Clean Up Mac System Storage

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You can back up system to an external hard drive, USB drive, SSD, etc. Finally, click the Back up Now button to start the backup. Now, the alternative way to back up system files to the recovery drive - create a bootable USB drive and back up Windows 10 system is told to you. How to clean up system storage on Mac with CleanMyMac X: Download CleanMyMac X for free here. Run the app and go to System Junk.

  1. Clear Up Mac System Storage
  2. Clean Up Mac Storage Other
  3. Clean Up System Storage On Mac
  4. How To Free Up Storage On Mac
  5. Clean Up Storage On Mac
  6. How To Clean Up Mac System Storage
  7. How To Clean Up My Mac

Some days ago, I found one Reddit user’s post telling the “System” taking up a huge space on Mac. It was the first time I met the Mac “System” storage problem. And it was described as follow:

Hi Mac Users, System is taking an incredibly large amount of space. I mistakenly loaded heavy video files to Numbers and the hard disk immediately filled up. Any help accorded will be highly appreciated.

After I checked my computer storage usage and I was surprised to find my “System” is also taking an incredibly huge space – 43GB of the total 120GB on my MacBook Air.

Clear Up Mac System Storage

As well known, the Mac operating system usually takes up from 8GB to 13GB. So I don’t think my Mac “System” storage could be that huge, so I searched to find how it defines “System” storage for a Mac, and how to free up that storage.

What is in the Mac “System” Storage?

The “System” on your Mac storage bar stands for that space your macOS operating system used, including the system itself and the caches and cookies it generated while driving on your computer hard drive.

Sometimes, your Mac may mistakenly put other sections into the “System” storage. For instance, my mac made the mistake of failing to exclude the “Music creations” and “iOS files” (iOS backups) from the “System” storage, so that I get a huge “System” on the storage bar.

And after I clicked the Manage.. button on the top left of the bar, it showed the real system storage was taking only 29.3 GB. And there were two new categories named “iOS files” and “Music creations” being separated.

And the sum of the storage size of these three parts (System, Music Creation, and iOS Files) is 43.38GB, equal to the size of the huge System storage I showed before on the storage bar.

4 Tips to Quickly Clean Storage on Your Mac

On the storage manager page, you’ll have a detailed view of all data types with the size it used. And you can choose any large category to have a clean. And below are some usual and free methods to free up your Mac storage.

  1. Delete useless iOS backup files, applications, and documents.
  2. Transfer media files like photos, video, music, and iBooks to external disk drive or cloud. And then delete them.
  3. Empty your Trash bin get more free space.
  4. Remove your iPhone or iPad software updates on your Mac.

Most of these methods aim to remove the larger files on your Mac to quickly free up your Mac storage. And if there is any question, please leave your comment below.

Solid-state storage (SSD) is fantastically fast, but its high cost means that Macs with built-in SSD startup drives have a much lower capacity than their hard disk-based counterparts. This can be a problem if you have a large collection of photos or music files, or if you use your Mac to edit video. And so, if you have an SSD, you probably spend a lot of time checking the Storage tab in About this Mac. One thing you’ll have noticed is that colored bar labeled ‘System’. What is it and how do you clear it? Read on and find out.

What is System storage on Mac?

System storage, obviously, contains the macOS itself but what else is there? Part of this storage includes applications, drivers, volume data, and Library. While the nominal size of the macOS is around 12 GB (for macOS Big Sur), the Library is the real space-hogger. It contains piles of old cache files and supporting data.

Why does the system take so much space on Mac?

Your system is mainly stored in both the System and Library folders. If your system is taking up too much disk space on Mac, explore those two folders and see what's stored in them.

If you’re having a lot of your space allocated for “system,” you may have Time Machine snapshots stored on your Mac. Later in this article, we’re going to explain how to remove Time Machine backups.

How to reduce system storage on Mac

1. Check for unnecessary files in System storage

Much of the storage space used by the OS for system-related tasks is cleared when macOS deletes the files automatically, but sometimes that doesn’t happen, which is why the System category can grow very large. Apple doesn’t explain what comprises this category of storage, but it’s likely that the following are part of it:

  • Time Machine backups
  • Old iOS backups
  • File Vault files
  • App cache files
  • Unused disk images

Not knowing what files are included in System storage makes finding them tricky. However, it’s far from impossible. My favorite tool for clearing unnecessary system junk from my Mac is CleanMyMac X. It has lots of tools for clearing out junk files, but for our purposes, there’s one that really helps: System Junk. This handy utility scans your Mac and identifies things like temporary files, translation files in apps, broken preferences files, old updates, and system cache files that are no longer needed. You can then remove them with one click. Or you can choose which ones you want to get rid of and remove just those. If you want to give it a go, you can download a free version of CleanMyMac X here.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, do this:

  1. Launch CleanMyMac X.
  2. Choose System Junk in the sidebar.
  3. Press Scan.
  4. Once it’s finished, if you’re happy to remove the files CleanMyMac recommends, press Clean.
  5. If not, choose Review Details and go through the list of results.
  6. Uncheck the box next to any items you don’t want to delete.

That will help you to get rid of system storage on Mac.

As you can see from the screenshot, the app offers to remove my Unused Disk Images (the remains of DMG installers), broken downloads, old app updates. If you use Photoshop or other media editor you’ll see the option to delete Document Versions — intermediate edits of your files. In other words, you have many options for freeing up space at your disposal.

2. Manually remove Time Machine backups

Aside from using CleanMyMac X, one of the most straightforward ways to clear system storage on a Mac, is to get rid of Time Machine backups. Wait, what? You thought Time Machine backups were stored on an external or network drive? They are! But macOS also keeps a copy of your backup on your startup drive, in case the external drive isn’t available when you need to restore files. That way you can restore data on a MacBook even when you’re on the move.

Clean Up Mac Storage Other

macOS should delete Time Machine backups when your Mac runs low on storage, but it doesn’t always work out that way. And besides, you might not want to wait until your Mac is short of space before you delete them. So, here’s how to reduce system storage on a Mac by deleting Time Machine backups. Remember that will delete local copies of your backups, so if you think you might need them, don’t do it.

Clean Up System Storage On Mac

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities and launch Terminal.
  2. When a Terminal window opens, type: tmutil listlocalsnapshotdates
  3. Press Return.

You will now see a list of stored Time Machine backups, listed by date.

  1. Type: tmutil deletelocalsnapshots xxxxxxx where ‘xxxxxxx’ is the name of one of the backups listed . This will take the form of a date followed by a text string.
  2. Press Return.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for as many backups as you want to remove, checking the Storage tab in About this Mac each time to see how much space you’ve cleared.

3. Optimize your storage

If you’ve faced a cluttered storage situation, there’s another way to fix it. Apple has anticipated such an issue and equipped the macOS with some features to optimize your space.

Go to the Apple menu and select About This Mac. Select the Storage tab and press Manage. In the window that appears, you can see some of the useful suggestions. 'Store in iCloud' lets you transfer all your data to cloud storage and reclaim some GBs on your Mac. The second option allows you to delete the heaviest files, like movies and programs.

Turning on 'Empty Bin Automatically' can be a useful option if you forget to do it regularly.

By pressing Review Files, you will jump into the Documents section. Review the files that are stored on your Mac and pay attention to the Unsupported Apps category. It can contain some programs that can no longer run on your macOS version.

How To Free Up Storage On Mac

Bonus tip: remove duplicate files

Aside from the bizarre system files, another thing that nibbles on your storage is duplicates. Remember that track you’ve accidentally added twice? Or a mail attachment you’ve opened several times? All these files just sit on your Mac and take up precious space.

Here’s how you can quickly delete them in a few clicks.

  1. Download and open Gemini 2
  2. Choose a folder and click Scan for Duplicates
  3. Wait for the scan to finish

Now you can Click Smart Cleanup to get rid of detected duplicates and delete system storage on Mac. Or click Review Results if you want to double-check what’s being deleted.

What else can you do to reduce System storage on Mac?

Believe it or not, one thing you can do is wait. When you first choose the Storage tab in About this Mac, macOS seems to allocate quite a lot to System that it then reallocates elsewhere. For example, some users have reported that after waiting for a few minutes, much of the storage that was labeled System, is moved to the iCloud label. So if you wait, you might find that the System isn’t taking up disk space in the huge quantities that it seemed to be at first.

The other thing you can do is investigate what files are designated as ‘System’. We’ve already talked about Time Machine backups, but everything stored in your Mac’s System or Library folders comes under the ‘System’ heading in About this Mac. That is:

How to clean up system storage on mac mojave

/Library

Storage

Clean Up Storage On Mac

/System

~/Library

~/System

Click on the Go menu in Finder and select Go to Folder, then paste in each of the paths above in turn.

Go through the subfolders in each and press Cmd-I to Get Info and check how much data is in each. You’ll quickly discover where your precious storage has gone.

It’s likely that much of it is accounted for by cache files for apps like Photos and Safari. MacOS caches as much data as it can to avoid having to re-download it, which boosts performance. And it’s smart enough to know that it must delete cache files when you run low on storage.

If you decide that you don’t want to leave it up to the operating system to free up storage, don’t just start trashing cache files or folders randomly, you might delete something you shouldn’t. So be careful

Another way to go about it, is to use a storage analyzer. There are nice apps that search for hidden space on Mac and reveal your largest folders. You can use a free version of CleanMyMac X and inside it, it has a feature called 'Space Lens.'

How To Clean Up Mac System Storage

Those bubbles show your largest folders and you can zoom in and out and delete junk files right from there.

A fun and visual way to delete system storage on Mac.

How To Clean Up My Mac

System storage can occupy tens of gigabytes of space on your Mac for Time Machine backups and cache files. It should be managed by macOS so you’re never short of space. But if you want to do a system storage cleanup, or just free up more space on your Mac, give CleanMyMac X a go. You might be surprised by how much space you get back.