“But I hardly have anything on my computer” is usually the first thing people tell me after their Mac spits out that (paraphrasing) “Yo, I’m too full! You might wanna ditch some of this old junk you’re keeping a hold of before I won’t even startup”
Technically, you didn’t deliberately cram your Mac to the lid with files, but a quick peek at your storage space in “About This Mac” tells a different story. A full Hard Drive may not even be your fault. Even if you take steps to keep your computer “clean” by frequently clearing out the “trash” and “downloads” folders on you Mac, there could be some files you can’t see or didn’t know that are taking up space on your Mac.
So I’ve compiled a task list of things you can do to recover storage space on your Mac.
Disconnect cloud sync accounts
If you think you’re doing your computer a favor by storing all your files in Dropbox, Google Drive, or some other cloud storage service, think again. Technically speaking, they should be called Cloud Synchronization services because all they do is make sure the files in the cloud and the files ON YOUR COMPUTER are in sync. Yeah, you read that right, with cloud sync services, you have multiple copies of your files in multiple places.
So a quick fix to temporarily recover some storage space would be to:
1 Unlink those cloud sync services
2 Delete the copies from your computer.
…Don’t worry, as long as you DISCONNECT/UNLINK BEFORE YOU DELETE, a copy of all your files will be saved in the cloud. Now would be a good time to clean out all those unwanted files and consolidate cloud sync services before you link computer back to your cloud accounts.
Delete unused Apps and delete app cache
You know good and well you don’t need all those applications you’ve only used twice. Truth of the matter is, everything (including applications) are moving to the cloud, so what you really need can in most cases be accessed via the web. So go ahead and delete those apps, because they too are clogging up your storage.
To completely delete any trails of the application(s) you just deleted, you probably need to delete the application cache (files that store application preferences)…Just pay close attention to what application cache folders you want to delete or will have to redo some application settings if you delete to wrong ones.
If I had a choice of applications you need to keep on your computer, one tool I frequently use and suggest would select Disk Doctor. To make a long story short, after launch, Disk Doctor searches your Mac and reveals multiple types of files, including files in the trash/downloads folder, application logs/caches, mail downloads, and other files you can safely remove without damaging your computer.
Delete iTunes device backups
If you backup your iPhone, iPad, or other iDevice to your Mac via iTunes, chances are, all those backup files are being stored on computer. They are kept there even if you no longer use, or have switched phones. If left unchecked, the list of devices, more importantly, the amount of data in the form of backups stored on your is counting against your available space.
Going into iTunes Preferences > Devices will show you all the device backups. From there, you can decide which backups are old enough to be deleted.
Side Note: If you want to change where iTunes saves iDevice backups, check out this tutorial, or skip iTunes altogether and use iCloud for device backup.
So I’ve given you the lowdown on how to recover storage space on your Mac. You have two choices, take some time to work through these steps, or call me in a panic when you see that “Your startup disk is almost full” message.