Adapted from Lifehacker.com article by Thorin Klosowski on May 3, 2017
Your Mac is running a little slow these days. It takes forever to boot up. You have to delete something just to download that file attachment from Carla in accounting. Any time you stream a video it seems to lock up for a few seconds. Let’s fix all that.
Update Your System Software
Before we do anything, let’s make sure your Mac is up to date. Click the Apple icon > App Store, then click the Updates tab. Install any software updates you see here, including macOS updates. This might include security updates or small performance improvements for whatever version of macOS you’re running.
Of course, Apple’s operating systems have been free for the last several iterations, so if you want to also update to Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, or Sierra, you can usually do so without any knock on your Mac’s performance. This is completely optional and up to you, but make sure you are at least running the most recent version of whichever operating system you’ve landed on.
Get Rid of Old Apps
Generally speaking, cleaning up your Mac is often about deleting all the cruft you’ve accumulated over the years that causes your storage space to fill up. If you’re low on space or folders just feel too cluttered, it’s time to delete old junk. Personally, I like to start by removing apps and then move onto deleting files. It’s very easy to glance at a list and know whether you still use an app or not.
Open up your Applications folder, then sort the apps by size, with the largest at the top. If you have a huge application installed that you never use, like iMovie or Garageband, get rid of them. Remember, you can always download anything you got from the Mac App Store again. If you purchased software from a developer, make sure you still have the license key somewhere before you delete it, just in case you need it again at some point in the future.
We’re all trained to uninstall Mac apps by dragging an icon into the trash from the Applications folder, but doing so tends to leave random files associated with that app across your system. These orphan files are rarely substantial in size, but it’s clutter nonetheless. Instead, it’s best to use a utility that’ll also track down that orphaned files. I like App Cleaner for this because it’s free and easy to use. Click and drag an application you want to delete into the App Cleaner window, then App Cleaner hunts down and removes any files associated with that application.
Clear Out Your Storage Space
Chances are, once you clear out a bunch of dumb old apps you no longer use, you’ll have a lot more storage space. That’s not the end of the process though.If you’re working with small storage, you need to be more vigilant. Next up, it’s time to dig around for weird old files you no longer need.
If you’re running macOS Sierra, you can easily find and remove large files using the built-in storage manager.
Go through your very large files and delete anything you no longer need. Depending on how you tend to store files or if you have different backups, this might be a few downloads you forgot about, or it might be entire directories of files you no longer need.
Disk Inventory X is free and does the job well, it just doesn’t look nearly as pretty as other options.
Also, check out our page on hard drive full solutions.
Clean Up Everything Else
Finally, let’s clear out a few other places the above options might have missed.
- Empty your trash: You do empty your trash now and again, right? If not, Ctrl-click the trash can in the dock and select Empty Trash.
- Clear out your Downloads folder: Most browsers save every file you download to the appropriately named Downloads folder. You should clear that out sometimes. Open up Finder, then head to username/Downloads. Take a look at all the files in here, delete anything you don’t need, and move everything you do want to keep to a safer place.
- Clean up your desktop: Do you have a lot of files on your desktop? First off, you’re a monster. Second, that’s probably slowing down your computer. Clean it up. Find folders for those files to live in and delete files you don’t need.
- Remove old disk images: Macs use disk images to install files, which makes for easy installation, but also means that some of us tend to have random disk images all over the place. Open up Finder, click on All My Files, then type “disk manager” into the search box to locate any of those DMG files hidden throughout your Mac.
- Clear out old Mail downloads: If you use Apple Mail, attachments and other random files can fill your hard drive up fast without you realizing it. Open up Spotlight (press Command+Space), then type in “Mail Downloads.” Tap Enter on the folder that pops up. This folder might have hundreds of items. These are all the various attachments Mail has downloaded over the years. Assuming you’re not using a POP email server, which doesn’t retain old copies after they’re downloaded, you can safely delete every file inside this folder and they will remain on email server.
- Clean up your login items: If your Mac is slow to start, it might be because it’s attempting to launch 20 apps at once. Open System Preferences, then select Users & Groups. Click the Login Items tab, then remove anything that you don’t need or want to launch at startup.