Edited from OSXDAILY.com
Many Mac users check the About This Mac Storage tab to get a quick overview of their disk space usage, and many will see a rather large “Other” storage space taking up disk capacity on their drives. If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because iOS often has a rather large Other storage space, but that’s largely where the similarities end, and in OS X it’s much easier to track down exactly what “Other” is. This is basically because the Mac has a user accessible file system and system directories, where as those corresponding elements in iOS are largely hidden from the user.
Let’s take a moment to check the Storage space on any Mac, and then learn a bit more about the Other space in OS X, what it is, and how you could reduce the size of “Other” storage on a Mac if the computer is running low on available disk space.
Checking “Other” Storage in Mac OS X
If you’re curious to see how many files and items on a Mac drive are classified by OS X as “Other” storage consumed, you can check through the About This Mac window panel:
- Click the Apple menu and choose “About This Mac”
- Look under “Storage” tab to find the Other data on the Mac drive
What Exactly is “Other” Storage in OS X?
Perhaps Other is taking up a ton of space, so what exactly is that “Other” storage on a Mac? Essentially it’s anything that OS X does not allocate to the listed specified storage types of applications, backups, audio, movies, backups, and photos. That means a very broad list of items will be considered as Other, including things like the following:
- Documents and file types including PDF, doc, PSD, etc.
- Archives and disk images including zips, dmg, iso, etc.
- Various types of personal and user data
- Anything in the system folders of OS X ranging from temporary files, swap, voices, etc.
- User library items like Application Support, iCloud files, screen savers, etc.
- User caches and system caches, including things like browser caches and locally stored message media files
- Fonts, app accessories, application plugins, and app extensions
- Various file and file types not recognized by Spotlight, for example a virtual machine hard drive, Windows Boot Camp partitions, etc
As you can see, this is not unnecessary junk or clutter. Basically, anything that is not one of the media types that the Storage tab specifies will be shown as “Other”.
If you are having problems determining where that data is, please look in the following locations:
- Gaming software (i.e. Steam)
- iMessages (it stores all of your texts and multimedia messages)
- Mail (the Mail app keeps a copy of all of your mail on your computer)
- Files in your Downloads folder
Applications like OmniDiskSweeper can help locate large files by digging deep into the system and calculating file sizes.
OmniDiskSweeper is an excellent application for Mac OS X that shows everything on a hard disk in descending order by size, each directory can then be drilled down into further to quickly locate the largest files, and the offending folders or files can be deleted directly from the app. Finding the large files and folders with OmniDiskSweeper is quick and painless.
- Download OmniDiskSweeper (Version 1.9 is available at the bottom of this page), copy it to your /Applications/ folder
- Launch the app
- Click on your primary hard disk, typically labeled “Macintosh HD”
- Let OmniDiskSweeper sweep the drive to find all files by size, then click on the top most directories to find items that can be deleted.
Important: OmniDiskSweeper is intended for users who are knowledgable about their Mac file system. If you don’t absolutely know what a file or directory is and if it’s necessary or not, do not delete it! There is no going back, and if you accidentally delete important system files or folders you may find yourself having to recover from a backup or reinstalling OS X. You’ve been warned.
Exactly what can be removed is going to vary per user and per drive, but everyone will certainly find items that are no longer necessary to keep around. For example, sweeping my drive with OmniDiskSweeper I discovered and removed the following items:
- The user ~/Library/Application Support/ directory contained 1GB of files for apps that are no longer used
- Spotify Caches were taking up 1GB of disk space, removing that and deleting unnecessary user caches recovered 2GB of disk space immediately
- The Downloads folder has become enormous, deleting everything from there recovered a quick 4GB
- 900MB of unused and long forgotten Applications were uninstalled freeing up space