How to Free Up Storage Space on a Mac

Introduction

macOS Sierra and later can save space by storing your content in the cloud. New tools make it easy to find and remove large or unneeded files. This guide will walk you though some steps to help manage your data.

1 iCloud Storage Setup

iCloud securely stores your photos, videos, documents, music, apps, and more. iCloud can also be used to manage your storage.

First, we need to log into iCloud.

  1. Click on the Apple Menu and click on System Preferences.
    Apple menu with System Preferences
  2. Click on iCloud.
    System Preferences with iCloud highlighted
  3. If you are not already signed into iCloud, enter your Apple ID and password, and then click Sign In.
    iCloud settings with sign in highlighted
  4. Ensure to check the box that says "Use iCloud for your documents and data" and choose whether or not you want to use iCloud to locate your device. Click Next to continue.
    use icloud for your documents and data box is highlighted with the next button highlighted
  5. Now we will pick what you wish to sync with iCloud. We want to be sure that iCloud Drive and Photos are both checked.
    list of items that you can sync with iCloud with icloud drive and photos highlighted
  6. Open the Apple menu and click About This Mac.
    Apple menu highlighted with about this mac highlighted
  7. Click on Storage.
    about this mac page with storage tab highlighted
  8. Click on Manage.
    storage tab with the manage button highlighted
  9. Click Store in iCloud and choose from the options below.
    Storage options with store in icloud button highlighted
    Desktop and Documents Will store all files in these locations in iCloud. If you get low in storage, only recently used items will remain on the computer. You can download any file back to the computer by clicking the cloud icon.
    Photos Will store full resolution images and videos in iCloud. When space is needed, only optimized versions remain on the computer. You can download the original item by opening it.

Storing files in iCloud uses the storage space in your iCloud storage plan.

2 Storage Cleanup

  1. Open the Apple Menu and click About This Mac.
    Apple menu icon highlighted with about this mac highlighted in the menu below.
  2. Click on Storage.
    macOS about window with storage button highlighted.
  3. Click on Manage.
    macOS about window displaying the storage tab with manage button highlighted.

Optimize Storage

  1. Click on Optimize.
    macOS manage storage window highlighting the optimize button.

    When storage space is needed, iTunes movies or TV shows that you already watched are removed from your Mac. Click the cloud icon next to a movie or TV show to download it again.

Empty Trash Automatically

  1. To automatically delete your trash, click Turn On.
    macOS manage storage window highlighting the turn on button.

    Enabling this feature will permanently delete any items that have been in the trash for 30 days.

Reduce Clutter

  1. Click the Review Files button, then choose any of the categories in the sidebar, such as Applications, Documents, GarageBand, iOS Files, iTunes, or Trash.
    macOS manage storage window highlighting the review files button.

    You can delete files or programs by either clicking on the "x" when hovering over the item or by right clicking and choosing delete.

3 Physical Media

If your Apple computer has USB or Firewire ports, you can connect external media such as Thumbdrives and External HDD to store your files.
Apple laptop showing Firewire and USB ports

When you insert removable media, it will show up on your desktop and finder.
Finder window highlighting the external storage

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macOS Sierra and later can save space by storing your content in the cloud. New tools make it easy to find and remove large or unneeded files. This guide will walk you though some steps to help manage your data.

iCloud securely stores your photos, videos, documents, music, apps, and more. iCloud can also be used to manage your storage.

First, we need to log into iCloud.

  1. Click on the Apple Menu and click on System Preferences.
    Apple menu with System Preferences
  2. Click on iCloud.
    System Preferences with iCloud highlighted
  3. If you are not already signed into iCloud, enter your Apple ID and password, and then click Sign In.
    iCloud settings with sign in highlighted
  4. Ensure to check the box that says "Use iCloud for your documents and data" and choose whether or not you want to use iCloud to locate your device. Click Next to continue.
    use icloud for your documents and data box is highlighted with the next button highlighted
  5. Now we will pick what you wish to sync with iCloud. We want to be sure that iCloud Drive and Photos are both checked.
    list of items that you can sync with iCloud with icloud drive and photos highlighted
  6. Open the Apple menu and click About This Mac.
    Apple menu highlighted with about this mac highlighted
  7. Click on Storage.
    about this mac page with storage tab highlighted
  8. Click on Manage.
    storage tab with the manage button highlighted
  9. Click Store in iCloud and choose from the options below.
    Storage options with store in icloud button highlighted
    Desktop and Documents Will store all files in these locations in iCloud. If you get low in storage, only recently used items will remain on the computer. You can download any file back to the computer by clicking the cloud icon.
    Photos Will store full resolution images and videos in iCloud. When space is needed, only optimized versions remain on the computer. You can download the original item by opening it.

Storing files in iCloud uses the storage space in your iCloud storage plan.

  1. Open the Apple Menu and click About This Mac.
    Apple menu icon highlighted with about this mac highlighted in the menu below.
  2. Click on Storage.
    macOS about window with storage button highlighted.
  3. Click on Manage.
    macOS about window displaying the storage tab with manage button highlighted.

Optimize Storage

  1. Click on Optimize.
    macOS manage storage window highlighting the optimize button.

    When storage space is needed, iTunes movies or TV shows that you already watched are removed from your Mac. Click the cloud icon next to a movie or TV show to download it again.

Empty Trash Automatically

  1. To automatically delete your trash, click Turn On.
    macOS manage storage window highlighting the turn on button.

    Enabling this feature will permanently delete any items that have been in the trash for 30 days.

Reduce Clutter

  1. Click the Review Files button, then choose any of the categories in the sidebar, such as Applications, Documents, GarageBand, iOS Files, iTunes, or Trash.
    macOS manage storage window highlighting the review files button.

    You can delete files or programs by either clicking on the "x" when hovering over the item or by right clicking and choosing delete.

If your Apple computer has USB or Firewire ports, you can connect external media such as Thumbdrives and External HDD to store your files.
Apple laptop showing Firewire and USB ports

When you insert removable media, it will show up on your desktop and finder.
Finder window highlighting the external storage

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