If you don't keep an eye on your storage space on a regular basis then it's inevitable that eventually you’ll to see the message “Your startup disk is almost full”. This even happens with expert Mac users who are often dealing with projects involving lots of storage space, such as working with app development, movie editing, and the like.
What Does the “Startup Disk Is Almost Full” Message Mean?
As the name suggests, if this message appears then your hard drive or solid-state drive is running out of space. Since macOS needs roughly 10% of your hard drive free for optimal performance, it will display a warning message when your machine nears or slightly surpasses that threshold. It’s okay to ignore the message for a (little) while, but as the days pass by the issue will become a much bigger problem. Your Mac will become sluggish as it struggles to save storage space. But there are a few things that can be done to free up storage space on your Mac, an easy way and some hard ways.
Get a Quick Overview of What's Filling Up the Startup Disk
One of the quickest ways to get info on your disk space is by clicking on the Apple menu and selecting “About this Mac” and then the Storage tab. macOS will display storage usage organized by category, along with the available space.
The Photos and Movies folders are usually the biggest hogs of the disk space, and if this is the case then moving them onto an external hard drive will secure that space and still keep them for viewing whenever you want. Or, if you have kids, reviewing which saved movie files you have and still want is a good idea especially if your iPhone regularly ends up in the their hands.
How to Free Up Storage the Hard Way
Optimize Storage via iCloud
If you are running macOS Sierra, it’s easy to save space by storing data in the cloud using Apple's iCloud service. All you need is enough storage space, though the free tier of 5GB won't be enough. When storage space is needed, documents, photos, movies, email attachments, and other files are stored in the cloud automatically while still appearing to stay where they were last saved them. The catch is that the file downloads when it is opened.
Locate Large Files Using Finder
Usually, the Downloads folder is one of the most cluttered folders (along with the Desktop) and typically includes some of the largest files thanks to the videos and software files that are saved here after downloading. Finder can be used to track down large files, either manually or via Finder's built-in tools to locate large files in macOS. You don't need any third party app for this; just do a quick search and specify the file size and the system will hand over everything that might be worth deleting.
Sometimes you may forget about it, but the items you place in the trash continue to occupy storage until you actually delete them (just like taking out the trash in your kitchen). The process can be automated by selecting the “Remove items from the Trash after 30 days” in Finder > Preferences > Advanced.
Restart Your Mac
Sometimes it is useful to restart your computer after the cleaning process. That's particularly handy if it has been a while since your Mac was shut down. By rebooting, macOS will clear out temporary items and certain cache folders, as well as the virtual memory and sleep image files, which all take up precious space.
How to Free Up Storage the Easy Way
Since every minute counts, going through all these harder steps could take more time than is available. It may be worth the effort, but why bother when this is exactly what Mac optimization apps are good for. They’ll easily identify files, junk data, and caches that can be safely removed, as well as flagging any large files taking up precious space on your Mac. To free up storage and remove the “Your startup disk is almost full” message once and for all you need to do is this:
- Download a Mac optimization app such as CleanMyMac, OnyX, CCleaner, MacKeeper, or the like (we have reviewed each of them, so it is easy to choose a preference).
- Hit “Scan”. The app will then scour your system for unnecessary files, junk data and cache files.
- Click “Clean“.
The apps will also identify the large files but won't remove any unless you instruct them to do so. How simple is that?
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