How to Clean Up Your Mac Hard Drive

Mac Clean Up Hard Drive Featured

From time to time, we all get to the point where our Mac hard drive is low on free space. Between music, movies and all of our other daily downloads, it’s not unreasonable for low memory to become a big problem. When that happens, everything starts to slow, while impatience starts to rise. The good news is that freeing up storage space on a Mac is something anyone can do. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to clean up your Mac hard drive and also improve its overall performance.

Finding Large Files

One of the quickest ways to fill up your Mac hard drive is having too many large files. If this is the case, it’s time to go on the hunt for the culprits. If you are running macOS 10.12 Sierra or higher, Apple makes it extremely easy to locate these oversized files.

To get started, click on the Apple logo at the very top-left corner and choose “About This Mac.”

When the next screen opens, click on “Storage,” which you’ll find in the middle of five tabs near the top. The next screen gives you a preview of all file types you have on your system and how much memory they are taking up. To get even more detail, click on “Manage.”

Clean Up Mac Hard Drive Manage

On the left, you will see a breakdown of the main services on your machine and how much memory they are eating up. Start with Applications near the top and begin to work your way down, deleting any unused files or applications you no longer need. There is a good chance you will discover files taking up unnecessary space. Deleting these files is as easy as right-clicking and selecting “Delete.” Do not forget to empty the trash when finished to definitively reclaim this space.

Clean Up Mac Hard Drive Memory

Delete Unused Apps

Outside of movie downloads and music libraries, apps are likely the largest file types you have on your computer at any given time. Maybe you downloaded a demo of an app you were considering and forgot about it completely. Perhaps you downloaded a piece of office software for a conference call that you no longer need. The good news is that you can quickly delete these apps and get space back. There are a number of ways to remove files, but the easiest method is to remove them from the Applications menu.

Clean Up Mac Hard Drive Delete Apps

In this case, we can use the same method we suggested above, heading back to the Apple logo all the way back to “Manage.” On this screen you can organize apps by date or size to help you see what’s necessary and what is not. When you find something you want to remove, right-click and select “Delete.” It is really that simple. As a reminder, in order to completely free up space, you need to empty the trash after you have deleted all of your unnecessary apps.

Goodbye Duplicate Files

No matter how hard you try to stay organized, duplicate files are an eventuality for all computer users. These files could be anything from pictures, to an autosave file version to file downloads from an email. No matter how they end up on your hard drive, they are taking up unnecessary space. Unfortunately, Apple does not have a quick way of locating duplicates, so you need to turn to a third-party favorite called Gemini. Once you have successfully downloaded and installed this application, running it is easy.

Clean Up Mac Hard Drive Gemini Scan

Select “New Scan” and select where on your computer you want to scan. When these selections are made, click “Scan” and watch Gemini work. When it has completed its review, click on “show results,” and you can easily see the duplicate files that live on your computer.

Clean Up Mac Hard Drive Gemini Results

From here it’s up to you to decide what needs to be kept and what can go. With every file you remove, you are recapturing previously used space, so don’t hold on to any duplicate files you truly do not need.

When in Doubt, Use iCloud

Apple has gone all in on iCloud and has slowly but surely turned it into a competent competitor to the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive. For macOS users looking to reclaim space, it might just be the perfect solution to reclaim some much-needed storage. Heading back to the same “Manage” window we discussed above, you will see an option for “Store in iCloud.” In this case it is especially important to know that Apple only allows 5GB of storage space by default. To really make use of iCloud, you’ll need to pay for more storage, which starts at 99 cents a month for 50GB.

Clean Up Mac Hard Drive Store In Icloud

When you click on the iCloud option, you are presented with a menu that highlights three possible ways to remove storage from your hard drive and move files into the cloud. With this method, these files will be viewable in the iCloud folder on your computer but not “saved” on the computer. When you need them, they will download back to your drive for viewing. It might take some getting used to, but this method is growing increasingly popular, as Dropbox offers a similar feature.


It is incredibly easy to fill up even large hard drives fast. The good news is that you have any number of methods with which to take back space. On top of freeing up space, you will also find your Mac likely performs a little better. What is your favorite method for keeping your hard drive clean? We’d love to hear your methods in the comments below.

David Joz
David Joz

David is a freelance tech writer with over 15 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves all things Nintendo.

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