How to purge Mac hard drive

Instead of working hard, Apple chooses to work smart, and instead of making your hard drive bigger, they’ve tackled the problem of limited space on your Mac with cloud storage. Which, in its turn, created a slice on your storage bar named “Purgeable.” Now let’s take a look at how did that come about.

What is Purgeable space on Mac?

Purgeable storage consists of files that macOS deems suitable for removal. Something that can be literally purged away from your drive and cause no trouble. The appearance of Purgeable storage is connected to the feature of Optimized storage in macOS. When Optimized storage is turned on, loads of files get moved into the cloud, and for some of them, actual presence on your drive is optional. But for which exactly?

Nobody can be a hundred percent sure, but the main guess is that these are both your files and system-generated files that comply with two criteria:

  1. They’re really old, and you haven’t opened/used them in a while.
  2. They are synced with iCloud, so their original file can be removed from your Mac.

Purgeable files can be of any type. From watched movies in your TV app to applications languages you’ve never used.

But what renders them purgeable, and what does it mean? The system finds these files and knows that when you start running out of space and have your Optimized Storage turned on, it can remove these files to give you more space.

How to check your Purgeable Storage?

You can see how much space your macOS has by checking your native storage tab:

  • From the main Apple menu, click About This Mac.
  • Now, click More Info and select Storage Settings. 
  • If there is some purgeable space, it will appear as a section with white and gray stripes.
System Preferences - Storage

How to clear up your Purgeable space on Mac?

1. Restart your Mac

Basically, every Mac troubleshooting guide should begin with this recommendation. Purgeable space is space that can be freed up by macOS, and restarting your Mac is one way to do it. 

All you have to do is go to the Apple menu and click Restart. 

2. Purge your hard drive with one click

Another easy trick is to use a Mac maintenance app like CleanMyMac X that does exactly what macOS does — detects useless files. But unlike macOS, it lets you remove them quickly.

Now, to remove purgeable space in just a few clicks:

  1. Download CleanMyMac X for free.
  2. Go to the Maintenance tab.
  3. Select Free Up Purgeable Space.
  4. Hit Run.

Once you’ve reclaimed purgeable space, use CleanMyMac’s Smart Scan tool to remove junk files, speed up the system and scan your Mac for malware — all in one go.

CleanMyMac X - Smart Scan complete

Also, it’s a good idea to clear your browser extensions, old Wi-Fi connections, and apps you don’t use once in a while, simply in the form of general Mac system hygiene.

3. Enable Optimize Storage feature

To have your macOS remove files that can be purged when it’s needed is to have your Optimized Storage turned on. To do it, go to Storage Settings once again by following the steps outlined above and check Recommendation under the colored bar. Now you can turn any option you’d like to be synced with iCloud. If you still run an older macOS version, you can read more on Optimized Storage and how to use it.

4. Clear purgeable space in Terminal

If you are looking for a way to get rid of purgeable space without restarting your Mac, you can use Terminal. Note, though, that this method is complicated and can be fallen upon only if you are comfortable with using the command line. If you are not, skip to the next section. 

If you want to use Terminal, follow these steps: 

  1. Open Terminal from Applications > Utilities, Launchpad, or via the Spotlight search.
  2. Now, paste the following command: mkdir ~/largefiles and press Return. It will create a folder named largefiles in the home directory. 
  3. Next, paste this command, pressing Return afterward: dd if=/dev/random of=~/largefiles/largefile bs=15m. It will create a file named largefile within the largefiles folder you created earlier.
  4. Few minutes later, press Ctrl + C to stop the previous step and paste the following command: cp ~/largefiles/largefile ~/largefiles/largefile2 and press Return.
  5. Continue running this command, changing largefile2 to a different name every time.
  6. Stop running this command when you see the message telling you that your disk is critically low.
  7. Now, paste the following command: rm -rf ~/largefiles/ and press Return.  
  8. Finally, empty the Trash.

5. Clear cache files

Another way to clear purgeable space is to clear cache files. It can be done manually via the Finder. Just follow these steps: 

  1. From a new Finder window, click Go in the menu bar.
  2. With Option pressed, click Library. 
  3. Go to Caches. 
  4. Now, delete files you don’t need. Note that you should not remove folders, only files from them. Double-check what you delete to avoid removing files vital for the operation of macOS.
  5. Empty the Trash.

If you want to learn more about different type of cache and how to remove these files, check out this ultimate guide.

    6. Disable Time Machine backups

    Finally, check if Time Machine backups are enabled. It is a good idea to keep them turned on, but if you want to free up even more purgeable space, disable them. Here’s how: 

    1. From the main Apple menu, go to System Settings > General.
    2. Click Time Machine. 
    3. From the Back up frequency menu, select Back up manually.
    System Preferences - Time Machine

    That’s about all you need to know about what purgeable space is on Mac, so we hope this article has been of help. macOS is a great addition to Mac, we’re glad it has space-saving features and other cool stuff (Siri!), but it could’ve been a bit clearer to users, that’s for sure. Anyway, have a good day, and keep your Mac clean.

    Laptop with CleanMyMac
    CleanMyMac X

    Your Mac. As good as new.