How to free up disk space on Mac step by step

If your drive reaches about 80% of its capacity, your Mac will get noticeably slower. According to the MacWorld magazine, nearly full hard drives performed 17% slower in the test. So, whether you have a new or older Mac, it’s critical to know how to clear system storage on Mac. Further below, we’ll show you our favorite methods of recovering space on Mac. Let’s go!

Free up space on Mac for free

How to check storage on Mac

It’s good to check your storage details before we get down to deleting things. For example, this is what disk storage looks like:

System Preferences - Storage

Here are some of the categories your storage could contain:

Documents: Files, downloads, and documents on your drive.
Apps: Applications, plug-ins, and app extensions.
System Data: Your caches, temporary files, and app localizations that waste space.
macOS: That’s how much space your entire macOS takes.

There can also be other folders, such as Music Creation, Photos, Other Users, Podcasts, etc. To view your storage details, click on the Apple icon > About This Mac > More Info > Storage Settings.

How to free up disk space on Mac

We’ve gathered some of the most effective tips on how to manage storage both manually and automatically. Keep on reading!

1. Clean up system files

Delete system junk

Potential space reclaimed: 2-5 GB

There are tons of articles written about system junk, and some Mac users claim that system junk is pure evil and slows your Mac down. In our view, it’s only an excess burden to have on your machine — outdated files, browser caches, app localizations, and old Time Machine backups.

Deleting system junk manually would be a hot mess, even for an experienced user. So if you want to free up space on your Mac quickly, just run CleanMyMac X once and forget it. Unlike some supposed “Mac-Saviors,” this app is notarized by Apple, so you’re safe running it. 

It has a dedicated System Junk module. This smart tool detects and deletes system junk within a few minutes. What does it remove? Unneeded Time Machine backups, unused app languages, outdated system logs, temporary document versions, and other types of junk.

  1. Run CleanMyMac X — download the app for free here.
  2. Go to System Junk from the sidebar.
  3. After you run the Scan, preview by clicking Review Details what CleanMyMac X has found and click Clean.

If you don’t want to run a third-party application, keep on reading — we have some recommendations about how to clear storage manually.

Remove browser cache

Potential space reclaimed: 1-3 GB

If you are a heavy internet user, your Mac’s drive is full of the browser cache. These are the kinds of bookmarks left on your drive by every site that you visit. What’s your primary browser? Here are the solutions for Chrome, Safari, and Mozilla Firefox. 

To clear Chrome cache

  1. Open Chrome and click the three-dot icon at the top right.
  2. Navigate to Settings > Privacy and security > Clear Browsing Data.
  3. Choose a time range to clear the browsing data
  4. Also, check “Cached images and files” and click Clear Data. 

To clear Safari cache

  1. Open Safari and go to Settings from the menu bar.
  2. In the Advanced tab, check Show Develop menu in menu bar (Show features for developers in macOS Sonoma). 
  3. Now, go to Develop in the top menu and select Empty caches.

To clear cache in Mozilla Firefox

  1. Go to Settings > Privacy & Security.
  2. Choose Cookies and Site Data > Clear Data.
  3. Mark Cached Web Content and click Clear.

Alternatively, choose Clear History from the menu button (three horizontal bars) and select Cache from the list.


You can free up some more space by removing other types of cache files — system cache and user cache. Find out more here.

2. Clean up unneeded media files

Transfer photos to external or cloud storage

Potential space reclaimed: 2-5 GB

Now that you have removed system files you no longer need, the next up in line for audit is your media. We are well aware that these are not just any files — they are captured memories we treasure so much. Want to keep them? The best way is to save them to iCloud or an external drive.

Transferring your photos to iCloud, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the main Apple menu > About This Mac > More Info > Storage Settings.
  2. Click Store in Cloud and choose what you would like to store.
  3. Click Store in Cloud again.

Remember, the iCloud free plan allows you to store up to 5 GB of data. To transfer more than that, you’ll have to buy a paid storage plan: 50 GB, 200 GB, or 2 TB of additional storage space.


Note other Recommendations listed under the Storage tab. They are a built-in Optimize Storage tool. By clicking the i icon next to each category, you can get rid of other files, apps, or documents you no longer need. You can even mass-delete anything you want. You can also choose Optimize storage, which will remove TV shows and movies you’ve already watched, or turn on the option to empty the Trash/Bin automatically from this System Settings tab.

Now, if you want to transfer media files to external storage, follow the instructions below:

  1. Go to the Finder menu > Go > Home.
  2. Choose the Pictures folder and drag it to a location on your external storage device.
  3. Done! Now, you can delete the original Photo library to free some storage. Just drag it to Trash/Bin. Then empty it.
Clean my mac for free

3. Remove unused apps and all their leftovers

Potential space reclaimed: up to 30 GB

Did you know there are three ways to delete apps on Mac? One is dragging them straight to the Trash/Bin from the Applications folder. The other involves Launchpad. And finally, you can use a third-party Uninstaller tool, which also makes sense because the first two methods leave parts of old apps on your drive.

Delete apps via Launchpad

    We prefer deleting apps via Launchpad because it’s more fun. Open Launchpad from your Dock. Now, press the Command key and hold any app icon until they start shaking. You will see the [X] symbol above the icon — click it to delete the app.

    Delete your unseen apps

    That was easy, but here’s the deal. Every Mac has apps that don’t show up anywhere. They may have installed themselves as parts of other apps or be small supporting applications that programmers call “Launch agents” or “Daemons.” In total, they may eat up a whole lot of space.

    In our experience, of all app cleaners, CleanMyMac X still tops the list. Our personal record is 30 GB which it was able to clear up on Mac (unused and suspicious apps). So what can you do?

    1. Download CleanMyMac X for free here.
    2. Click the Uninstaller tab.

    From there, you can delete apps on a massive scale — simply select the ones you don’t need. Make sure to check the Leftovers section. These are parts and pieces of your old apps that you can’t otherwise access.

    4. Clean up other files

    Clean up the Downloads folder

    Potential space reclaimed: 2-5 GB

    The moment you’ve decided to clean up your Mac, there is no better place to start than your Downloads folder. We, as users, download an endless amount of data on our computers. And let’s be honest, we don’t even need even a half of it! Time to reduce clutter by dumping all useless files into Trash/Bin. Here’s how you do it:

    1. Go to Finder > Downloads.
    2. Right-click the files you want to get rid of and click Move to Trash/Bin. 
    3. After you’re done deleting files, don’t forget to empty the Trash/Bin.

    Find large files you don’t need

    Potential space reclaimed: 2-5 GB

    1. Go to your desktop and press Command + F.
    2. Choose “This Mac.”
    3. Select Other… in the menu and choose File size from the list.
    4. Now, in the menu, choose File size. 

      Well done! Now, you can type in different file extensions by pressing the + button and sort the results by size (note that you will have to follow the steps above but choose File extension from the Other… list). We recommend starting with the .DMG files or application installers. They are just dead weight, and you can live without them. The same goes for ZIP archives.


      Deleting large files is the best way to reclaim more space in no time. But looking for those items can be very time-consuming. CleanMyMac X can do the job quickly for you — it has the Large & Old Files module that locates and removes the heaviest files.

      • Open CleanMyMac X — download it here if you don’t have it yet.
      • Go to Large & Old Files and click Scan.
      • Review the details and select what you want to remove.
      • Click Remove.
      Movies selected in LAOF in CleanMyMacX

        Trash the old iPhone backups

        Potential space reclaimed: 10-20 GB

        Outdated iPhone backups may take up enormous space. If you’ve ever backed up your iPhone with your computer, your Mac probably stores all your phone’s data. It makes sense to check your drive for outdated backups before they grow out of proportion.

        Here’s how to clear space on your Mac by deleting old backups:

        1. Open Finder > Click Go in the Finder’s menu > Go to Folder…
        2. Paste in ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup and press the Return key.
        3. Move the insides of the folder to the Trash/Bin, and that’s it.

        If you want to remove a specific backup, here’s how to do that:

        1. Connect your device to your Mac using a cable.
        2. Go to Finder > Locations > Select your device.
        3. Click Manage Backups.

        Right-click the name of the backup to see the “Show in Finder” command. Move the backup someplace else or delete it using the Delete option.

        : do this only if you are 100% sure you don’t need your iPhone backups.

        Take out the Trash

        Potential space reclaimed: 2-5 GB

        This advice is the easiest of all. Nevertheless, people forget to do it all the time. We throw things down the Trash/Bin and think they are over with. But that’s just moving things from one pocket to another. To free it up, right-click the Trash/Bin icon. Then, choose Empty Trash/Bin.

        How to empty the Trash/Bin automatically on Mac

        If you don’t like to empty the Trash/Bin every time, there is a scheduled option. Your Mac will auto-delete it every 30 days.

        • Open Finder > Settings (in the upper menu).
        • Now, choose Advanced.
        • Check Remove items from the Trash/Bin after 30 days.

        5. Compress your files 

        Potential space reclaimed: up to 10% of the initial space occupied

        Archiving or compressing files is a nice alternative to permanent deletion. Not all file types compress similarly well, though. For example, documents and presentations can be substantially reduced in size by compression, while movies are harder to shrink.

        Luckily, you don’t need a third-party solution to zip things up — your macOS has its built-in tool. 

        Did you know?

        Zip is the lossless compression format that keeps file quality intact.

        How to free disk space on Mac using compression?

        1. Open Finder and go to your Documents.
        2. Command + click on a folder (or multiple folders).
        3. Choose Compress.

        Be aware that macOS leaves the original file untouched, so once you have the archive, the original folder can be deleted. After you’re done, you may transfer the newly-created archive onto an external drive.  

        Well done, you’ve just saved some space!

        Okay, we’ve told you our favorite ways to clear disk space on Mac. You can bookmark this article and revisit it next time when the annoying “Your disk is almost full” message pops up. Decluttering your Mac can add a fresh spark to your digital life — so try it today.

        Frequently Asked Questions

        What is the fastest way to clean up space on Mac? 

        There are a few, in fact. These are deleting unused apps and their leftover files, clearing out the Downloads folder, and cleaning up unnecessary media files or moving them to external or cloud storage.

        What are the most surprising space hoggers? 

        These are system junk and cache files and old backups — if you do not remove them regularly, they can take up to 40 GB of space.

        Is it safe to remove System Data and system junk? 

        If you follow the steps outlined in this article and double-check everything before deletion, it is absolutely safe to get rid of these files. If you feel uncomfortable with manual removal, use a third-party app, such as CleanMyMac X, to do the job for you. 

        Laptop with CleanMyMac
        CleanMyMac X

        Your Mac. As good as new.