How to clear the iMovie Library on your Mac

Apple’s iMovie video editing tool stores several gigabytes of data on your Mac. If you use it a lot, it could be tens of gigabytes. And if you’ve been using it for several years, you will have accumulated lots of data in folders that iMovie 10 doesn’t use. In this article, we’ll show you how to free up space used by iMovie by deleting and moving data, and we’ll explain what is safe to delete and what you should be more cautious about.

Where are iMovie projects stored?

In iMovie 10, everything needed for every project you’re working on is stored in one file called iMovie Library. It’s in the Movies folder in your Home directory. If you right-click on that file and choose Show Package Contents, you can see what’s in it. However, you shouldn’t just start deleting files from there as it could cause problems the next time you run iMovie.

In older versions of iMovie, files were stored in different folders, depending on iMovie’s version. So, if you have a Mac on which you’ve upgraded to each new version of iMovie as it has been released, it’s likely you will still have those folders, and they will still have data in them. These include:

• iMovie Projects

• iMovie Events

• iMovie Sharing

• iMovie Project folders with a special icon

• iMovie Library

How to clear iMovie Library on your Mac

If you have upgraded to iMovie 10, you can go ahead and delete iMovie Projects and iMovie Events. If there is nothing in iMovie Sharing you need, you can delete that too.

iMovie Project folders contain clips from iMovie videos that you’ve edited in previous versions. If you don’t have copies of those, you should make a duplicate of the folder on an external drive to use the clips again in the future. You can then delete the folders.

iMovie Library is where iMovie 10 keeps clips and other data, don’t delete that.

Tip

CleanMyMac X can help identify large and old files, such as your iMovie Library, so that you can easily see what is taking up space on your Mac and decide whether to delete it. Its Space Lens feature gives a visual representation of the data stored on your disk so you can quickly see what type of files are taking up the most space on your Mac. 

CleanMyMac X - Space Lens module

1. Download and install CleanMyMac X. Then launch it from your Applications folder. 

2. Choose Space Lens from the sidebar and press Scan. 

3. Click on folders in the middle panel or in the bubble to view their contents. 

4. To delete a file or folder, check the box next to it in the central pane and choose Remove.


1. Save more space by deleting render files

Render files are the files iMovie creates when you preview or export a movie. Essentially, iMovie takes all the instructions you’ve given during the editing process and applies them to the clips on the timeline to produce the movie you want to view. You can delete these, and doing so will free up lots of space in your iMovie Library. However, if you go back to edit the movie, the render files will need to be recreated.

How to choose rendering settings in iMovie

1. Launch iMovie and click on the iMovie menu.

2. Choose Preferences.

3. Press Delete next to Render Files.

4. Press Delete again to confirm.

You can also delete individual clips or events from within iMovie by selecting them and choosing File > Move to Trash, then emptying the trash.

2. Move your iMovie Library to an external hard drive

If you’ve removed all the clips from your iMovie Library and it’s still taking up too much space on your boot drive, the solution is to move it to an external drive. This is easier if you use a desktop Mac because you can keep the external drive permanently connected. If you use a portable Mac, you will have to remember to plug in the external drive each time you use iMovie.

  • Quit iMovie.
  • Choose your external drive and connect it to your Mac. It needs to be formatted as APFS or MacOS Extended (Journaled). If it’s not, launch Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility) and erase it, so it reformats as one of those two formats.
  • In a Finder window, click on the external drive, then go to the File menu and choose Get info.
  • Click the triangle next to Sharing & Permissions at the bottom of the window so you can see the options.
  • Make sure “Ignore ownership on this volume” is checked. If not, click the padlock, type in an administrator name and password then check the box.
  • Navigate to the Movies folder in your user Home directory.
  • Drag the file iMovie Library to the external hard drive.
  • When it has finished copying, double-click it to open it in iMovie. If you see an alert that asks you to give iMovie access to a removable volume, click OK.
  • Check all the clips that should be there are there.
  • Quit iMovie.
  • Drag the original iMovie Library from your Movies folder to the Trash.

Editing videos in iMovie takes up a great deal of space on your Mac. And everything is stored in one file, iMovie Library. So to remove clips and free up space, you should do it within iMovie. You can also use CleanMyMac X to identify and remove large and old files and spot which files are using the most space on your Mac. If you use a desktop Mac, you can move your iMovie Library to an external disk.

CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.