The most effective way to manage storage on Mac

6 min read

Have you noticed that over the years seemingly every app we install on our Macs is asking for more and more storage space? Even utilities and macOS now take up gigabytes. And let’s not even get started about games. Playing a game of Fortnite will set you back 30 GB. 

So while it used to be that 128 GB of storage was plenty, even running the most basic tasks on that today would be a challenge. All modern Apple computers start with at least 256 GB, which would also probably seem like not that much in a few years. 

We should note that these measurements are for casual users. If you store photos or videos on your Mac, you’ll be hitting against those limits in no time. There’s also no way to upgrade the capacity of your hard drives once you’ve bought your Mac. Configuring your Mac with more storage in the Apple Store is also expensive. For the latest MacBook Air, every additional 256 GB would cost you $250. 

All this leads us to the problem of how to manage disk space on Mac in a way that lets us get away with anything we’d like to do. Let’s explore some options. 

How to manage Mac storage

Before we dive into the tips to manage storage Mac contains, we need to learn to find out how much storage is on our Macs as well as what takes up most of it. 

Every Mac has a basic built-in storage manager we can use to see the categories of files that fill up the hard drive. To open the manager, click the Apple icon in the menu bar ➙ About This Mac ➙ Storage. 

check storage space

The storage manager will show you a rough breakdown of categories, such as Documents, Apps, System, Other Users, etc. 

You can get a bit more clarity around certain categories by clicking Manage. Now you can see the largest files in your user folder, the heaviest apps, Trash contents, and a few tips, such as clearing out GarageBand custom sounds by going to Music Creation ➙ Remove GarageBand Sound Library. 

Remove GarageBand Sound Library

The storage manager, however, doesn’t give you full access to your files, and doesn’t even show all the heavy files on your Mac. What’s more, some old Macs don’t even have the Manage button on the storage pane. What do you do then? 

You need a full-featured storage analyzer, such as the one in CleanMyMac X. 

CleanMyMac X is the easiest and safest way to optimize your Mac. Its intuitive interface lets you complete various pro-level tasks at the click of a button. 

Take the Space Lens module as an example. CleanMyMac X will scan your Mac in seconds and give you a complete picture of your storage, with access to every single file, sorted by the largest folders, which you can navigate as a directory or as visual bubbles. Once you find the files you don’t need, simply click Remove and move on to other folders. This is the fastest and the most precise way to manage disk space Mac gives you. 

check Google Drive storage

Delete duplicate files

Over the years of working on Mac, we inadvertently tend to accumulate tons of duplicate files that unnecessarily fill up storage space. Think of all the similar photos, downloaded mail attachments, messages, videos, document copies that live on your Mac. That’s gigabytes that do nothing but waiting to be released! Luckily, there’s Gemini.

Gemini is the most advanced duplicate finder on Mac. This utility instantly finds not only copies of the same files throughout your Mac but also similar or related files that you might not need as well. 

Using Gemini is a breeze: 

  1. Launch the app
  2. Drop any folder onto it or browse to find the right one
  3. Click Scan
  4. Review Details
  5. Check any files and then Remove

Gemini duplicate files finder

Organize screenshots

In a modern workplace, not a day goes by without dozens or even hundreds of screenshots taken. We use screenshots to direct others’ attention to a specific issue, walk someone through the process, or even just to remember something for later. 

The problem is most screenshots are just used once and then get forgotten about, occupying space on your Mac for no reason. 

A great way to manage Mac storage is to organize your screenshots by Stacks, a macOS native feature. Since screenshots are saved on your Desktop by default, which tends to get messy, you can automatically group them together by right-clicking on your Desktop and selecting Use Stacks. This will keep all screenshots in one tidy place, from which you can easily delete them when you don’t need them anymore. 


Alternatively, you can store all your screenshots away from your Mac, in the cloud, from the start. To do this effortlessly, you’d need Dropshare. 

Dropshare is a nifty platform that lives in your menu bar and connects to any cloud storage you might have, from Dropbox to Google Drive. While you can just drop any file to Dropshare to save, it also has robust note-taking and screenshot-grabbing capabilities. 

Just click on the Dropshare icon in the menu bar and select the screenshot mode you’d like to use. Take the screenshot and it will automatically save in your cloud, with a sharing-ready link you can send to anyone. All this without taking a megabyte of space on your Mac. 

Share screenshots with Dropshare app

Move files to external drives

The widespread development and competitiveness of multiple cloud storage solutions today means you don’t really need to keep that many files on your Mac anymore. 

Photos, documents, presentations, videos, design files — all can live in the cloud and only be accessed as needed. While it used to be that downloading files from the cloud to work on them was a cumbersome process, especially if they were compressed. It’s not so anymore with the introduction of CloudMounter.

CloudMounter is a brilliant utility that connects to any cloud storage, from Box to Backblaze to Amazon S3, encrypts its contents, and then mounts it as a local drive on your Mac, so you can access it and move files around just like in any other hard drive. So you can be connected to a dozen cloud storage solutions and use files locally without taking up any space on your Mac. 

Automate deleting trash

When it comes to the best ways to manage storage on Mac, there’s no freer lunch than emptying out Trash. Even when people delete files, they don’t necessarily clean the Trash out every time, so files you definitely don’t need still tend to accumulate and take up space. 

A good practice here is to regularly scan the three folders that usually have the most unneeded files — Desktop, Documents, Downloads — and delete everything that you won’t use, followed by immediately emptying the Trash (right-click ➙ Empty Trash). 

Few people know that you can somewhat automate this process by forcing the Trash to empty itself every 30 days: 

  1. Activate Finder
  2. Go to Finder ➙ Preferences (⌘ + ,) in the menu bar
  3. Check “Remove items from the Trash after 30 days” 

automatically empty trash

Now you can make sure that nothing will keep taking up space in your Trash past the 30-day mark. 

As you can see, knowing how to manage storage on Mac is mostly about being mindful of the flow of files within your system. it starts with looking at what files and folders actually occupy all your storage with CleanMyMac X. Then deleting duplicates with Gemini. After that, you can organize your screenshots in the cloud with Dropshare and mount any cloud storage locally with CloudMounter. Finally, make sure your Trash empties itself every 30 days. 

Best of all, the apps mentioned above — CleanMyMac X, Gemini, Dropshare, and CloudMounter — are available to you absolutely free for seven days through the trial of Setapp, a premier platform with more than 220 best-in-class Mac apps to help you solve any problem at hand. Try every Setapp app today at no cost and see what top productivity really feels like.

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