How to Clean up MacBook Pro Hard Drive

MacBook Pros are generally fast computers and when they start to run slow, it can be frustrating. Waiting for files to load and waiting for things to open in the middle of an important project is a hassle. 

Thankfully, you can use software to clean up your MacBook Pro’s hard drive yourself to help speed up its performance and make it run like new again.

I’m Eric, a MacBook Pro expert and software engineer. I’ve cleaned up the hard drives on many Macs and put together this guide to help you do it yourself. 

If you want to learn how to clean up your MacBook Pro hard drive, keep reading! 

How to Clean up MacBook Pro Hard Drive with Software

There are a few different ways to go about cleaning up your MacBook Pro hard drive and the easiest way is to purchase and download software that cleans up the hard drive for you.

Note: by saying “hard drive”, we mean a hard disk drive and solid-state drive (SSD) that’s equipped inside your MacBook Pro.

We will look at some steps to cleaning up your hard drive manually but for convenience and if you are not too computer savvy, purchasing a program that takes care of everything is a quick and easy option.

One of the most well-known and common software programs that help to clean up a MacBook Pro hard drive is CleanMyMac X.

This app is really easy to use and after it is installed, you simply open the app, run the system check and it goes through an in-depth process of cleaning out old files and other junk, along with a few other important scans to clean up everything and get your computer running like new again.

These Mac cleaning apps do cost money, but the time they can save you and the ability to keep everything on your computer running quick and clean is easily worth the price.

A quick scan and clean by one of these programs can have your MacBook Pro running fast again in a matter of minutes while doing it yourself can take several hours.

How to Clean up MacBook Pro Hard Drive the Free Way

If you don’t want to spend the money on a  clean-up software program, it is possible to clean up the hard drive yourself.

It takes some time and know-how to do the job right so some research and further instruction outside of this quick guide might be needed.

If you are comfortable with your MacBook and know how to access back-end aspects of its operating system, you will be able to clean up your own hard drive.

Here are some easy steps to cleaning up your hard drive:

1. Use Apple’s Storage Manager

Apple has a built-in feature that will help you clear up space on your MacBook Pro. The “feature” doesn’t really have a name and is actually a list of tools and recommendations of files to delete. 

To get there, click the Apple logo in the top left of your screen, then select “About this Mac.” Next, click “Storage,” then select the “Manage…” button. 

A new window will open and will provide four options to free up space on your MacBook Pro’s hard drive: 

  1. Store in iCloud
  2. Optimize Storage
  3. Empty Trash Automatically
  4. Reduce Clutter

You can select each option one by one to reduce the data on your hard drive. 

Additionally, you can select between various storage locations on the left-hand pane to delete files. You can choose from:

  • Applications
  • Documents
  • iCloud Drive
  • Mail
  • Messages
  • Music 
  • Photos
  • macOS
  • System Data

Only delete files you are sure you no longer need. 

2. Delete old and unused files 

Go through all of your system files and delete any that you no longer use or don’t know what they are. Duplicate files can also be deleted if you find any during your search. 

To start, open “Finder,” then browse through your files located in your “Downloads,” “Documents,” “Desktop,” and other file locations you have on your MacBook Pro. 

Then, right click any file you want to delete and select “Move to Trash.” You can select multiple files at a time by holding the Command key and single clicking each file to highlight it. 

3. Clean up your app cache

Clearing up web caches can be an easy and effective way to improve performance. To open your cache folder, use the SpotLight search by hitting “Command + Spacebar.” Then type ~/Library/Caches into the search and click on the first result. 

The cache folder on your Macintosh HD will now open: 

Each app on your Mac has its own subfolder within the cache folder you just opened. You can delete the contents of each folder to clear up space on your HD.

However, use caution. Some app caches for certain apps cannot be safely cleared. We suggest making a backup of the cache before deleting files. Then, if everything works fine, you can delete the backup too. 

4. Uninstall Any Unused Apps 

Apps can take up a ton of space and memory so getting rid of any that are installed on your computer that you don’t use can speed things along in the long run.

To uninstall an app, open “Finder.” Next, click “Applications” in the left side of the window. 

Then, right click on the application you want to delete and select “Move to Trash.”

5. Remove Old Mail Attachments 

We all get thousands of emails a year and a lot of these come with images and attachments. If you double click on these, they are saved to your computer. Go through and get rid of these old attachments to help your hard drive.

These are usually saved to your “Desktop” or “Downloads” folders by default. Navitage to either of these locations in Finder, then right click the files and select “Move to Trash.”

6. Empty Mac Trash 

Once a file is placed in the trash can, it still needs to be permanently deleted. If you have put lots of files in the trash but have not yet deleted, they can take up a bunch of space.

To empty your MacBook Pro’s trash, find the “Trash” icon in your dock. Right click it, then select “Empty Trash.”

7. Remove old iOS Backups

Backing up your iOS is great practice, but these backups from your iPhone or iPad can be cumbersome. They take up gigabytes worth of storage. 

To delete old iOS backups, click on the Apple logo on the top left of your screen, click “Storage” in the top middle of the window, then select “Manage…”

From the selections on the pan of the window, select “iOS Files.” (Note, the screenshot below doesn’t show iOS Files because I have never backed up my iPad or iPhone to my Mac.)

8. Remove Language Files 

Language files on Macs take up nearly 1 GB of hard drive space. This is because Macs support many languages. This is a needed feature for a computer designed for use worldwide. But, if you only use your Mac in one language, deleting these files can free up a ton of space. 

To delete the Language files, go to Finder. Then click on Applications on the left side pane. 

Next, right click an application and select “Show Package Contents.”

Then expand the “Resources” folder by clicking on the arrow the left of the word. 

Once the folder expands, you can right click the individual language files (they end in “.lproj”) and select “Move to Trash” to delete them. 

Note that the language is represented by the first two letters of the file. For example “en.lproj” is for English and “fr.lproj” is for French. Don’t delete the language you use in the particular program.

Also, this is a meticulous task to do manually since you have to do it for every application. This is where a clean software can come in handy.  

9. Delete DMG Files 

DMGs are disk images that your Macbook Pro stores periodically. However, they are often large files that can take up a lot of space. To remove these files, open Finder. Then type “.dmg” into the search on the top right and hit enter. 

Then, right click files at the end with “.dmg” and select “Move to Trash” to delete them. 

Doing all of these steps can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to do them all at once. You can just focus on one step today, another tomorrow, and so forth.

Symptoms of a Cluttered Hard Drive

You use your Macbook Pro every day and are used to breezing through tasks and apps. You’ll know when it starts acting slow. But here are some symptoms to look for.

A cluttered hard drive is pretty normal, especially if you’ve had your computer for a while. So don’t worry if any of this is happening to your machine.

If your MacBook Pro is running slower than usual, you may notice:

  • Programs and apps take a long to load
  • Web pages crash or don’t load
  • Screen freezes often
  • Your Mac crashes

These are all good signs that your hard drive might need to be cleaned. 

High quantities of large and old files such as photos and music can take up a lot of room on your hard drive. Over time this could lead to slow performance. Items left in the trash bin but not fully deleted can also take up a lot of space.

Then you have system junk and other leftovers from commonly used apps that might take up a lot of space behind the curtain. Old email attachments and old system files also add to poor performance.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning up the hard drive on your MacBook Pro can be an involved process. It takes time, especially if you’ve owned your Macbook Pro for a while. But, you can do a few minutes of cleaning here and there to make it less overwhelming. 

If you want to save some of your time, purchasing a software cleanup program can be an easy option. But if you want to do it yourself, start with the information above. 

What is your favorite Mac drive cleanup strategy? Have you ever cleaned up your hard drive manually? Let us know any other tips and tricks, if so!

About Eric
Eric currently uses a 15-inch MacBook Pro for both work and personal errands. He did all the research and testing to make sure all the fixes and optimization tips shared on the blog are relevant to Apple’s latest macOS updates as well as fact-checking.

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