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30.04.2014

Learn how to make the most of your Mac's hard drive space

Apple computers like the iMac and MacBook series have 'flash' (SSD) storage. This is fast access memory but, by todays' standards, not a great deal of memory. If you're a MacBook user reading this you probably have 128Gb or 256Gb, which will fill up surprisingly fast with music, photos, films and videos.

If you let your hard drive fill up more than 90% (so 13Gb or less free on 128Gb, and 26Gb free on 256Gb) your Mac is likely to run slower, and you could have problems downloading larger files; we'd recommend keeping 30Gb free whatever size drive you have.

However, before you spring for an external drive, try doing the following things:

Empty the Trash...

Mum was right - you should always get rid of your rubbish. We've recently covered this topic in more detail, but emptying the Trash folder could free up lots of hard drive space because files you delete aren't actually 'in' the Trash. The Trash folder is really just a list of what will be, or is being, deleted from your Mac; the actual files stay in your main hard drive the whole time.

... and the iPhoto Trash

If you use iPhoto, you should know that it has a separate Trash bin, and that photos taken on modern cameras or phones can be quite large files and take up a lot of space. Navigate to 'iPhoto > Trash (in the sidebar) > Empty Trash' to clear these files from your Mac.

Have a good look through iTunes

With iTunes open, navigate to 'Music > Songs'. Then arrange your collection so that it is ordered by size - in other words, biggest file top. You can do this by clicking the 'Size' column (making sure that the arrow points down rather than up - if it points up click again). Are there any files you rarely or never play? Remove them by (i) Control-clicking and selecting 'Delete' and (ii) clicking 'Move to Trash', then dragging the file to the Trash.

Watch HD video?

If you download films or TV from the iTunes Store in HD, you also get a standard version (SD) bundled with it. A two hour film at standard definition is a little under 2Gb; a 45 minute TV show around 650Mb. If you watch a lot of media on your Mac, you might surprised how much space you can free up by removing the version you never watch.

To do this, once you have iTunes open, choose either the 'TV Shows' or 'Movies' list, and look for items that have an HD/SD icon after the name. With the item you want selected, click 'File > Show In Finder' (or use the keyboard shortcut Command + Shift + R) and remove the version you don't want.

What about iTunes apps?

From within iTunes, navigate to 'Applications > List View > Sort By Size' to see the apps that take up the most space. Are there any you could get rid of? Before doing this, we'd recommend downloading AppZapper or AppCleaner - free software that helps you completely remove an app (and all the associated files that are hard to track down).

Check your downloads folders

Navigate to 'Home > Downloads' and see what you've got there; anything you no longer need? If you're an Apple Mail user, then amy files you open from within that app are stored in a separate location. To see it and the files it contains, navigate to 'Finder > Go > Go To Folder and then type '~/Library/Mail Downloads'. Check to make sure there's nothing here that you haven't saved to somewhere else, but it's likely that you'll be able to empty the folder.

Understand your hard drive better

Apps like Daisy Disk and WhatSizeMac will show you those files that are taking up the most space on your hard drive - and you might be surprised to learn what's on your Mac. Neither of these are free, but they represent a good investment, when an external hard drive or cloud storage will cost far more.

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