How to get more storage on Mac: 10 quick solutions

Today in 2024, MacBooks are more spacious than ever. The new MacBook Air comes with at least 256-GB drive capacity. But no amount of storage seems to be enough as the ever-inflating digital media is taking over our hard drives. Cloud servers are only a partial answer to that. They aren’t getting cheaper and consume insane amounts of the world’s electricity. So, if you want to take a load off your drive and help the planet, you should teach yourself a couple of storage-keeping tricks. Let’s go.

What’s causing low disk space on your Mac?

Before you begin to free up disk space, let’s identify what’s taking it up. From the Apple Menu in the upper left corner of your screen, select About This Mac and then click More Info > Storage Settings in the window that opens. You’ll get a handy, color-coded graph that looks like this:

System Preferences - Storage

In the above example, you can see that several types of files are taking up the most significant amount of space. Here are the most notable space consumers:

AppsAll applications installed on your Mac, including those that came preinstalled with macOS and any third-party software you downloaded
Documents All files, documents, and downloads found on your drive
System DataTemporary files, caches, disk images, and app localizations (read more about System Data here)
macOSFiles and data necessary for the proper functioning of the operating system 

It’s nice to see what’s stored on your Mac and even nicer to be able to browse the folders that contain the files themselves. Now that you’ve identified what’s on your drive, let’s free up some space.

How to get more space on Mac

There are several options here, so let’s go through a few.

1. Remove large and old files 

Often the files that end up taking the most space are tucked away in “cold storage” on your computer. These are big movies, photos, or the like that you rarely look at but can’t part with, either. In this case, archiving the files and moving them to an external drive is a good way to free up storage space on your Mac. 

Locating huge neglected files can be a pain, but it gets super easy with the CleanMyMac X app. It has a dedicated Large & Old Files finder. It will help you find massive files and sort them by size to define the largest ones quickly.

You can download the free version of CleanMyMac X here.

As the name suggests, it finds files that occupy a lot of space on your disk but haven’t been opened for a long time. You can quickly review these files right in the app and decide which ones you want to remove. It’s a really handy feature if you have a lot of heavy stuff piled up.

2. Empty Trash

Review your Trash bin’s contents one last time before you empty it. Click Trash icon in Dock. Then, click Empty Trash to remove everything.


Use Command-Option-Delete to delete any folder immediately, bypassing Trash.

3. Clean up the Downloads folder

Files love to hide in your Mac’s Downloads folder. Old disk images, random photos, unused extensions, ZIP files… they’re all in there, not making a sound. Hiding? Go to the Finder and browse what’s sitting in your Downloads, wasting space on your disk. Anything unnecessary can be dragged to the Trash.

4. Move files to an external hard drive

We all love our media files, although they consume too much space on Mac’s drive. Even if we never open them, we rarely want to delete these files forever. Usually, these are photos or videos and music associated with some significant moments in life, so sending them to Trash is never an option. It is why if you run out of disk space, consider buying an external hard drive and copying these files to it. Once done, they can be safely deleted without you having to worry about losing precious memories. 

If you do not have an external hard drive, check out this handy guide on how to choose one. 

5. Learn to use Optimized Storage

Optimized Storage is the built-in feature of the macOS. It’s a sorting algorithm that shows different categories of files on your Mac for review and removal.

  1. Click the Apple Menu > System Settings > General.
  2. Click Storage and check Recommendations under the colored graph. 

By far, the most-space demanding of your files will be Applications. However, other categories of files may also take up significant space. Using the quick tabs, you will decide what is there you can toss away. Just click i next to each category and see what can be removed safely.

At the same time, make sure that you follow other Recommendations found under the colored graph, such as Optimize Storage, Empty Trash automatically, and store in iCloud if any of these work for you. 

6. Uninstall unused applications

If you’re like us, you often try an app “...just to see what it does”. While that’s fun, it frequently results in a slew of forgotten apps. It’s a good practice to set a reminder to review your Applications folder and clean out the ones you no longer use. However, note that simply dragging an app into your Mac’s trash doesn’t eliminate all of its related files.

CleanMyMac X’s Uninstaller feature, on the other hand, leaves no leftover pieces behind, which means more available space on your Mac. CleanMyMac X finds every app-related file, no matter where it has been tucked away, and deletes it from your Mac.

And speaking of setting up a reminder, CleanMyMac’s scheduler will handle that task for you, too. Just tell it how often you’d like to be prompted to give your Mac a good cleaning and leave the rest to the app.

7. Delete your Desktop screenshots

Mac’s Desktop is where you keep screenshots by default. With a feature called “Stacks,” you can organize your Desktop into clearly labeled folders. One such folder will be Screenshots, which you can later remove in one sweep. 

  1. Go to your Desktop.
  2. Right-click somewhere in the middle of your Desktop.
  3. Select “Use Stacks.”

Now you should see the Screenshots folder with all your screengrabs neatly stuffed inside. Drag this folder to the Trash and empty it.

8. Get rid of system junk

It’s not just your files that are hogging disk space — it’s also useless system files like logs, cache, unused binaries, old iOS backups and installers, and whatnot. Fortunately, CleanMyMac X can find and eliminate them all to make low disk space a thing of the past. At last.

System junk is comprised of:

  • User cache files
  • Application cache
  • Broken downloads 
  • Unused .DMG installers

As you can see, the “User cache” category alone can recover about 14 GB of space. So the best way to free up space on Mac is to start with this type of files.

With just a few clicks, you’ll discover what’s where and what’s ripe for deletion. The best way to free up hard drive space is to run CleanMyMac X and wave goodbye to space-hogging files. Don’t worry. You won’t miss them.

9. Buy more disk space via iCloud

If nothing so far has worked as you expected, one more tip is to invest in more cloud storage. The easiest way is to use iCloud because it is deeply integrated into the entire Apple ecosystem. Your Apple ID comes with 5GB of iCloud storage for free, but it is not always enough, especially if you sync and back up your Mac and other devices using iCloud. So, consider investing in an additional plan. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Open System Settings. 
  2. Click your name at the top of the window > iCloud.
  3. Click Upgrade to iCloud+ and select an appropriate plan — you can purchase up to 12TB.
  4. Click Upgrade to iCloud+

Alternatively, you can click Manage next to Account Storage under the colored graph in the iCloud section of System Settings and click Change Storage Plan. 

10. Add more storage with SD card

Finally, you can use an SD card to add more storage to your Mac. It is an alternative to investing in iCloud storage. However, it is less convenient since not all Macs have slots for SD cards, and for most of them, you’ll need an adapter. Moreover, not all SD cards are supported. Check out this article from Apple to find out which Macs have SD and SDXC card slots and which cards are supported.

Hopefully, you managed to clear a lot of disk space — drop by for more Mac housekeeping tips. 😉

Frequently asked questions

1. What takes up the most storage space on Mac?

It all depends, but for most Mac users, documents (including photos and videos), applications, and macOS itself are the most significant space hoggers. If you work a lot with photo or video editing tools or have many apps that you actively use, these would greatly add to System Data.

2. What is the quickest way to free up storage on Mac? 

There is no one quickest solution, but you can delete unnecessary applications, clear out the Downloads folder, remove unneeded photos and videos, and empty the Trash as a good starting point. Alternatively, you can use a Mac cleaner app like CleanMyMac X to speed up the process by letting it find system junk and large and old files as well as completely delete applications with just a few clicks.

3. Can I add more storage to my Mac?

You can invest in more iCloud storage or use an SD card if your Mac supports one or an external drive to store your files.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
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