How do I delete stored data on my Mac?

Having too much stored data on your Mac can slow it down and take up valuable storage space. Fortunately, macOS makes it easy to find and delete files you no longer need. Here are some tips for cleaning up unwanted data on a Mac.

Empty the Trash

When you delete files on your Mac, they go to the Trash folder. To permanently remove these files, you need to empty the Trash. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Trash folder – click the Trash icon in your Dock or choose Finder > Empty Trash.
  2. Review the contents – make sure you don’t need any of the files.
  3. Empty the Trash – click Empty in the upper right corner of the window.

Files you delete will be permanently removed from your Mac.

Delete Large Files

You can quickly free up storage space by finding and deleting large files you no longer need. Here are a couple ways to do this:

Use Finder’s storage management tools

  1. In Finder, click Storage in the Finder sidebar.
  2. Under Recommendations, look for any large files that can be deleted.
  3. Click Review Files to open Finder and delete the files.

Find large files with third-party utilities

Utilities like DaisyDisk and OmniDiskSweeper scan your drive and make it easy to spot and delete large files:

  • Download and install the utility.
  • Run a scan of your drive to find large files.
  • Delete any files you no longer need.

Be sure to empty the Trash when done to free up the disk space.

Remove Apps You Don’t Use

Unused apps can take up a surprising amount of space. To remove apps:

  1. Open Finder and go to Applications.
  2. Drag any unwanted apps to the Trash.
  3. Empty the Trash to delete them.

You may need to enter your password to fully delete some apps.

Clear Cache Files

Web browsers and other apps store cache files that can safely be deleted. Here’s how to clear the most common caches:

Safari cache

  1. Quit Safari
  2. Choose Safari > Clear History and Website Data
  3. Select “Cached files and images” and click Clear

Chrome cache

  1. Quit Chrome
  2. In Finder, go to ~/Library/Caches/Google/Chrome
  3. Move all files from this folder to the Trash

Photo libraries

  1. Open Photos
  2. Choose Photos > Preferences
  3. Click Manage in the iCloud section
  4. Tap Download Originals to This Mac to turn it off

This will keep full-resolution versions of photos in iCloud rather than on your Mac.

Remove iOS Device Backups

Over time, backups of iOS devices like iPhones and iPads can consume GBs of storage. To delete old backups:

  1. Open Finder and go to ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup
  2. Delete any backups you no longer need by moving them to the Trash

Make sure you don’t delete backups for devices you still own and rely on.

Delete System Junk Files

Some apps create junk files that are safe to remove. Here are a couple ways to clean them up:

Use built-in storage tools

  1. Go to About This Mac > Storage > Manage
  2. Click System under Recommendations
  3. Review any suggested files to delete

Use a cleaning app

Apps like CleanMyMac X detect and remove unneeded system files to free up space.

Remove Old Email Attachments

Email attachments can quickly consume storage, especially if you don’t remove them after saving. To delete attachments:

  1. Open the Mail app
  2. Check through any folders, such as Sent, that may contain attachments
  3. Delete messages with unneeded attachments

You can also sort messages by size to quickly find ones with large attachments.

Clear Out Downloads Folder

The Downloads folder can fill up fast. Occasionally sort by size and delete files you no longer need:

  1. Open Finder and select the Downloads folder
  2. Sort files by size to find large items
  3. Delete any unnecessary files

For better management, regularly move downloads you want to keep to more appropriate folders.

Delete Old Files from iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive syncs files across your Apple devices. To manage storage:

  1. Open System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud
  2. Click Manage Storage
  3. Browse and delete unnecessary files

You can also manage iCloud Drive storage in Finder under Locations.

Remove iOS Device Screenshots

Screenshots taken on iPhones and iPads get saved to your Mac. To delete them:

  1. Open Finder and go to ~/Pictures/Screenshots
  2. Select and delete any unneeded screenshots

You can also use Finder’s storage tools to find and delete screenshots.

Clear Out iTunes Movies and Shows

Downloaded movies and TV shows from iTunes can take up a lot of space. To delete them:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Under Library, right-click on a purchased movie/show
  3. Choose Delete from the menu

This will remove the download while keeping the item in your iTunes library.

Manage Mail Attachments

As mentioned before, mail attachments can quickly consume storage. Here are some more tips for managing them:

  • Turn off “Automatically keep attachments” in Mail settings
  • Use rules to automatically delete attachments after a period of time
  • Save attachments to cloud storage instead of keeping them in Mail

Taking steps like these will prevent your email from hoarding attachments.

Review Large Documents

Word processor documents, spreadsheets, and PDFs with lots of content can take up space. Go through these steps to find large documents to delete:

  1. Open Finder and sort files by size
  2. Search specifically in folders like Documents for large files
  3. Open them to verify you need to keep them
  4. Move unnecessary large documents to the Trash

You can also use storage tools to pinpoint and remove large documents.

Clear Log Files

Apps and services on your Mac create log files that can build up over time. Some ways to clear them out:

  • Open Console and delete old log files
  • Use a utility like OnyX to clear system logs
  • Manually browse logs in /var/log and delete unneeded ones

Be careful not to remove logs that are still actively in use.

Delete Cached and Temporary Files

Cached and temp files are created to store data temporarily. They are generally safe to remove. Some ways to delete them:

  • Empty the /private/var/folders directory
  • Use a tool like CleanMyMac to scan and remove temp files
  • Delete Adobe temp files in ~/Library/Caches/Adobe

Removing temp files forces apps to recreate them as needed, freeing up space.

Clear Out Duplicate Files

Duplicates can silently eat up storage. To find and remove them:

  1. Use Finder’s Manage Storage window to detect duplicates
  2. Get a utility like Gemini to deep scan duplicates
  3. Manually search folders to find copies of files
  4. Delete unneeded duplicates

Be careful not to delete important originals when removing duplicates.

Remove Old Versions of Documents

macOS automatically saves versions of documents over time. To delete old versions:

  1. Go to Apple menu > About This Mac
  2. Click Storage > Manage
  3. Under Recommendations, click Documents
  4. Browse and delete any unnecessary versions

You can also browse old versions in Finder and selectively delete ones you don’t need.

Clear iPhone or iPad Update Files

When you update an iPhone or iPad, the full IPSW update file gets saved to your Mac. To delete these files:

  1. Go to ~/Library/iTunes/iPhone Software Updates
  2. Move old IPSW files to the Trash

Make sure you don’t delete the file for the currently installed iOS version.

Remove Unused Languages

macOS comes with dozens of language packs that take up space. To remove ones you don’t need:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Language & Region
  2. Drag unused languages to the left panel to remove them

This will delete the associated language packs and free up storage.

Clear Diagnostic Reports

Diagnostic reports contain system data that can be deleted to recover space. To clear them out:

  1. Open Console
  2. In the Log List pane, click User Diagnostic Reports
  3. Right click on each report and choose Delete

Make sure any reports you need are saved before deleting them.

Remove iOS Apps You Don’t Use

Even unused iOS apps can take up precious storage on your Mac. To delete them:

  1. Connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac
  2. Open Finder and select your device
  3. Go to Manage Apps and delete unused apps

The associated documents and data for deleted apps will be removed too.

Disable Hibernation File

The hibernation file stores memory contents when your Mac sleeps. To delete it:

  1. Open Terminal
  2. Run: sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0
  3. Run: sudo rm /var/vm/sleepimage

This will disable hibernation mode and immediately delete the sleepimage file.


Hopefully this article has given you some great tips for freeing up valuable storage space on your Mac. With a bit of work deleting old and unnecessary files, you can significantly slim down its storage usage. Just be sure to carefully review files before deleting so you don’t lose anything important.

Following this advice, you can effectively clean out GBs or even TBs of extra space on your Mac’s drive. You’ll reclaim storage capacity while speeding up your Mac’s performance too.

So put these file removal tips to work for a lean, mean, Mac storage machine!