Summary: This post explains what the 'Other' in Mac storage is and how to delete the 'Other' files to free up Mac space. It guides you to clear various unwanted files with detailed steps to optimize your Mac's performance.
Managing our Mac storage is still a great concern for us even in 2020 because it's filled up with various files so quickly. Especially for MacBook Pro and MacBook Air that we can't upgrade the storage capacity, taking advantage of the 'Other' storage on Mac becomes necessary.
The thing is, most of us don't know exactly what files are taking up the other Mac storage. So, when confronted with the pop-up "Your disk is almost full", or stuck with a frozen or slow Mac, we are afraid to delete the Other files from Mac internal hard drive to free up space.
No more worries now! This post explains the 'Other' storage on Mac in detail, so that we can know what files are taking up those space, where we can find and delete those unnecessary files to speed up Mac performance.
A Closer look at Mac Storage and 'Other' Storage
Things you need to know about Mac Storage
Storage tab in About this Mac is a place where we can check the used and free space for the hard drive connected to our Mac, as well as how those spaces are used.
In the form of a single bar graph, it is calculated and displayed in a short time with different colored categories representing different file types, such as Apps and pictures. The name, types, size, and path of our files are recorded in a specific place once they are created. That's a resource that we can use Spotlight to search for, use Finder to access, and use Manage to organize those files and disk space.
Check the storage space on your Mac
Though we can spotlight search Disk Utility to check the storage capacity of a disk, the following way is more convenient. It smooths the process of managing and clearing up space for our hard drive if the system is macOS Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina, and Big Sur.
Step 1: Click the Apple logo at the top left corner of our Mac.
Step 2: Choose About this Mac from the context menu.
Step 3: Select Storage tab from the pop-up window.
Step 4: Wait for a second and then system will return the results of whole storage space, used space, and free space.
One or more partitions and volumes might be detected under Storage, and Macintosh (or macOS) volume is where the system is located. If it's an APFS Mac hard drive that has two or more volumes in the same container, the storage space between them is shared. For example, we see two volumes and each of them has 40 GB free space within the same container, then actually, there are 40GB available space, not 80 GB.
What is 'Other' in Mac Storage?
Usually, Other storage on your Macintosh HD is displayed as a greyed column among the whole storage bar. It's not the familiar types like Apps, Music, Mail, Backups, and Video. That's to say, 'Other' are files that macOS can't categorize to any known forms, and Spotlight can't access or recognize those files from the resource we mentioned above.
Besides, external hard drives will have the Other storage as well. Especially if the information of the data is not recorded and doesn't belong to common recognized categories, the other storage will be very high on Mac.
Files that taking up 'Other' storage on Mac
Now we have known why this Other storage exists on our hard drive and takes space. But to be specific, what kind of file types and formats will be classified into Other? Rumors say that they are files like doc, pdf, psd, dmg, and zip that can't be directly recognized by the system.
Well, it's not true. This conclusion can't hold water definitely as those files usually should be grouped into documents. A more accurate answer is various files, which include:
- Unwanted and unsupported documents and file types like PDF, PSD, DOC, etc.
- Caches and temporary files from browsers, locally stored messages, media files, and the system.
- Archives like ZIP, ISO and DMG, and disk images.
- Plugins, extensions, accessories, fonts, installer packages of built-in and third-party apps.
- Out-of-date backups and any other files that we don't need on the Mac anymore.
Now that reducing the system storage on Mac to free up sapce is almost impossible since resources saved there are necessary for booting and running the Mac. And macOS Catalina even set a separate and read-only volume, Macintosh HD, to isolate those important data.
If we can't obviously decrease the system storage, what about the Other storage?
Can we delete 'Other' to Clear up Mac Storage?
Yes. We can remove certain files from the 'Other' on Mac storage to free up space. But it's not 100% safe to clear those files.
Most of the time, files put in the Other storage can be distinguished from their name and types, which obviously helps decide if it's removable. For example, DMG files of software installers that are left after installation can be cleared for sure. And website caches and cookies from Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox sometimes could be reloaded the next time we visit that page, which won't be a pain.
However, we could lose browser history when deleting caches on Mac, and we could get troubles in running a certain app if we delete its extensions.
What we can advise is, back up files on Mac with Time Machine or other tools before clearing up Mac, and do not clear anything that we can't tell. If it's not sure what this file is for, just let it be. But we can boldly clear up old files from uninstalled software, fragments, and clutters that system advises deleting.
Tips: If important files are mistakenly cleared during this process, we recommend a deleted file recovery from the Mac using iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac.
Guide to find and delete Other files from Mac storage
When our Mac is running of space, terrible performance problems just overwhelm us. Having known both risks and benefits of this operation, we can go ahead to find and get rid of the Other storage from Mac carefully. To manage the Mac storage efficiently, we'll remove whatever unnecessary files from Mac as much as possible.
To clear files in the Other storage on Mac, follow these methods step by step.
- Take advantage of the built-in storage management feature
- Clear temporary files located in Other storage
- Clear cache and log files from Other storage on Mac
- Delete unwanted Downloads from Other storage
- Remove outdated backup files from Other storage
- Delete disk images and archives in Mac storage
- Clear unnecessary plugins and extensions from the Other storage
- Delete any unwanted files from Mac storage
1. Manage Mac storage with built-in feature (for macOS Sierra 10.12 and later)
Step 1: Click on the apple logo and choose About this Mac.
Step 2: Click Storage and wait for storage calculation.
Step 3: Click on the Manage button and then free up the space by the on-screen instructions.
There will be recommendations from Storage Management to optimize the Mac storage, which should be different from Mac to Mac. In our case, we are advised to save files to iCloud to free up local space, remove watched movies and TVs, enable 30-day automatic Trash empty, and reduce clutter.
Also, we can clear old apps, installer, large but unwanted documents by the options below the Recommendations option.
However, Storage Management makes a little difference when 'Other' bloated the storage over 100GB. This happens frequently if we newly updated a macOS. In this case, we need to free up space by manually deleting files in 'Other'.
2. Clear system temporary files located in Other storage
Temporary files are created every second our computer is running. Those files are piled up when apps are launched and performing, while they are prone to be outdated and replaced by new temporary files. As a result, they will stay on the Other storage of our hard drive, wasting space until we delete it manually like this:
Step 1: Open the Finder app and click on Go at the top left.
Step 2: Click Go to Folder ( or press Command + Shift + G) and then put in ~/Users/User/Library/Application Support/ into the box.
Step 3: Click on the Go button to go to that folder.
Step 4: Browse and right-click on the things that you don't want.
Step 5: Choose Move to Trash to delete the temporary files from Other storage.
Step 6: Open Trash and right-click on the files above to choose Delete Immediately.
3. Clear cache files and logs from Other storage on Mac
As we have mentioned before, cache files take a great part of the Other storage. Carefully, we can delete caches from the browser, user, and system on Mac by:
Step 1: Open Finder and click on Go at the top left.
Step 2: Choose Go to Folder and type in: ~/Library/Caches to go.
Step 3: Find the Cache folder from the list and drag it to the desktop to make a backup.
Step 4: Open the Cache folder and check if all files can be deleted or just part of them.
Step 5: Choose cache files and drag them to the Trash.
Step 6: Open Trash and right-click on the files above to choose Delete Immediately.
Note: To delete logs and other cache files on your Mac, repeat the steps above and replace "~/Library/" with "/Library/Caches" and "~/Library/Logs" when type in.
4. Delete unwanted Downloads from Other storage
Sometimes, we download a new app and install it by dragging it to the Applications folder. But we forget to delete the software package which will remain on the disk and taking up for space. Here is how to remove it.
Step 1: Open Finder and click Go in the upper left.
Step 2: Choose the Downloads option from the menu.
Step 3: All kinds of file types like .dmg, .pkg, .doc, .pdf, .csv, etc. are listed here.
Step 4: Pick files that need to be cleared up and right-click to move to Trash.
Step 5: Open Trash and right-click those files to delete them immediately.
5. Remove outdated backup files from Other storage
If we have ever backed up our iOS devices like iPhone or iPad on Mac, we can check if we still need those backups. If not, follow these steps to get rid of them to free up gigabytes of Mac storage.
Step 1: Open Finder > Go > Go to Folder.
Step 2: Type in ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup in the box and go.
Step 3: Pick files and then move them to Trash.
Step 4: Open Trash and then delete them immediately from the Mac.
6. Delete disk images and archives in Mac storage
Usually, disk images and archives are files that download or received by the user. Those files are often in the form of ZIP and DMG, which might have been useless or unarchived. We can get rid of them by:
Step 1: Open the Finder application.
Step 2: In the search box at the top right, type in .dmg and .zip once a time to search for files.
Step 3: Select Search: This Mac in the middle of the window.
Step 4: Click the Group option at the top of the window and choose Size.
Step 5: Drag the target file to Trash and then delete it immediately.
7. Clear unnecessary plugins and extensions from the Other storage
We use a lot of add-ons to make apps on our Mac better, especially for browsers like Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. But those extensions are separate from the software itself, but categorized into the Other storage.
After confirming that we don't want this plugin or extension anymore, we can go to the browser that on our Mac and remove it manually. Here takes Google Chrome as an example:
Step 1: Open Chrome.
Step 2: Click the three-dot icon at the upper right to customize and control it.
Step 3: Click on More Tools and then choose Extensions.
Step 4: From the panel where add-ons are showing up, click on the Remove button to get rid of it.
8. Delete any unwanted files from Mac storage
This a time-consuming process because we need to inspect on almost all folders on the Mac Finder, and delete whatever we can delete. Anyway, it's important to be careful. The key point is, if we can't sure what a file does, then don't remove it.
Other ways to Optimize and Manage Mac Storage
Except for getting rid of the files saved on the Other storage, there are some other ways to free up Mac space.
When the internal hard drive is almost full, we can save files, photos, and messages to iCloud drive to relieve the local disk and will download when you open it. This will optimize storage and speed up our Mac by only keeping recent files.
Time Machine is also a way to release free space. We can back up our Mac files to an external hard drive and then clear up files on the Mac hard drive, which makes more room locally.
Also, It's better if we get a regular habit of emptying Mac Trash, deleting duplicated and outdated documents, and uninstalling applications that we don't use.
Clean and Speed up Mac with Third-party Software
We have made it clear that manually clearing up space is risky. We can't decide which one should be deleted and which not. Why not let someone skilled at this task? Yes, we mean third-party Mac cleaners though we need to pay for that.
From our experience, 3 apps win a good reputation in managing and clearing up Mac space.
- CleanMyMac X: The software is worth $33.99 and developed by MacPaw, having been in this field for over 10 years. So, they know how to manage and free up Mac storage better. It's a lot like Apple's Optimized Storage, cleaning outdated caches, broken downloads, logs, and useless localizations and removing clutters in iTunes, Mail, Photos, and even hidden files.
- Daisy Disk. If the budget is what we care about when choosing Mac space manager, then Daisy Disk surely is recommended as it costs only $9.99. It overviews all connected disks o our Mac, be it Macintosh HD, Thunderbolt disk, flash, network storage, so that we can decide to delete when space is not enough.
- CCleaner. This app costs $19.95 to speed up our Mac, reduce clutter, erase browser search history and cookies for security. It puts more emphasis on our privacy and simpleness.
Be sure to make a backup of what is going to be deleted in case that Mac data recovery is needed. After deleting both the Other storage and piles of files from the Mac hard drive, we'll get plenty of free space for our computer.