By default, most apps will use the Downloads folder to save download files. That's the folder where all files downloaded onto a Mac made from the internet – whether via Safari, other web browsers, AirDrop, or sent through iMessages – will end up. And if you don't keep an eye on that folder and clean it from time to time, it will quickly grow into a disk-space hog, perhaps even bigger than the Pictures folder where all photos are stored by default.
How Files Are Organized in the Downloads Folder
Unlike other folders, files in the Downloads folder are organized chronologically with the most recent downloads appearing first. The initial set of files displayed in the Downloads folder are the items downloaded on that date, then those files added in the previous seven days. After that the files are grouped together by the previous 30 days, before finally organizing them by month. Of course, macOS allows you to sort the items by size, type, date added and more, but the aforementioned default organization method remains.
How to Locate the Different Downloaded Files
If you remember when the file was downloaded then it's handy to have a look at this default method of file organization. If not, Finder allows for other options to arrange folders to locate a specific file, letting you search by name, file type, application, date created, date modified or tags – a highly useful addition.
How to Locate Safari Downloads
In earlier versions of Safari, the Downloads button was always present, the items that had been downloaded were displayed in a list, and at the click of a button the list was cleared. Recent versions of Safari display the Downloads button only when there are items in the list, but it’s possible to arrange automated deletion by customizing the deletion time of these entries in the General section within Safari Preferences. Within this tab there is a pop-up menu that includes options to delete “After One Day, When Safari Quits”, “Upon Successful Download”, and “Manually”. By default, this is set to the first of these three options.
Safari History and Privacy
In the same General tab you'll also find a section that allows for the customization of the removal of the browsing history. By default Safari is set to remove these items after one year, but those keen to protect their privacy will want to utilize three great methods of browsing history wiping. These are:
- Set it to “Manually” and clear the history when needed.
- Always use Private Browsing to ensure that Safari doesn't save your browsing history and will ask the websites you visit to not track you.
- Use Private Browsing combined with a VPN service.
Browsing history is valuable data for anyone that wants to know more about you, for example hackers, who can then use that data to scour through your digital life and impersonate you. This is why we highly recommend using a VPN service and the private browsing feature included as part of the browser, since this is the best way to protect your online activity.
How to Remove Downloaded Files, and Download and Browsing Histories
While the browsing history doesn't occupy too much space on the Mac, it’s recommend to clear it from time to time in order to close the door to the gold mine for anyone hoping to collect data about you. To do this manually in Safari, click on the History option in the menu bar then select Show History > Clear History.
Removing items from the Downloads folder can also be done manually by looking up files based on their size and data added, but there is an easier way to remove them and also protect your privacy.
Mac optimization apps such as CleanMyMac provide a simple, clean and easy-to-understand interface that packs in powerful scripts intended to help you to remove the items you don't need. Use the Large & Old Files script, add the Downloads folder as the target and let the software identify “forgotten items” in an instant. Removing web browsing history is done with a single click on all browsers: all you need to do is select the browsers and find this option in the Privacy section. Simple, right?
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