How to Manage Storage on a Mac

One of the confusing things for most computer users is learning how to manage storage on a Mac. This article explains the most important facilities.

First empty your trash and clear out your downloads folder. If you still want to take it a step further.

Details of What is Stored on Your Mac

Click on the Apple icon in the upper left of the Macintosh screen, and select About This Mac.

Example is MacOS 11.0.1, Big Sur. Other MacOS versions will look similar.

The tabs across the top will give information about this computer.

To manage storage on the Mac, click on the Storage tab.

The display below shows the internal storage of the computer. In this case it is 251 GB of flash storage. 92 GB of the storage space are still available. Colors indicate a categorization of the files being stored.

Hovering the mouse over the individual colors will show the storage used for that category and the name of the category. General, the dark grey, will be discussed later.

To get deeper into the storage and to see recommendations for reducing it, click on the word Manage…

How to Manage

Recommendations is blue in the list on the left of the window, indicating that we are currently looking at Apple’s recommendations for reducing the storage on this Mac.

By clicking on each of the headings on the left of this window, one can see files that would provide additional space on the computer.

Step through the headings on the left. Delete files that are not needed, and move files to other storage locations if that is useful.

iOS Files are backups for mobile devices (iPhones and iPads). Backups can be deleted if they are old, if the devices are backed up somewhere else, or if the devices are no longer being used.

Deleting old iPhone and iPad backups yielded an additional 40 GB.


What is in Other? Things like these –

  • installers
  • caches
  • old backups
  • app extensions
  • temporary files

Most of these files are stored in your Library, which is generally not viewable to users. Users need to be careful not to delete required files.

One alternative is to search for file types that you know you can delete, like .dmg files (disk image files are used for installing applications). You can also use Finder and choose to view by size instead of by name or date, which will allow you to see which items will give you the most space back. In the finder window, click on the circle with three dots in it and select sort by and then size.

For some people the safer option is to use a dedicated application for cleaning out these kinds of files on a Mac, like CleanMyMac or MacCleaner. Here is a recent article about Mac cleaner products from MacWorld UK. At SDM we use the free application called Onyx, which you can download here. There is a different version of Onyx for each of the major MacOS versions, so make sure to choose the correct one.

Here is a MacWorld UK article about reducing the Other category.

If you want some help, or just a little hand holding, give us a call or send an email and we would be happy to help you.

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