to be safe.

These deletions should reflect if you navigate back to Apple logo > about this mac > storage> manage. If you are not seeing a change, consider rebooting your Mac or giving it some time to recalculate before moving forward. If no changes show after a couple of minutes, reboot the Mac.

Reindex Spotlight
Apple (Edited)

If you have done all the above steps, and still have an "other" storage problem, consider reindexing your spotlight. This will allow your computer to reorganize the data on your Mac. If it is improperly allocating data, this can often resolve it.

This step should only be done if you either have unstable, fluctuating "other" storage, or you have a ton of "other" storage (100 GB for example) that you cannot find the source of.

Note that this step takes mere seconds to complete, but your computer will take hours to reindex. I suggest giving it overnight to complete the process.

To reindex, try the following:

  1. Click the Apple logo in the upper left-hand corner.
  2. Click "system preferences."
  3. Chose "Spotlight."
  4. Select "privacy."
  5. Drag and drop your Macintosh HD into the list (which is most likely empty at this point).
  6. Click your Macintosh HD in the list and select "-" in the lower left-hand corner of the window.

Your work is done for now! Give your computer several hours to reindex. Think of it like your computer is spring cleaning. It takes time.

Clear Storage Mac
Apple (Edited)

After reindexing, if you are still having problems, there is a deeper issue happening with the macOS or your data. Things like duplicate mail folders, duplicate misplaced photo library folders, old home folders from users that were deleted (but home folders that weren't), etc., can cause this issue.

You can continue to try to look for this data using the steps in step three:

  1. Click the Apple logo in the upper left-hand corner of the Mac.
  2. Select "about this mac."
  3. Click "storage."
  4. Click "manage."
  5. Search "documents," "large files," "downloads," and take a peek at large file types like the "Photo library" folder.

It isn't uncommon for this issue to happen if there are duplicates of data types that are typically large like mentioned. This does take time to look through, but can be found with patience. Checking apps like Steam, games, and other apps that have a lot of data associated with them can also help. If you cannot find the culprit, or you recognize fluctuating numbers of "other" storage being taken up (the "other" storage keeps jumping and changing), more intensive troubleshooting would have to be done.

For example:

  • Reinstalling the macOS could resolve a possible bug within the macOS (if there is one).
  • Backing up your data, erasing the hard drive, reinstalling the operating system, and seeing if the issue is occurring before installing your backup back on the hard drive is the best way to narrow things down. If it isn't, you may just bring the issue over by restoring your data.
  • Contacting the manufacturer for assistance. Call them. See if they have a current software issue they know of, or if they can do more in-depth troubleshooting that will allow you to find the culprit without erasing the hard drive. There are often little hidden culprits like I have mentioned throughout this guide that may be easier to find with some hands-on help.
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