Besides tracking all the ongoing processes, macOS contains a variety of log files to keep track of a variety of system- and app-level functionality. These files store information about app crashes, issues, and internal errors. To the eyes of an average Mac user the information displayed in the log files will look like gibberish. That is normal since these logs are meant for developers who can then use the information to troubleshoot their apps and help them deliver a better user experience. Essentially this is what you are doing when you send crash or bug reports to developers, Apple included.
Where Are Log Files Located?
There are two ways to locate the log files, either via Finder and or the Console. Using the latter will provide access to a live stream of log messages, which will give an overview of what is happening on your Mac and the devices connected to it.
Some of the logs can be located by launching Finder, then pressing Command + Shift + G for the Go to Folder command and typing “/private/var/log“. Open another Finder window with the Go to Folder command, and this time type “/Library/Logs“. Other log files will be located under each user's /Library/Logs.
The /private folder is hidden, so the average user is less likely to mess with anything that could harm the system. Using Finder to locate the logs is the easiest method of locating these folders and log files, where their sizes can then be checked. Probably the easiest way to filter through this data is to select the list view, where more of the data is visible at a glance. If the size is not shown, select the file, and then press Command + I to open the Get Info dialog box.
How Much Space Do Log Files Take?
When analyzing the log files, it's worth keeping one important aspect in mind: anything over 1GB indicates a problem. If you notice an increase in log file size, it is time to launch Console and check the crash logs. The search field can be used to quickly access data from all the logs.
As log files typically don’t occupy too much space on your Mac, it is recommended that your computer is backed up before clearing any logs. In the /var/log folder are the system logs, which are worth keeping an eye on. The “asl” folder contains the Mac's automatic maintenance script logs, which should only involve dates from the past week or so. If there are many more then it means the automatic maintenance scripts aren't working, so empty the oldest one, select the system.log and/or system.log.0.bz2, etc. files, and delete them all except the system.log file. This specific file is the current version; the system.log.0.bz2, etc., files are the “archived” and compressed previous versions, usually one per day or the like.
Is It Safe to Delete Log Files?
Yes, any log files located in the ~/Library/Logs folder can be removed without danger. Actually, if you are using a Mac maintenance app such as CleanMyMac or OnyX, it will do this for you when you clean up your machine to free up any space. However, it's worth mentioning that there is no actual benefit to removing log files unless, that is, every last megabyte of space is critical. If space becomes a problem, however, you should focus on much bigger files than logs, and so deleting log files won't speed up your Mac.
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