How to use Optimized Storage in macOS Sierra to free up space

In macOS Sierra, Apple decided that Mac storage was not enough for Mac users and introduced a new space-clearing feature — Optimized Storage. In this article, we’ll take a look at what it is, how it works, how it could be better, and how you can fill in the gaps left in space–clearing. Let us begin.

What is Optimized Storage in macOS Sierra?

In short, macOS Sierra’s Optimized Storage feature is a set of rules in the system that move certain files into the cloud. They don’t get deleted, but instead of the file, you get a link to the file, the whole weight of which is now up in iCloud. The result of the optimization is more free space on your hard drive and many-many gigabytes of cloud storage taken up. So, whether to use it or not is really up to you.

How Optimized Storage works

It’s not that straightforward, and there are quite a few components to it. First, you can take a general look at the main menu of the storage.

To access Optimized Storage:

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the top left corner of any window
  2. Choose About this Mac.
  3. Choose Storage.
  4. Find the Manage button above the storage bar.

On the left, there is a menu of possible cleanups and optimizers. You can also click on every button to turn on all the possible settings for automatic cloud storage.

How do you optimize Mac with Optimized Storage?

All of these options are ways to optimize Mac storage — each effective in its own fashion. Here’s what they do:

Store in iCloud

As you can see, what it does is notices when you’re running low on disk space and moves files and photos you haven’t opened recently to iCloud.

What it means is that you can’t access them if you don’t have an internet connection or you logged out of your iCloud account. What it also means is that you still have all those files — they are not deleted, and yet they don’t waste your disk space.

Optimize Storage

This command refers mainly to iTunes and Mail attachments. The movies you’ve already watched and old Mail attachments get off your Mac. You can re-download all of it whenever you need it because the movies are bought for good, and attachments are always there in your Mail client.

Erase Trash Automatically does what it says, mainly.

Reduce Clutter

Reduce Clutter is a way to look through your docs to see the largest files on your Mac and possibly remove them. You can also sort these large files by date to see the oldest first. And quickly go through the Downloads folder to pick out useless space-wasters over there.

Downsides of Optimized Storage

Generally, getting more free space on Mac is a common pain for Mac users that should’ve been addressed long ago. Apple have offered an elegant solution with cloud storage, yet it’s not perfect. Here’s why Optimized storage is not all that good:

  1. You have to pay monthly to keep it active. In iCloud, you have 5GB of free storage, and the rest comes at a price. It’s small, it depends on your country, and it’s generally affordable. But it’s yet another monthly payment.
  2. System junk and cache files keep storing on the drive and taking up space. There are still no tools to get rid of them. C’mon, Apple.
  3. Moving to iCloud doesn’t mean sorting stuff out. You’re just adding to the space trash, sweeping the dust under the rug instead of throwing it away. Do you really need all those files that will be moved into iCloud? Are you sure you will open them again, ever?

Your Mac is clean and organized, while your iCloud drive becomes a mess. By the way, here are some tips on how to keep your iCloud in order.

Fixing Optimized Storage

How to deal with overstoring in the iCloud

Make sure you delete old, useless files instead of moving them.

How to deal with system junk on hard drive

Get a Mac cleaner. There are plenty of handy apps out there, such as CleanMyMac X. It removes all system caches and app caches, runs regular maintenance, and generally keeps your Mac in shape.

CleanMyMac X - Smart Scan complete

Here’s how to clean up system junk with CleanMyMac X:

  1. Download CleanMyMac for free.
  2. Launch the app.
  3. Hit “Scan.”
  4. Wait for it to find junk on your Mac.
  5. Hit “Run.”
  6. Voilà, all done.
Disable Optimized storage feature

How to Disable Optimized Storage

Of course, you can just pass on Optimized Storage and keep managing your files the way you’ve always had. When you turn off storage optimization, macOS Sierra will stop moving files to iCloud and deleting your old (possibly favorite) iTunes movies. Here’s how to disable Optimized Storage on your Mac:

  • Click on the Apple icon in the top left corner.
  • Choose System Preferences from the menu.
  • Click on iCloud.
  • Click on the Options right next to iCloud Drive.
  • Uncheck the Optimize Mac Storage checkbox at the bottom.
  • Hit Done.

That’s it, storage optimization is switched off now. If you change your mind, you can always enable it again by repeating steps 1 to 4 and then checking that Optimize Mac Storage checkbox.

Now, you know most of what there is to know about the new Optimized Storage feature on your macOS Sierra. Space on your Mac can be cleaned out easily with it, yet it’s not quite enough to keep your whole Mac running smoothly.

Unfortunately, Optimized Storage doesn’t filter what it moves to iCloud, nor does it help deal with system junk left by apps and the OS itself. Clean up the junk, don’t waste your cloud space on files you’ll never use, and have a nice day. Cheers.

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