How to see what’s taking up space on mac

As a Mac user, you might need more storage space on your hard drive. It can be frustrating when you need to know what’s taking up space and keep deleting files to create more space. The good news is that you don’t need to buy any third-party apps to determine what’s taking up space on your Mac. This article will show you how to use the Finder to determine what’s taking up space on your Mac.

Key takeaways

  • Use the Finder to determine what’s taking up space on your Mac.
  • Applications, Library, System, and Users folders take up the most space.
  • Be careful when deleting items from the System or User Library folder.
  • Free and paid software options can help automate the process of cleaning up your Mac.

Starting with the basics

First, you need to make sure you’re in the Finder. Once you’re there, create a new Finder window. You want to start at the top and look at all the folders on your drive. To do this, go to the “Go” menu and select “Computer.” This takes you to the top level, where you can see all the drives connected to your Mac.


Pay attention to what’s taking up space.

The next step is to pay attention to what’s taking up space. Switch to List View by clicking the “List View” button. You’ll see columns that you can adjust to move around. The “Size” column is the one you’re most interested in. You’ll see little dashes instead of folder sizes, but you can force it to give you a size by going to View > Show View Options (or pressing Command + J). Check the option called “Calculate All Sizes”. It will take a few minutes to replace the dashes with actual numbers.

Applications, Library, System, and Users

Once the sizes are calculated, you’ll see that the Applications, Library, System, and Users folders take up the most space.

  • All your apps are stored in applications and will always be pretty big. The Library folder and the System folder together make up the system.
  • Most of the big files you’ll find in the Library folder.
  • The System folder itself should always be manageable. That’s just the size of the system.
  • Users are where all your documents and data files are kept. If you have multiple users on that Mac, they will all be in there.

Understanding the Role of the System Folder in Managing Disk Space on a Mac

The size of the System folder on your Mac should stay the same over time, and it should not take up a significant amount of space on your hard drive. This is because the System folder contains essential files and components necessary for your Mac’s operation, such as the operating system and core applications.

In other words, the size of the System folder is fixed, and it should not grow significantly unless you install major system updates or add new software that requires additional system components. Therefore, when trying to free up space on your Mac, you should focus on other folders, such as the Applications and User folders, which are more likely to contain large files that can be safely removed or moved to an external drive.

Investigate the Applications folder.

You don’t need to double-click the Applications folder to see what’s in there. In List View, click on the Reveal triangle to the left, and it will open up, and you can see all the different files there. Click on “Size,” and everything inside the Applications folder will be sorted by size. Ignore the small apps further down and pay attention to the big ones. There may be an app you can uninstall to get back space.

Look inside the Library folder.

Likewise, in the Library folder, you’ll find Application Support at the top. You can open it up and see what’s taking up much space there. Look through everything inside your Library folder and see what’s taking up a lot of space. If you don’t recognize it, search for it to find out what this folder is for. Then you can decide from there whether or not you need it.

Investigate the Users folder.

Your Users folder may be the most significant space user, as it is for most users. Open it up and see all the users on your Mac. You can look inside your user account to determine what’s using a lot of space. Look at Movies, Pictures, Music, and other folders to see what’s taking up the most space. You may find some stuff in your Downloads folder, which solves the mystery. Now you need to empty your Downloads folder of things you no longer need.

Hidden folders

If the space used by the folders you’ve checked so far doesn’t add up to the total used space, there might be a hidden folder inside the User folder that’s using a lot of space. This hidden folder is the Library folder inside your user account. You can access it using Go, holding the Option key down and entering the library. In this folder, you’ll find files taking up much space.

Clearing out space

Once you’ve figured out what’s taking up space, it’s time to clear out space. If there are documents in your User folder you no longer need, buy an external hard drive, archive those files to that drive, and remove them from your regular drive to clear space. If they’re applications, you want to uninstall them. Ensure you uninstall them properly, using the official uninstaller provided by the developer or instructions on their site. If you’ve got the app in the App Mac Store, use Launchpad to remove the app.

Deleting items from System or User Library folder.

You must be careful if they are items in the System or User Library folder. Deleting things from there can cause trouble. It can make apps stop working or even the system itself stop working. So you want to do some research. Look up that item, search online to determine what that folder is for, and know what you’re doing before removing items from your Library folder. A lot of times, you go into an app to remove things. For instance, FinalCut Pro can clean up its files inside of FinalCut. So you want to do that and not mess around with the files directly.

In a nutshell

Figuring out what’s taking up space on your Mac is essential to maintaining its performance and storage capacity. Now that you know how to do it without third-party apps, you can start freeing up space on your own. However, if you still need help creating space on your Mac, several free and paid software options can help automate the process. Use the tips we’ve provided to start with manual cleanup, and if you still need more help, consider checking out some of the many apps available to clean up your Mac. Regular maintenance and smart disk management allow you to keep your Mac running smoothly for years.

If you prefer video tutorials, you might want to check out MacMost’s video on “How To Figure Out What Is Taking Up Space On Your Mac” The video covers many tips and tricks we’ve discussed here, but with visual demonstrations. It’s a great way to see these techniques in action and better understand how to manage your Mac’s storage space effectively.

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About S. Santos

I am a tech columnist and blogger by trade, but I'm also an avid tennis player. In my spare time, I enjoy reviewing gadgets and gizmos from the world of tech.

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