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Jan 18, 2014.

No matter how much space you have on your Mac, one day, you may see “Your disk is almost full” notification. Even if it seems like there is no app or program that would take a considerable amount of storage, the large files may be hidden deep down in your Mac’s memory. Keep reading to discover how to locate such files on your Mac and delete them for good.

Scan the most obvious place

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When looking for large files on their Macs, users often start scanning a bunch of folders stored on their machines. But, usually, the most common destination of all large files is the Downloads folder. You may automatically download thousands of files and forget to remove them. So, checking the Downloads folder on your Mac may help you find lots of forgotten large files and documents that you don’t need anymore.

Looking for the large items may take some time. Free tools, like CleanMyMac X, can accelerate the process by scanning your Mac’s memory and detecting large files. The only task left for you will be to remove the found files all at once.

Find large files using Finder

Another way to search for large files is by using search filters in Finder. It can help you locate the biggest files on your Mac. Here’s how to find large files using Finder:

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Find the Search field in the top right and click it.
  3. Click the Settings symbol and select Show Search Criteria.
  4. In the list of search filters on the left, choose Other.
  5. In the window that appears, select File Size and click OK.
  6. In the second space, select Is greater than and enter the size in the third space.
  7. Choose KB, MG, or GB in a final filter field.

Remember to select This Mac to get a full list of results. You will then see all files which size is greater than you defined. Look through the found documents and remove unnecessary items that take too much space on your Mac.

Although, this method has certain disadvantages. Finder doesn’t give you a full picture of the large files stored on your Mac. It shows only single files, excluding large folders that comprise a lot of smaller items.

It’s also unclear which files you can safely delete without risk of removing important documents. Finder neither provides any additional information about files nor shows which folder the file belongs to. So, it’s difficult to decide whether the large file is important or not.

Continue reading to discover how to find the largest files on your Mac using other methods.

Find large files using the Storage Management app

Another solution is to use the built-in Storage Management app.

  1. Choose Apple menu.
  2. Select About This Mac.
  3. In the window that appears, click Storage. Here you can see how much free storage you have and view the amount of space used by different categories.
  4. Click Manage.
  5. As the Storage Management app opens, select Documents.
  6. Browse the Large Files to delete those you don’t need.

Click any file to see its path at the bottom of the window. The Storage Management app also shows the exact size of each document as well as the date you opened it last.

Apple provides helpful recommendations at the top left to help you optimize your storage. Here you can choose to store all your files in iCloud, remove large files like movies and TV shows, turn on Empty Trash Automatically and reduce clutter.

This method is great for those who don’t have a lot of large files on their Mac. But, if you tend to keep many files on your machine, you may consider using the Storage Management app tiresome.

How to find biggest files on Mac via Terminal

Another way to locate large files on your Mac is to use Terminal. Although some users find commands complicated, if you use them correctly, you can find anything on your Mac. So, you can locate the biggest files on your device, just like that:

  1. Go to Utilities and open Terminal.
  2. Execute find command. If you want to locate all files bigger than 1G under the /home directory, for example, type find /home -size 1G.
  3. To delete the files enter
    find /home -type f -name *.avi -size +2G -exec rm {}
    This command will remove all AVI files that are greater than 2GB under the /home directory.

Using this command, you can also limit your search, setting size filters. Then your command will look like this: find /home -size +30M -size -100M. This command will locate all files that are greater than 30MB but less than 100MB.

Locate and remove large files using CleanMyMac X

If you have enough time, you can look through all data stored on your Mac using the methods described above. In case you want to speed up the process, CleanMyMac X can prove useful. Thanks to its Large & Old files feature, you can look at the bigger picture of all large files found on your Mac and delete them altogether.

Here’s short instruction on how to find and delete large files using CleanMyMac X:

  1. Download the free version of CleanMyMac X and open the app once it’s installed.
  2. Click the Large & Old Files tab.
  3. Run a quick scan.
  4. CleanMyMac X will show you all files stored on your Mac. You can sort files based on their size, type, and access date, to see the large items that can be removed from your Mac.
  5. Check the boxes for the files you want to delete and click Remove.

Using CleanMyMac X, you can remove all unnecessary files quickly and make some space for more important documents.

So, these were some simple methods of how to view all files on Mac and delete them. You can either use Finder, the Storage Management app, or Terminal to find the biggest files on your Mac and clean up your machine of them.

Optimized Storage in macOS Sierra and later* can save space by storing your content in iCloud and making it available on demand. When storage space is needed, files, photos, movies, email attachments, and other files that you seldom use are stored in iCloud automatically. Each file stays right where you last saved it, and downloads when you open it. Files that you’ve used recently remain on your Mac, along with optimized versions of your photos.

* If you haven't yet upgraded to macOS Sierra or later, learn about other ways to free up storage space.

Find out how much storage is available on your Mac

Choose Apple menu  > About This Mac, then click Storage. Each segment of the bar is an estimate of the storage space used by a category of files. Move your pointer over each segment for more detail.

Click the Manage button to open the Storage Management window, pictured below. This button is available only in macOS Sierra or later.

Manage storage on your Mac

The Storage Management window offers recommendations for optimizing your storage. If some recommendations are already turned on, you will see fewer recommendations.

Store in iCloud

Click the Store in iCloud button, then choose from these options:

  • Desktop and Documents. Store all files from these two locations in iCloud Drive. When storage space is needed, only the files you recently opened are kept on your Mac, so that you can easily work offline. Files stored only in iCloud show a download icon , which you can double-click to download the original file. Learn more about this feature.
  • Photos. Store all original, full-resolution photos and videos in iCloud Photos. When storage space is needed, only space-saving (optimized) versions of photos are kept on your Mac. To download the original photo or video, just open it.
  • Messages. Store all messages and attachments in iCloud. When storage space is needed, only the messages and attachments you recently opened are kept on your Mac. Learn more about Messages in iCloud.

Storing files in iCloud uses the storage space in your iCloud storage plan. If you reach or exceed your iCloud storage limit, you can either buy more iCloud storage or make more iCloud storage available. iCloud storage starts at 50GB for $0.99 (USD) a month, and you can purchase additional storage directly from your Apple device. Learn more about prices in your region.

Optimize Storage

Click the Optimize button, then choose from these options.

  • Automatically remove watched movies and TV shows. When storage space is needed, movies or TV shows that you purchased from the iTunes Store and already watched are removed from your Mac. Click the download icon next to a movie or TV show to download it again.
  • Download only recent attachments. Mail automatically downloads only the attachments that you recently received. You can manually download any attachments at any time by opening the email or attachment, or saving the attachment to your Mac.
  • Don't automatically download attachments. Mail downloads an attachment only when you open the email or attachment, or save the attachment to your Mac.

Optimizing storage for movies, TV shows, and email attachments doesn't require iCloud storage space.

Empty Trash Automatically

Empty Trash Automatically permanently deletes files that have been in the Trash for more than 30 days.

Reduce Clutter

Reduce Clutter helps you to identify large files and files you might no longer need. Click the Review Files button, then choose any of the file categories in the sidebar, such as Applications, Documents, Music Creation, or Trash.

You can delete the files in some categories directly from this window. Other categories show the total storage space used by the files in each app. You can then open the app and decide whether to delete files from within it.

Learn how to redownload apps, music, movies, TV shows, and books.

Where to find the settings for each feature

The button for each recommendation in the Storage Management window affects one or more settings in other apps. You can also control those settings directly within each app.

  • If you're using macOS Catalina, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, click Apple ID, then select iCloud in the sidebar: Store in iCloud turns on the Optimize Mac Storage setting on the right. Then click Options next to iCloud Drive: Store in iCloud turns on the Desktop & Documents Folders setting. To turn off iCloud Drive entirely, deselect iCloud Drive.
    In macOS Mojave or earlier, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click iCloud, then click Options next to iCloud Drive. Store in iCloud turns on the Desktop & Documents Folders and Optimize Mac Storage settings.
  • In Photos, choose Photos > Preferences, then click iCloud. Store in iCloud selects iCloud Photos and Optimize Mac Storage.
  • In Messages, choose Messages > Preferences, then click iMessage. Store in iCloud selects Enable Messages in iCloud.
  • If you're using macOS Catalina, open the Apple TV app, choose TV > Preferences from the menu bar, then click Files. Optimize Storage selects “Automatically delete watched movies and TV shows.”
    In macOS Mojave or earlier, open iTunes, choose iTunes > Preferences from the menu bar, then click Advanced. Optimize Storage selects “Automatically delete watched movies and TV shows.”
  • In Mail, choose Mail > Preferences from the menu bar, then click Accounts. In the Account Information section on the right, Optimize Storage sets the Download Attachments menu to either Recent or None.

Empty Trash Automatically: From the Finder, choose Finder > Preferences, then click Advanced. Empty Trash Automatically selects “Remove items from the Trash after 30 days.”

Other ways that macOS helps automatically save space

With macOS Sierra or later, your Mac automatically takes these additional steps to save storage space:

  • Detects duplicate downloads in Safari, keeping only the most recent version of the download
  • Reminds you to delete used app installers
  • Removes old fonts, languages, and dictionaries that aren't being used
  • Clears caches, logs, and other unnecessary data when storage space is needed

How to free up storage space manually

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Even without using the Optimized Storage features of Sierra or later, you can take other steps to make more storage space available:

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  • Music, movies, and other media can use a lot of storage space. Learn how to delete music, movies, and TV shows from your device.
  • Delete other files that you no longer need by moving them to the Trash, then emptying the Trash. The Downloads folder is good place to look for files that you might no longer need.
  • Move files to an external storage device.
  • Compress files.
  • Delete unneeded email: In the Mail app, choose Mailbox > Erase Junk Mail. If you no longer need the email in your Trash mailbox, choose Mailbox > Erase Deleted Items.

Learn more

  • The Storage pane of About This Mac is the best way to determine the amount of storage space available on your Mac. Disk Utility and other apps might show storage categories such as Not Mounted, VM, Recovery, Other Volumes, Free, or Purgeable. Don't rely on these categories to understand how to free up storage space or how much storage space is available for your data.
  • When you duplicate a file on an APFS-formatted volume, that file doesn't use additional storage space on the volume. Deleting a duplicate file frees up only the space required by any data you might have added to the duplicate. If you no longer need any copies of the file, you can recover all of the storage space by deleting both the duplicate and the original file.
  • If you're using a pro app and Optimize Mac Storage, learn how to make sure that your projects are always on your Mac and able to access their files.