How to organize downloads on Mac

Mac users download lots of files daily such as docs, PDF invoices or receipts, music, images, supporting application files, and more. Keeping track of them can be tricky and exhausting. This tempts us to let them sit in the downloads folder forever. There is only one problem with that - they take up lots of space on your Mac. In this article, we’ll show you how to find the files you’ve downloaded and keep them organized.

How to find downloads on your Mac

The default location for most downloads on your Mac is the Downloads folder located inside your user folder. You should be able to see your Downloads folder in the Finder sidebar under ‘Favourites.’ If not, do the following:

  1. Click on the Finder in the Dock
  2. Choose the Finder menu, then Preferences.
  3. Select Sidebar, then check the box next to Downloads
  4. Close Preferences.
Tip:

If you can’t see the Finder sidebar when you open a new window, click the View in the menu and press Show Sidebar.



Besides downloads, files transferred to your Mac via AirDrop are also stored in the Downloads folder. There are exceptions like music downloaded from Apple Music. In this case, files are placed in Music > Music > Media > Apple Music inside your user folder. Mail attachments can be saved anywhere you like, but if you don’t manually save them, they are automatically stored in your user Library.

How to change where Mac downloads are saved

The process of changing where downloads are saved differs depending on which application was used to download them. Generally, that application is a web browser. So here’s a guide on how to change the download location in the most common browsers on the Mac.

Change the download locations in Safari

  1. Launch Safari.
  2. Click the Safari menu and choose Preferences.
  3. Select the General tab.
  4. Click on the menu next to ‘File download location’.
  5. Choose Other and navigate to the folder where you want to save downloads.
  6. Click Select.
  7. You can also choose ‘As for each download’ at step 5 and you will be able to choose the download location for every download.

Change the download location in Chrome

  1. Launch Chrome and click the three dots on the right of the address bar.
  2. Choose Settings.
  3. Click on Advanced, then Downloads (note you can also type chrome://settings/downloads in the address bar to navigate directly to downloads settings).
  4. Press Change and navigate to the folder where you want to save Downloads.
  5. Click Select.

Change the download location in Firefox

  1. Launch Firefox.
  2. Click on the three lines on the right in the address bar.
  3. Choose General in the menu on the left.
  4. Scroll down to Downloads.
  5. Click Choose and navigate to the folder where you want to save downloads.
  6. Choose Open.

Organize your Mac downloads folder

It’s good practice to transfer your files out of your Downloads folder as soon as you can. Simply because it wasn’t intended to be a place where you store files. And the more files you download, the quicker it becomes cluttered.

The easiest way to move files is to drag them into another folder. However, there are specially designed tools that allow you to create folder action scripts to move files to different folders depending on what type of file they are.

One folder action you can set up yourself is the Downloads folder alert, which notifies your every time a file is added. Normally you would know that a file is being downloaded, so this alert is not that useful. But just in case, here’s how to activate it:

  1. Control-click on the folder and choose Services > Folder Action Setup from the contextual menu.
  2. Click Run Service.
  3. Select ‘add - new item alert.script’ then Attach.
  4. Make sure Enable Folder Actions and the box under ‘On’ are checked.
  5. Close the window.

Change the view of the Mac downloads folder

If you have a heap of files in your Downloads folder and aren’t ready to move them yet, you can at least make it easier to find the ones you need. Try this simple hack:

  1. Open your Downloads folder and click the three-dot circle in the toolbar.
  2. Click Use Groups.
  3. Click the dropdown arrow to the left of the Share button and choose how to group files (e.g. by type).
  4. Hold down the Option key and click the same menu again, this time choose how to sort files within each group (e.g. by date added).

You can use Groups with a list, column, or icon view. Groups make it crystal clear to view and locate files in your Downloads folder.

How to delete large and old downloads on your Mac

The first option is to drag files manually from your Downloads folder to the Trash. But it’s a lengthy process because you have to go through all the files deciding which one to trash and which one to keep. Then you need to drag a big chunk of files risking deleting those you want to keep.

Fortunately, there is a quicker way! Given that many of the files in your Downloads folder are likely to be large, and if they are still there it means you probably haven’t opened them in a while, they will fit into that ‘large and old files’ description. So you can try using this handy tool to quickly identify large and old files on your Mac - CleanMyMac X. This app has the Large & Old Files module designed for this purpose.

LAOF module of CleanMyMacX

All you have to do is choose the module in the CleanMyMac X sidebar, press Scan and you’ll see all the large and old files on your Mac categorized by size, kind, and access date. Download CleanMyMac X here, it’s free.

Hopefully, you recognized the importance of clearing and organizing the Downloads folder on your Mac. To do that, you can either follow the steps described in this article or use CleanMyMac X Large & Old files module. Spot, organize, and eliminate downloads & other files for good.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.