How to Check and Opti­mize Your Mac’s Storage

Tiffany Nguyen

One of the best practices to maintain and optimize your Mac's performance is to regularly clean your hard drive. A cluttered hard drive makes data recall slower, you may notice that your computer takes longer to start up or your apps are slower to use.

How to Check and Optimize Your Macs Storage

Keeping a clean computer desktop and the hard drive is just as important as keeping a clean household - when everything is where it needs to be on and off your computer, everything flows much better. If you find that your computer isn't as fast as it used to be, or if it's been a couple of seasons too many since your last digital spring cleaning, follow these steps.

Check Your Mac's Storage Space

When cleaning up our data, the first thing we should ask ourselves is, 'What IS taking up all my hard drive space?' Sometimes our precious memory can be used entirely by a photo shoot where we somehow took a thousand photos. Or maybe there's a movie we downloaded a year ago and forgot to delete when we finished watching it. In addition, there are dozens of relatively 'small' things that we no longer need that take up a large portion of memory.

So how do we find out where our hard drive space is going to?

Step 1: Click on the Apple icon in the upper left hand corner of your screen. Click on About this Mac.

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Step 2: Click on the 'Storage' tab. Your Mac may take some time to calculate where your storage space is being used.

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Step 3: Once everything is loaded, you will see where all your hard drive space is being used. Each category has its color.

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As you can see, most of the storage used in this hard drive is used by Photos in yellow, followed by even smaller rectangles of various colors. You can hover over each color block to see how much space is in use for this category.

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As you can see, iCloud uses about 44 GB of storage space on this Mac.

Step 4: Click on the "Manage" button on the right side of the window.

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Step 5: A new window will pop up with four different ways to help manage your storage space. On the left side, you can see all the storage taken by each category to understand the other things taking up storage on your Mac.

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Clicking through each of the tabs on the left side will show you what files are taking up your precious hard drive space. You can open those files from here to refresh your memory (after all, who can remember what IMG_7024 is from a tiny thumbnail?) and decide whether or not you want to keep that file.

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On the right-hand side, we are given many ways to optimize our hard drive space.

Into the iCloud

The first one will show you what documents you can store in iCloud. For example, photos (especially high resolution and high quality) take up large amounts of space on your hard drive. So keeping it in the cloud will give you more room on your hard drive.

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Optimize Your Storage

Below the iCloud storage, there's the option to Optimize Storage. This feature will remove movies and TV shows you've already watched - leaving more room for new movies and TV shows.

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Empty the Trash

Have you ever thrown out the box to your microwave food and needed to fish it out of the trash to remind yourself of the next step? Fortunately, our computers are built the same way - we can still go through our trash cans to find our deleted files.

Much like our trash, however, we need to throw it out completely to create more room. The Empty Trash Automatically setting is a helpful tool to use if you forget to clear your Trash Can regularly every 30 days.

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Reduce Clutter

If you're an 'out of sight, out of mind' person, there's a chance that you may have files you haven't opened in quite some time. The Reduce Clutter option will list files that you haven't opened in different categories. Then, each tab will show you files in that folder that you might be interested in deleting.

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Out With the Old, in With the New

Optimizing your hard drive space is excellent to lessen the drag in your computer's processing power. In addition, keeping your machine efficient and optimized will make your Mac usage smoother and give you more room to use for media and files that best serve you.


The above article may contain affiliate links which help support Guiding Tech. However, it does not affect our editorial integrity. The content remains unbiased and authentic.

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A water quality chemist rooted in the Apple ecosystem specializing in writing How-Tos and Guides for MacOS and iOS. When she's not writing guides, she's guiding others through kickboxing.