How to free up storage space on your Mac

macOS Sierra and later can save space by storing your content in the cloud. And new tools make it easy to find and remove large or unneeded files.

Optimized Storage in macOS Sierra and later can save space by storing your content in the cloud and making it available on demand. When storage space is needed, files, photos, movies, email attachments, and other files that you seldom use are stored in the cloud automatically. Each file stays right where you last saved it, and downloads when you open it. Files that you’ve used recently remain on your Mac, along with optimized versions of your photos.

If you haven't upgraded to Sierra yet, learn about other ways to free up storage space.

To begin, choose About This Mac from the Apple () menu, then click Storage. You'll see an overview of your free space and the space used by different categories of files, including apps, documents, and photos:

Click the Manage button to see recommendations for optimizing your storage. You'll see fewer options if some of them are already turned on.

Store in iCloud

Click the Store in iCloud button, then choose from these options:

  • Files from Desktop and Documents in iCloud Drive. Store all files in these two locations in iCloud Drive. When storage space is needed, only the files you recently opened are kept on your Mac, so that you can easily work offline. Files that are stored only in the cloud show a download icon , which you can double-click to download the original file. Learn more about this feature.
  • Photos and videos in iCloud Photo Library. All original, full-resolution photos and videos are stored in iCloud Photo Library. When storage space is needed, only space-saving (optimized) versions of photos are kept on your Mac. To download the original photo or video, just open it.

Storing files in iCloud uses the storage space in your iCloud storage plan. If you need more iCloud storage, you can buy more starting at 50GB for $0.99 (USD) a month directly from your Apple device. Learn more about prices in your region.

Optimize Storage

Click the Optimize button, then choose from these options. 

  • Automatically remove watched iTunes movies and TV shows. When storage space is needed, iTunes movies or TV shows that you already watched are removed from your Mac. Click the download icon  next to a movie or TV show to download it again.
  • Download only recent attachments. Mail automatically downloads only the attachments that you recently received. You can manually download any attachments at any time by opening the email or attachment, or saving the attachment to your Mac. 
  • Don't automatically download any email attachments. Mail downloads an attachment only when you open the email or attachment, or save the attachment to your Mac.

Optimizing storage for movies, TV shows, and email attachments doesn't require iCloud storage space.

Empty Trash Automatically

Empty Trash Automatically permanently deletes files that have been in the Trash for more than 30 days.

Reduce Clutter

Reduce Clutter helps identify large files and files you might no longer need. Click the Review Files button, then choose any of the file categories in the sidebar, such as Applications, Documents, GarageBand, iOS Files, iTunes, or Trash.

  • Some categories allow you delete files directly. Move your pointer over the file name, then click the x button to immediately and permanently delete the file. If you purchased the file from the Mac App Store, iBooks Store, or iTunes Store, you might be able to download it again.
  • Other categories show the total storage space used by the files in each app. You can then open the app and decide whether to delete files from within it.

Where to find the settings for each feature

Store in iCloud:

  • Choose Apple  () menu > System Preferences, click iCloud, then click the Options button next to iCloud Drive. Store in iCloud turns on the Desktop & Documents Folders and Optimize Mac Storage settings. To turn off iCloud Drive entirely, deselect iCloud Drive.
  • In Photos, choose Photos > Preferences, then click iCloud. Store in iCloud selects iCloud Photo Library and Optimize Mac Storage. 

Optimize Storage:

  • In iTunes, choose iTunes > Preferences, then click Advanced. Optimize Storage selects “Automatically delete watched movies and TV shows.”
  • In Mail, choose Mail > Preferences, then click Accounts. In the Account Information section of your email account, Optimize Storage sets the Download Attachments pop-up menu to either Recent or None.

Empty Trash Automatically: From the Finder, choose Finder > Preferences, then click Advanced. Empty Trash Automatically selects “Remove items from the Trash after 30 days.”

Other ways that macOS helps automatically save space

macOS Sierra and later automatically takes these additional steps to save storage space:

  • Detects duplicate downloads in Safari, keeping only the most recent version of the download
  • Reminds you to delete used app installers
  • Removes old fonts, languages, and dictionaries that aren't being used
  • Clears caches, logs, and other unnecessary data when storage space is needed

How to free up storage space manually

Even without using the Optimized Storage features of Sierra or later, you can take other steps to make more storage space available:

  • Delete files that you no longer need by moving them to the Trash, then emptying the Trash. The Downloads folder is good place to look for files that you might no longer need.
  • Move files to an external drive.
  • Compress files.
  • Delete unneeded email: In the Mail app, choose Mailbox > Erase Junk Mail. If you no longer need the email in your Trash mailbox, choose Mailbox > Erase Deleted Items.

Learn more

  • When you duplicate a file on an APFS-formatted volume, that file doesn't use additional storage space on the volume. Deleting a duplicate frees up only the space required by any data you might have added to the duplicate. If you no longer need any copies of the file, you can recover all of the storage space by deleting both the duplicate and the original file.
  • If you're using a pro app and Optimize Mac Storage, learn how to make sure that your projects are always on your Mac and able to access their files.
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