Insufficient storage is the first issue users face whenever Apple release new macOS update. You may wonder how the storage can be full when you do not have too many apps or large files. However, the problem comes due to different type of issues and how Mac and few apps work to store the files. You can find the considerable storage space is occupied by “System Data” or “Other” category. On macOS Monterey and Ventura onwards, you will see the description shows as “System Data” while the older macOS versions show as “Other”. In this article, we will explain how to find the files in this “System Data” or “Other” storage category and cleanup your Mac.
Check Mac Storage Categories
You can easily find the available storage space in your Mac to understand how it is utilized.
On macOS Monterey or Earlier:
- Click on the Apple logo on top left corner of your Mac.
- Select “About This Mac” option.
- Go to “Storage” section in the pop-up that opens.
- Mac will calculate the storage and show you under different categories.
- You can hover over different colors in the bar to see the name of that category along with the size occupied.
On macOS Ventura or Later:
- Click the Apple logo and go to “System Settings…” menu.
- Navigate to “General > Storage” section.
- Here you can view the graph as in old macOS or scroll down to find the storage space occupied by “System Data”.
System Data and Other Category
Depending upon your OS version, the storage categories in Mac include Apps, iCloud Drive, Documents, macOS, System, System Data and Other. Now that you will easily get confused about this “Other” or “System Data” category as the classification is not clear. As you can see in the above screenshot, “Other” category occupied 49.83GB storage on MacBook Pro which is almost half of the entire disk space. Similarly, “System Data” category also occupied 75.66GB on iMac which is huge in size. After analysis, we understand this “Other / System Data” category contains cached files, deleted app files, autosaved images and captures, etc.
When You Will Find Storage Issue?
Even when your Mac runs only with few GB of available storage, you may not find the storage issue. Though you feel sluggish and slow Spotlight search, things will work fine. The problem will come to your notice when trying to install some big applications.
The best example is the macOS update which needs around 40GB space. The “Software Update” section will show only 12.13GB is needed for macOS Monterey.
However, this is only the size of installer file which you can in the “Applications” folder after downloading.
If you try install, you will see a message that the installation process needs additional 14GB space (available 11.7GB with additional 14.23GB is total ~26GB).
Now the only option is to cleanup that “Other” category, so that we can install macOS update.
Finding System Data and Other Storage Files in Mac
When you are in the storage pop-up in Monterey or earlier versions, click on the “Manage…” button. You will see a new pop-up opens and show you the storage bifurcation in more details. As you can see, “Other” category is showing as 49.99GB size.
Your major focus should be to check the “Documents” section where the “Other” category files are also available.
On Ventura or later versions, you need to click the information icon showing against “Documents” category in “General > Storage” section to review the documents storage.
Analyzing Documents Folder
You can click on “Documents” section in the sidebar or click on the “Review Files” button showing under “Reduce Clutter” section. Go to the “File Browser” tab to view the size of each documents folder sorted with size. As you can see, the “Documents” section is showing as 10.46GB in the sidebar. However, the “Library” folder which is part of “Documents” folder is 19.68GB which can’t be the case. If you add up all the folder’s size, it will be more than 30GB and hence it is the clear indication that Mac is not adding all file sizes when calculating “Documents” size in the sidebar. And that is where the “Other” category files lie and we have to find and delete them.
Cleanup System Data and Other Storage in Mac
The cleanup action completely depends on the applications you currently use or previously used. We will explain all cases what we found; you can ignore if you are not using the specific app.
Cleanup Cache in Library Folder
The “Caches” folder under “Library” contains all application caches. For example, if you use Google Chrome browser, you can find the browser’s cached files here under “Google > Chrome” folder. Similarly, you can find cached files from video conferencing and default Apple apps. Generally, the cached files are larger in size and you can simply delete them. Make sure to navigate to the files inside the last sub-folder and delete them by clicking on “Move to Trash” button. Do not delete the folders as a whole.
Mac apps will regenerate cache when you start using them. You can also copy the cached files to external drive before deleting and use as a backup for restoring if something is not working.
Note that the “Caches” you see here are under ~ /Library/ folder. This folder is default hidden in Mac when trying to view in Finder. Therefore, make sure to unhide the hidden files, if you are trying to check the files from Folder app. There is also another /Library/ folder that you can access from finder. Press “Shift + Command + G”, type /Library/ in the box and press “Go” button. You can find another “Caches” folder there and delete the files insider each folder. Learn more about how to cleanup different types of caches in Mac.
Delete Uninstalled Application Support Folders
After deleting caches, next thing you should look into is the “Application Support” folder. You will be surprised to see folders of deleted applications are still available occupying large space. In our case, we have deleted many apps like Edge, Firefox, Local (this is an app for WordPress development), Brackets (code editor app) and WordPress.com. However, all these support files are still there occupying GBs of size.
If you have local development applications, make sure to delete all installed sites and files when you delete the app. Other than “Application Support”, you can also see folders like “Local Sites” and “Sites” (under “Documents”) which are all created by the Local WP app.
Deleting Group Containers Folder Content
In our case, “Group Containers” folder is showing more than 6GB in size. This folder contains many subfolders each with suffix of the app. For example, you will see a folder like “xxxxxxxx.Office” when you have Microsoft Office apps in your Mac. Simply delete all corresponding folders for those apps not available on your Mac. For other folder, you need to check the content and decide to delete the files or not.
Below are some of the large files we found and deleted for freeing up the space (you can backup if needed).
- When we looked inside the Office folder, it has all the Outlook email attachments and large PST archive file of more than 5GB in size.
- In addition, some app content is available for each version though actually only one latest app is in “Applications” folder.
Note: Sometimes, “Move to Trash” button will not work when there are locked files in the folder. In this case, you can try deleting with “Command + Delete” or right click and select “Move to Trash” option. Alternatively, select the folder and click on “Show in Finder” button. It will open the folder in new Finder window where you can select and permanently delete the files by pressing “Command + Shift” keys. If you see operation can’t be completed error like below, close all the apps, wait for few seconds and try to delete again.
Note that the documents “File Browser” in macOS Ventura or later versions will show limited folders as shown below. Therefore, you may need to use Finder app to explore the above mentioned folders and cleanup the system.
Deleting Unnecessary Images
We use Snagit app for capturing images in Mac. This app will save a duplicate of each image in a separate .snagproj file. You can find all these duplicates under “Library > Mobile Documents > Documents > Snagit > Autosaved Captures”. As you see in the below screenshot, there are more than 4500 files with the size of 2GB. You can simply delete all these files if not required and you have the original PNG/JPG image. Alternatively, you can take a backup for reusing later with Snagit app.
This is just one example in our case. We understand, editing images like rotating will save as a different file and occupy the space in Mac. Unfortunately, the only way is to search for the unnecessary files and delete them manually.
Searching and Deleting Unnecessary Files
When you are in the desktop, press “Command + F” to open the Finder app in search mode. You can change the filters and select “This Mac” option to find all relevant files on your Mac. Below example shows to find all images in the Mac. You can find PDF, .pages or any other filetype using this search. Select the file and check the status bar to find the location of the file. You can click on any folder in the location trail to open it in Finder. In this way, you can easily check the content of different folders to find junk files.
If required, you can also delete the macOS installation file to increase the storage space.
After cleaning up all junk files, we could able to install macOS Monterey successfully. However, this action needs to be done every time for cleaning up the files in “System Data” or “Other” categories.