How to clear cache on a Mac

Caches are files your Mac creates when you use an app or browse a website for the first time. It then uses those files to load things faster for you. But, if you don’t clear caches once in a while, those files start to pile up and can even cause application errors and crashes. In this post, we’ll tell you more about different types of caches on your Mac and explain how to remove them. Feel free to jump to the section that interests you the most:

  1. What is cache?
  2. How to empty user cache
  3. How to delete system cache
  4. How to clear application cache
  5. How to clear browser cache


What are the main cache types?

There are roughly three main types of caches you can clean on your Mac:

  • System cache
  • User cache (including app cache and DNS cache)
  • Browser cache.

This article will go over cleaning up all three.

How are cache files different from cookies?

You’ve probably heard and seen the term "cache" used on your Mac, but do you know what it is?

Cache files are basically temporary data stored on your hard drive and used to speed up processes. For instance, Safari will download images on a webpage into the cache so that next time you visit the site, you don’t have to download the images again.

Cookie files are tiny members of the big cache family. Your browser collects this form of cache to remember previously visited websites. Cookies collect the details of your visit, its duration, actions on a page, etc. Advertisers also use these to follow you around the internet. However annoying they are, cookies are a part of internet reality that we cannot help but “Accept.”

There are many reasons to remove old cache from your MacBook, and disk space issue is only one of them. So what are the other benefits?

  • Fixing issues with laggy web pages that load outdated content
  • Removing personal data stored by websites and applications 
  • You need to force-delete outdated cache from an app

How is the cache created? An example from Photos

Every time you do image manipulations, like rotating a picture, its additional copy is created on your drive. In this manner, just 4 rotations are enough for image size to grow from 2.5 MB to 10 MB of disk space taken. If you edit photos and videos regularly, you may notice that your editor application also keeps temporary data — like an intermediate version of your files.

How is the cache created?

Are you ready to reclaim space on your Mac? Let’s go!

Can I delete all my cache files on a Mac?

It's not completely safe to delete all cache files at once. Your Mac caches what you’re doing in real-time, so if you’re using an app to work on some project, removing this app’s cache can erase all your progress. What you can remove is the inactive cache — the outdated files that often lie unused. Old app cache files fall into the same basket: if you've already deleted the app, no need to store its leftover cache — you can safely remove it from your Mac, and we'll tell you how to do it.


How to empty user cache on Mac?

Potential space reclaimed from junk - Up to 70%

Clear cache on Macbook pro 2019

As you can see, a single user cache folder on my computer takes up an enormous 2.05 GB of space. And that’s just one folder out of hundreds. That means a good cleaning could free up gigabytes of free space and speed up your Mac in the process. 

Now, when it comes to clearing cache on Mac, there are two ways you can do it. You can clean them up manually step-by-step, or you can clean them in a second with a cleaning utility like CleanMyMac X. It removes temporary files, outdated cache, and app leftovers, freeing up space on your Mac. If you want to clear the cache on your Mac right now, we suggest doing it the easy way:

  1. Launch CleanMyMac X (download the trial version here).
  2. Select System Junk.
  3. Click Scan, and then Clean.
Clear cache on Mac quickly

That’s it, all cache files cleaned! CleanMyMac X works on all systems, including the latest macOS version.

To clear your user cache manually, do the following:

  1. Open a Finder window and select “Go to Folder” in the Go menu.
  2. Type in ~/Library/Caches and hit enter to proceed to this folder.
  3. Optional step: You can highlight and copy everything to a different folder, just if something goes wrong.
  4. Go into each of the folders and clean out everything.
    Note: We recommend that you remove the insides of these folders, but not the folders themselves.

Make sure that once you have finished clearing out these caches for additional hard drive space, you empty your Trash. To do this, Control-click on the Trash icon in the dock and select “Empty Trash.” Restart your Mac afterward so your Mac can begin to create new, fresh cache files. To help you make sense of your Library folder, here's a brief explanation of what each subfolder stands for.

4 main types of the cache within the Library folder

how to clear cache folder on macbook


Caches

Temporary data created by apps and websites. Your apps keep generating cache files for as long as they are active. Relying on such pre-loaded content reduces memory load and speeds up data exchange.

Preferences

The Preferences folder is where you’ll find customized settings for your apps. Sometimes, there is a need to reset an app and delete its corrupted Preferences file. Preference files always end with .plist — so they are easy to spot and delete.

App support
App support folder contains large pieces of app data, like game saves. App support files may remain on your Mac long after you’ve deleted the app itself. That’s why “cleaners” for system junk were invented.

Containers
Containers folder is an exchange buffer that apps use to communicate with one another. This is often referred to as “sandboxing.” The Containers folder is automatically emptied after you restart your Mac.


How to delete system cache on Mac

Potential space reclaimed from junk - Up to 10% (manual methods) or 15% (using cleaner)

Next up, we’re looking at your system cache files. Those are generated by the built-in macOS system services. To see where your Mac stores system cache enter /Library/Caches in Finder’s Go menu.

The system cache files can be essential for correct system functioning. They also don’t take a lot of space — usually, it’s up to 2 GBs — so it’s one more reason not to touch them. On the contrary, the app cache can be safely removed. And we’ll tell you how.


How to delete app cache on Mac

What is app cache? In short, it’s any media downloaded by the apps you use to work faster and not load it every time you open the app. Do you need it? It’s debatable, but the app cache takes up disk space and can be cleaned. Some apps may generate more cache than the others — those are often Spotify, Xcode, and Steam — but there’s a quick way to remove it.

You can delete the app cache on Mac in the same way as the user cache by going to ~/Library/Caches and removing the insides of the folders with the app name.

Proceed with caution! Not all app cache can be safely cleared. Some app developers keep important user info on cache folders. Backing up a folder before you delete is always a good idea. If everything works fine, then you can delete the backup later.

To be on the safe side, use CleanMyMac X; it works with a Safety Database and knows how to clear the app cache safely. As if that wasn’t enough, it will also remove more junk than manual methods.


How to clear browser cache on Mac

Potential space reclaimed from junk - Up to 15%

We all love to surf the web, but every site we visit adds to the growing browser cache. Clearing your browser cache doesn’t just free up space; it will also clear your browsing history to secure your privacy.

Browser cache temporarily stores website data such as images, scripts, and other stuff, in order to make your browsing faster when you revisit the same site. If you’re worried about your privacy or want to hide pages you’ve visited, you can clear your Internet cache (or browser history). Also, resetting your browser cache will help eliminate 404, 502, and other errors caused by a corrupted cache.

Here’s a quick introduction to how to delete browser cache on Mac.

How to clear cache in Safari

Safari is a little trickier than the rest of the browsers. You could remove caches together with all the other website history through History — Clear History in the menu bar.

But if you need more precision, here’s how to empty cache on the Safari browser:

  1. In the top menu, choose Safari.
  2. Click Preferences.
  3. Choose the Advanced tab.
  4. Enable the Show Develop menu in the menu bar.
  5. Now go to Develop in the menu bar.
  6. Choose Empty caches.
How to empty cache in Safari browser manually

Make sure you close/quit the browser and restart it after clearing the cache. Note that all your auto logins and predicted websites in the address bar will be cleared.

Manual methods remove most of the browser junk, but if you want to remove all of it from all your browsers at once, there’s a safer and faster method to clear your internet cache on any browser.

How to clear cache in Chrome

Here’s how to clear browser cache in Chrome manually:

  1. Enter chrome://settings in the search bar and press Return.
  2. In the “Privacy and security” section, click “Clear browsing data.”
  3. Deselect all but "Cached images and files."
  4. Timewise, choose "All time."
  5. Hit the “Clear data” button.
How to clear cache in Google Chrome manually

How to clear cache in Firefox

Here’s how to delete cache in Firefox manually:

  1. Enter this command about:preferences into the search bar.
  2. Select the Privacy & Security panel.
  3. In the Cookies and Site Data, click Clear Data.
  4. Check Cached Web Content.
  5. Click Clear to confirm. 
How to clear cache in Firefox manually

TIP:

If, for some reason, you cannot open a web page, try putting cache: in front of the URL address. This redirects you to the site’s cached copy. For example cache:macpaw.com

It works most of the time and can magically open even the otherwise blocked sites.



The easy way to clear all browsing data

Instead of clicking between browsers and being limited to what they let you clean, take full control of all your browser cleaning with this simple method:

  1. Open CleanMyMac and select the Privacy module.
  2. Click on your browser of choice.
  3. Make your selections from the list of all your cache and privacy tracks.
  4. Click Remove to clean your browser.
The quick way to remove Safari cache

Cleaning your Mac has never been easier. Download CleanMyMac X and try for free to get yourself a faster, cleaner Mac — without worrying about removing the wrong thing.

And if you’re looking to clear just browser cookies, check out this easy one-minute explanation we’ve made for you.


Frequently asked questions

What are cache files?

Cache files are basically scripts, images, temporary files, and other data left on your Mac after you visit a website or use an app for the first time. There are system cache, user cache, which includes app and DNS cache, and browser cache that accumulates as you surf the web.

Is it safe to remove cached data?

Cache helps websites and apps download faster for you. By deleting cache files, you basically remove the information the sites and apps know about you. And if your system needs this information, it will recreate the cache files. So there’s nothing dangerous about removing the user cache.

Where are the cache files stored on Mac?

The app and user cache files are usually located in ~/Library/Caches. Here, you can find folders dedicated to each app you have on your Mac. So, cache files of each application or program are stored in corresponding folders.


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