12 surprisingly quick ways to clean up your Mac

Some people wonder whether they should clean their Macs. If you’re one of them, answer these questions: Does your Mac crash when you open multiple apps at a time? Is your Mac slow? Do you receive any messages telling you that you’re out of storage? If you have a positive answer to at least one of the questions above, you may need to give your Mac some cleanup. Keep on reading and find out how to clean up Mac. 

    What takes up space on your Mac

    Have you ever wondered what clogs up your Mac the most? These are different files and data, and they can be classified into the following groups: large and old files, system junk, app leftovers, old backups, photos junk, trash bins, and mail attachments. By the way, they are mentioned in order from the most space-consuming ones to the least hungry storage eaters.


    How to clean & optimize your Mac

    If you have never performed an automatic or manual system cleaning — it means that your Mac has been collecting unnecessary files and clutter for years. You can quickly clean up your Mac with these easy steps. For your convenience, we provide them based on their potential effectiveness, starting with the most effective ones. However, if you want to perform a full clean, make sure to follow all of the steps we mention here. 

    How to clean and optimize your Mac in one click

    Before we proceed with the tips, we’d like to introduce a tool that can help you clean and optimize your Mac with just one click — CleanMyMac X and its Smart Scan module. It removes junk files, detects malware, and finds ways to speed up your Mac. Just open CleanMyMac X and click Scan, and the app will do the job for you. Download it for free here.


    1. Update software

    Remember that cleaning your Mac is just one step in optimization. Another important part is keeping your Mac and apps up to date. It helps ensure that your Mac is glitch-free and apps work flawlessly.

    To update your Mac:

    1. Go to System Settings.
    2. Click General > Software Update.
    3. If an update is available, follow the on-screen instructions to install it. Make sure Automatic updates are turned on.

    Now that you’ve updated macOS, follow these steps to update apps:

    1. Open the App Store and click Updates from the sidebar. Click Update All.
    2. For apps downloaded from the developers’ websites, open each app that needs to be updated and click Check for Updates from the main menu (found top left in the menu bar under the name of the app). In some apps, you may find automatic updates within settings.
    3. If neither of the above works, you may need to visit the developer’s website and check the support section for information about updates.

    2. Uninstall apps you don’t use

    The applications you’ve installed on your Mac take up space, of course. And over time, when your Mac becomes full of different apps, it may start running slowly. How to clean MacBook? In the first place, you need to remove the apps you no longer use or need. To do this, right-click on the app you want to remove and choose Move to Trash/Bin.

    You may be surprised to find out that sending an app to Trash/Bin will not uninstall it completely because the app leftovers still remain on your Mac, taking up a lot of storage. So, if you want to be a responsible Mac user, you need to uninstall applications the right way. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to uninstall apps on a Mac.


    3. Delete large and old files

    It has always been a rule of thumb among computer geeks that you should keep a minimum of 15-20% of free space on your main hard drive. This is just a rough estimation, but the more free space you have, the faster your Mac works. A computer magazine once performed a test on this, which concluded that the difference in speed could reach as much as 35%. If you work with heavy graphics or video rendering, even more free space is recommended.

    How to have more free space? Delete large and old files.

    It can be totally manual and require you to find them one by one. But there is a second way — you just need to make two clicks, and CleanMyMac X will do the job for you:

    1. Download CleanMyMac X for free.
    2. Open the app.
    3. Go to the Large and Old Files module from the sidebar.
    4. Click Scan.
    5. Review the details, select what to clean, and then click Clean.

    That’s it!

    Archives selected in LAOF module of CleanMyMacX

    4. Empty the Trash

    Even though you’ve deleted the files, they reside in your Trash bin, taking up a lot of storage on your Mac. They are just waiting to be removed completely. If you want your precious hard drive space back, you need to empty the Trash/Bin.

    Here’s how to clean your MacBook from the trash:

    1. Click and hold the Trash/Bin icon in the Dock.
    2. Click Empty Trash.

    5. Optimize your storage

    Apple has already thought about the clutter that can be generated on Macs and provided a possible solution. Here’s how to reduce clutter on your Mac:

    1. Go to System Settings.
    2. Click General and then Storage. Here, you can see how much free space is left on your computer.
    System Preferences - Storage

    Here are also some recommendations for saving space on your Mac. These are known as built-in Optimize Storage tool. You can choose to Store in iCloud to transfer your data to the cloud or Optimize Storage to remove large media files.

    Tip

    While in the Storage tab of System Settings, you can see what’s taking up space. But it’s not the only way to check storage on Mac. Here is the article on some other ways to do it.

    Also, you can remove unneeded files from here. Just click the info icon next to any category (Applications, Trash/Bin, Documents, etc.), and you’ll see the list of files or apps stored. Select an item and click Delete to remove it and optimize space. Look through other recommendations and make the necessary changes to use your Mac’s space more efficiently.


    6. Clean up cache

    You’ve probably heard “remove your cache” as a web browser troubleshooting tip. In fact, your Mac stores a lot of information in files called caches, allowing fast access to that data and reducing the need to get it from the original source again. Unfortunately, those files take up a lot of space on your Mac, and instead of speeding things up, they slow your computer down. Therefore, if you want to give your system a boost, clean your Mac from the cache files.

    There are two ways to do that: you can delete them manually or use a MacBook cleaner like CleanMyMac X to do the job for you. If you decide to clean up the cache manually, check out a comprehensive guide on how to clear cache on a Mac. Here, you’ll find steps to delete different types of cache files: system cache, user cache (including app cache), and browser cache. 

    If you want to get rid of cache the easy way, use CleanMyMac X: 

    1. Open the app (if you haven’t downloaded it yet, here is the link to the free version). 
    2. Navigate to System Junk in the sidebar and click Scan.
    3. Now, click Clean. Or you may click Review Details to choose what will be deleted from your Mac. 
    4. CleanMyMac X - System junk scan complete

    That’s all it takes to get rid of cache. Note that the app is notarized by Apple, which means that it is absolutely safe to use. Also, it is a smart cleaner, meaning that no vital files will be removed. 


    7. Delete unneeded Downloads 

    Do you also download things and never get rid of them? Then, your Downloads folder probably needs a good old sort-out. If you’re too scared to face that enormous pile of files, here’s a quick trick: sort all your downloaded items by the date added. Then, scroll till the end of the folder, and you’ll see the dusty files that have been there for a while. Command-click to highlight multiple files and send them to the Trash.


    8. Remove old backups

    Having your files backed up is a wonderful thing. But over time, your Mac becomes overloaded with old backups that take gigabytes of storage on your hard drive. That’s why you should consider removing the old iOS backups you no longer need.

    Each backup remains stored on your computer. To delete the old backups, you need to do the following:

    1. Choose the Apple menu and then select System Settings.
    2. Go to General and click Storage.
    3. Click the “i” icon next to iOS Files. 
    4. Select the backup you want to remove and click Delete.
    5. Click Done to close the window.

    That’s it! The backup files are gone from your Mac forever.


    9. Delete old DMGs

    Disk images (DMGs) often take up valuable space on your Mac. Here’s how to perform a Mac cleanup and get rid of those files:

    1. Open the Finder and type “.dmg” in the search bar.
    2. Then delete all files that have .dmg extensions. Don’t forget to remove them from Trash/Bin as well.

    CleanMyMac X allows you to locate and delete DMGs quicker. With its System Junk module, you can remove unused disk images with a single click of a button:

    Just click Clean, and it’s done!


    10. Wipe out language files

    Unused language localizations take up about 1 GB of storage space. Mac applications come with language files for every language they support. It allows starting using the app in that language immediately. Cool, right? Not always. Just ask yourself: when was the last time you used the app in Bengali or Korean? If you don’t speak those languages, such files just waste space on your Mac. You need to remove the unnecessary language files and clean MacBook from that clutter.

    How to delete the language files? Go to Finder > Applications, then right-click the app which language files you want to remove and choose Show Package Contents. Open the Resources folder and then find folders ending with “.lproj.” Every folder contains language files for one particular language. Note that for every app, you should manually find and select the files to remove. But there is an automatic way to delete the language files that will save you tons of time — CleanMyMac X and its System Junk module introduced above. Just download the application (for free), and it will do the job for you.


    11. Organize your desktop

    Many people use Desktop as their primary destination for files. But this could be tricky because when there are too many items on your desktop, the Finder may get substantially slower. This leads us to the most compelling advice in this article — cleaning up desktop does miracles!

    Rather than just leaving every file on your desktop, organize them into folders. The latest macOS does that automatically thanks to the Stacks feature: right-click your Desktop and choose Use Stacks. Now, all your files are grouped, and you can delete them with a click. You can also use Google Drive, Dropbox, or any external storage device to save your files and keep your desktop tidy.


    12. Remove Login Items and launch agents

    Login items are applications that run automatically upon startup. Nowadays, every second app tries to become as prominent as possible and get into your Login Items. First of all, you may not even know what they are since not all of them appear in the Dock. Secondly, such apps consume memory. That’s enough reason to get rid of extra login items you don’t need.

    1. Open System Settings.
    2. Go to General > Login Items.
    3. Disable startup programs.

    You’re done. If you feel that following all these steps is a lot of work, let a Mac cleaner app do it for you. To choose a utility that best suits your needs, check out this article on best Mac cleaner software.


    Bonus tip: Physically clean your Mac

    Our last but not least advice is to physically clean your Mac. First, wipe your Mac’s keyboard. As you use your keyboard daily, it quickly gets dirty. Moreover, all those crumbs may live under the keys forever! 

    If you were wondering how to clean Mac’s keyboard, there are no special rules here. You can try blowing the dust and other particles out of your keyboard once in a while. Disinfecting wipes and alcohol-based sprays may also prove useful. Just choose the piece of fabric and wipe the keys gently to make them clean and shiny.

    Also, do not forget about cleaning the screen. It may seem spotless, but it’s rarely the case. So, take some time to clean it — all you need is any soft tissue and distilled water. Make sure that you spray water on the fabric, not the screen, and wipe it gently. That’s it. 

    If you’re in the mood for some major cleaning, here’s our article on how to clean other Mac accessories


    All in all, be careful with your system files. Don’t delete things you’re not sure about. If you are not completely confident that you can manage the task by yourself, better use a dedicated utility like CleanMyMac X to get a fresh and clean Mac in just two clicks. 

    Happy cleaning!