Other Storage

That 'Other' space on Mac might be innocuous, but it is still annoying.

Our resident Mac Help guru, Peter Cohen, previously told us about the "Other" storage category on Mac computers and what it catalogs: In short, you're seeing space taken up by plug-ins, documents, and caches stored by OS X.

It's worth noting that these files aren't normally harmful or wasteful to your computer's system; most are intended to help your Mac run efficiently, and ideally, you shouldn't ever have to clear out your Other files. Unfortunately, they can quickly clog up a computer low on storage — especially if you're storing a large number of iPhone or iPad backups.

Whether you're looking to free up space on your hard drive or just want to do some spring cleaning, here are some simple steps to get your Mac free and clear.

A note on what happened to 'Other' space in macOS Sierra and higher

Optimized Storage on Mac

When Apple added its storage management feature to macOS Sierra, called Optimize Storage, it reorganized what "other" storage is and where it's located on the Mac. Much of it has been divided out through other categories so it's easier to find and remove.

The 100GB of Other storage I used to carry on my iMac is whittled down to just 5GB. You can still clean out old and unnecessary content from your Mac with macOS Sierra and High Sierra by using Optimized Storage. It's just a little easier to find those unused files than it was before.

How to use Optimized Storage on Mac

A lot of the features of Optimized Storage remove content from your Mac and store them in iCloud. If you're concerned with how much storage you're using up in iCloud, you can customize or disable some Optimized Storage features to keep a balance between what's on your Mac and what's in iCloud.

How to customize or disable Optimized Storage on Mac

What's this 'Purgeable' category all about?

Purgeable storage on Mac

If you check your system storage graph in macOS, you'll probably discover a category called Purgeable. This is part of Apple's Optimized Storage service. When you move your Documents into iCloud (part of the Store in iCloud component) and your hard drive gets low on storage, only recently opened files are kept on your Mac. Older documents are stored in iCloud, while a shortcut icon is kept on your Mac (files are automatically re downloaded to your Mac as soon as you open them). The Purgeable files are what Optimized Storage will move to iCloud and delete from your hard drive only if your hard drive starts to get full. Purgeable files also include caches and temporary files that used to fit into the Other category, which will also be deleted as your hard drive starts to fill up.

Though your Other storage might have been spread out across categories in macOS Sierra and higher, you can still follow the below steps to manually clean up your Mac and get rid of unnecessary files.

How to check your storage space on your Mac

If you are concerned with how much storage space you have remaining on your Mac computer, you can check its usage folder to see how much space each category is taking up, including Other.

  1. Click on your desktop or the Finder icon from the Dock.
  2. Select the Apple Menu icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
  3. Click on About This Mac.

    Finding storage usage on OS X

  4. Select Storage.

    Finding storage usage on OS X

Your Mac breaks down its storage categories as follows: Apps, Movies, Photos, Audio, Backups, and — that annoying, undescriptive category — Other.

How to remove cached files

Now that you know how much space your Other files are taking up, it's time to reduce their footprint on your Mac. You can start by removing items you don't need, including caches for your web browser, saved Apple Music streams, and photo previews.

A note on deleting cache folders: You only want to delete old and unnecessary files, as current cache files store your preferences. We strongly recommend only deleting cache files from old apps.

  1. Click on your desktop or select the Finder icon from the Dock.
  2. Select the Go menu in the upper left corner of the screen.
  3. Click on Go to Folder.

    Opening library caches on OS X

  4. Type ~/Library/caches into the text box. A list of caches from active apps will appear on your desktop.

    Opening library caches on OS X

  5. Select the app folder you wish to remove the cache from.
  6. Right-click (or control-click) on the app folder.
  7. Select Move to Trash.

    Deleting cache files on OS X

How to remove downloaded files

Chances are, your Downloads folder is stuffed with Other-type files, including installer packages, documents, and folders you have already made copies of somewhere else. If you want to make some room on your Mac, it may be time to clean out your Downloads folder.

  1. Click on your desktop or select the Finder icon from the Dock.
  2. Select the Go menu in the upper left corner of the screen.
  3. Click on Downloads.

    Opening the Downloads folder on OS X

  4. Select the file you wish to remove.
  5. Right-click (or control-click) on the file.
  6. Select Move to Trash.

    Deleting downloads on OS X

If you want to save a file from the Downloads folder but don't want it clogging your drive, consider moving it to an external hard drive or flash drive, or uploading it to an online storage option like Dropbox.

How to delete old device backups in iTunes

If you tend to get new iOS devices fairly regularly, you may have unnecessary device backups stored on your computer via iTunes. Backups take up 4-5GB each, on average; there's no need to hold on to older device backups if you no longer have the device or have it stored in iCloud.

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Click on Preferences under the iTunes menu in the upper left corner of the screen.

    Opening iTunes Preferences on OS X

  3. Select Devices.

    Deleting old device backups on OS X

  4. Select the backup you wish to delete. Do not delete the most recent backup of any device you are currently using, unless you also have it available as an iCloud backup.
  5. Select Delete Backup.

    Deleting old device backups on OS X

Third-party software that can help

While you don't need any third-party app to "clean" your Mac, there are some very handy system access tools out there that make it easier to regularly remove unwanted files.

CleanMyMac 3

With CleanMyMac, you have easy access to a list of features that help you keep your Mac free of unnecessary junk. It scans your entire system and recommends files you should delete based on how old they are and whether they are considered unnecessary to your workflow. It's a lot like Apple's Optimized Storage, but with a few additional features. My favorite is the recommendation to delete all content related to an application. Sometimes, you'll end up with a couple of files left behind by an app when you delete it. CleanMyMac provides a one-button purge of everything associated with that app.

DaisyDisk

DaisyDisk scans your Mac and gives you a pie chart that makes it easy to see what files are using up the most space. You can identify files that are in the Other storage category and drag them to the delete box. - DaisyDisk - $9.99 {.cta .shop}

Onyx

Onyx is a robust Mac system access tool that, in-part, can delete caches, logs, temporary items, and other files that find their way into the Other storage category.

Cocktail

Cocktail is another useful system access tool that you can use to clear caches, purge memory, and manage hidden Apple app settings, which might be automatically sending files into the Other category abyss.

Questions?

Still having trouble with Other? Let us know in the comments.