how i cleared 95gb of space on my macbook air


How I Cleared 95GB of Space on My MacBook Air (without deleting all my precious music, photos and memories).

I went on a pseudo scavenger hunt today…

Not the typical Easter egg kind or the geo-tagging adult version, but one on my computer.


Everyone knows what it’s like to get that error message: “You’re startup disk is almost full. Please delete files to continue.” The immediate reaction is… “uuuuggggggh, why couldn’t this happen tomorrow after I’m done creating this one awesome thing that I’m doing!?”


Or, ya just completely ignore it, click away and hope that your computer doesn’t spontaneously combust.

It always comes at an inopportune time.


I had less than 250mb available today. Not because I’m irresponsible or lazy (I make sure I always have at least 20gb available at all times) but because I recorded my desktop for an hour yesterday with screen-casting software to capture a Skype interview.


It filled my computer right up and cut the recording short.


This morning I went on a hunt. I was going to find a way to free up many gigs of space on my hard drive while not deleting photos, music or my design library. I knew I’d find a way.


I must say that previous to this, I have also signed up for Dropbox premium. At $10/month you get a terabyte of data storage on the cloud. Totally a good idea. Usually I would buy an external hard drive but I either lose them or they break… most of the time.


Hence, I put my trust in Dropbox.


Now, just for reference if you’re taking my advice I would make sure you have a hard copy backup file of your computer and all your data too. You never know with the cloud.


Of course as a creative, I have a Macbook Air. That means that I also have the corresponding Time Machine Capsule with 2tb of backups and data storage. This thing is a miracle. I love how it takes care of my laptop (backs it up), and wirelessly to boot.


Moral of the story, just find a backup solution that works for you.


Make sure you have two backups. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve appreciated my data being backed up on two different devices. Sometimes they just fry (or get lost on road trips :-P).


Seriously, invest in two drives, or one drive and a cloud.

Let me get into the real scavenger hunt part here.



Organization and Housecleaning

Earned me a total of 6GB


Housecleaning is going through your computer and removing old content or things that you no longer need and don’t serve you anymore. They’re files that were fragments of ideas, sometimes multiple versions of the same content, business or school files from over 4 years ago… you get the picture.


Treat your computer like your bedroom. You wouldn’t leave boxes and boxes of files and storage and papers from the 5th grade, artwork from when you were 5 (like boxes full) and every receipt you’ve ever had. At least, I hope you would honor yourself and your space to live in a clean, relaxing environment. But, to each his own.


It’s the same with your computer: the device you spend probably 8 hours every day working on. It’s part of your working environment and deserves equal respect. Hence, do some computer housecleaning.

Wipe the dust off the  metaphorical shelves, fold your shirts, sweep the floor and toss what you don’t need.


I went through my hard drive looking for files I no longer needed. “Goodbye old stock photos that were never any good anyway.” I’m so glad to have a subscription to Death to the Stock Photo.


“So long vector files I downloaded 4 years ago to use in designing.” I have an abundance of fonts and sweet vectors on demand with DesignCuts.


I even deleted opt-in videos I shot. I used them and will not regret letting them go. And the list goes on.

Get your hands dirty (or maybe just eyeballs in the case of gazing at a computer screen) and clean the drive.



Delete Duplicate Content

Earned me a total of 14GB


I went through my design folders, music folders, video files and the like. Looking through my music folder, I found duplicates of music that I had already stored in my iTunes library also in my generic folder. I had placed them there and forgot to delete them a while back.


Now, don’t mistake me—please don’t delete the music files in the iTunes folder. You won’t get those back again. Keep those!


Deleting the duplicate musical content earned me approximately 4gb of storage.

This feels like a video game. Let’s keep collecting coins and storage! (My business partner, Austin would call this a “geek-out” moment!)


I also have a tenancy to keep the .zip files that my photos and large files come in. Essentially I was doubling up on content all over the place. I still want the zip files so I have the full versions of everything in case I delete files etc. I uploaded the zips into a folder in Dropbox.


Then with a single click of my delete button, they are erased from existence.

And I am freed of over 10 gigs of storage.



Delete Mail in your Mail Client (on your computer)

Earned me a total of 2GB


I never use Apple Mail, and never check it. I remembered that I had it on my computer and was curious if the mail storage took up much room.


Indeed it did! Over 3gb of storage on my computer for something I never check, or give any sort of hoot about. I removed my mail accounts from Apple Mail and made sure to empty the trash can within the application.


Woohoo, that one was super easy!


Even if you do use your mail client, I would hedge a bet that you don’t check 2-3gigs of email every day or even need to back it up. If you do, I’ve used DropMyEmail [LINK] to back up email before and it works great.


In my Gmail account I periodically just erase everything in the account and start with a clean slate. If you’re the type of person that needs to keep all your emails in existence, that’s fine—they don’t need to be on your laptop.


Free up the storage and take a deep breath in!



Clear Your Download History

Earned me a total of 2GB


Seriously, this one is as easy as finding a Starbucks in NYC (hint, there’s one on every corner). Just select everything in your download folder and delete it.


You probably don’t even remember downloading half of it and have no idea what most of the files are for. Plus they’re probably ancient history by now.


Now the real magic happens.


Past the digital housecleaning and hitting that delete key as often as you can, there are actually things you can do to free up storage space that you’re using but not for your files or hard goods.


Let’s jump in!



Clean Up Temporary Files

Earned me a total of 70GB


Download: Disk Inventory X (for the mac)

Install it, and open the program on your desktop. Select your hard drive and discover the magic.


Disk Inventory will show you a visual representation of your hard drive space and how it’s being used with a variety of colors.


You can click on the large blocks of color and see what material is taking up the most space on your hard drive. I have a huge red block in the middle that I found out was iPhoto. Go figure. Too many photos!


Well, not much I can do there right now. However I did start clicking around and I realized that there were tons of blocks in all different colors that I didn’t recognize as files.


Select the color block and “right click” to access the file in the Finder.

clear disk space on your mac

Take a look at the file. If it reads .tmp at the end, then it’s a temporary file and you can go ahead and delete it.


Don’t mess with stuff if you don’t know what you’re doing (if you’re not sure ask your IT professional). This is just what I did and it worked for me.


I did this over and over again and found all the temporary files. I went ahead and removed the temp files and freed my disk of some significant storage space.


My “Sleepimage” file also claimed to be using over 26gb of storage.


A short Google search later, I realized that the “Sleepimage” is used to continue operating all the applications you have open when you put your computer to sleep so it will maintain all your data etc. when you wake it up.

how to clear your mac hard drive to make space

Your Sleepimage usually takes up as much storage as the memory you have available on your computer. I have 8gb of memory, and so that is the amount of storage it should have been occupying—not 26gb. I went ahead and deleted that too.

It will automatically re-create a new file the next time I put my computer to sleep.

Easy peasy.


Download CCleaner for your mac.

CCleaner goes through and cleans your mac. It removes other temporary files you

don’t know about and loads of temporary Internet files.

ccleaner for the mac to make space on your hard drive

It removes traces of documents you’ve already deleted, wipes your free disk space,

de-clutters your mac, deletes duplicate files and manages your cookies.


All in all it freed up another 5-10gb of storage space for me.

Totally worth the 5 minutes it took to run the program!


Verify your disk permissions.

This may not free up much space, but it’ll sync your computer up. It’s liked drinking a healthy kale green juice for your body—light and refreshing.


(If you don’t know this about me already… I love any green drink and juice up with kale beverages and iced-matcha drinks frequently.)


Go into your disk utility, select “first aid” and select “verify disk.” Let your computer

run the system and then select “repair disk.”

verify disk permissions on the mac

Essentially, it reminds computers where your files are actually stored. When you move files again and again, your computer thinks it’s in a series of locations. When you verify and repair your disk permissions the computer finds exactly where the files are stored.


Super easy!



Empty your trash.

You should have a ton of digital “trash” at this point. Delete the contents of your metallic can and watch your hard disk space magically create room for your new projects!

empty trash on the mac

Yes, please use this as an excuse to get on out there and create more!


What an expansive day! I didn’t know previously to this, that I could free up 95 gigs without a hassle, and not taking more than 2 hours or so.

Now restart your computer (after leaving me some comment love!) to give your computer a little breathing room.


Let’s play a game. Not one of war, but one of computer storage.

Try these tips out and let me know how much space you earned in the comments!