How to Delete Space-Hogging ‘Other’ Files on Your Mac

How to Delete Space-Hogging ‘Other’ Files on Your Mac
Photo: Lane V. Erickson, Shutterstock

Storage management on any device can be a challenge. Often without warning, your Mac is like, “Hey, I’m full, friend. Delete some stuff.” Of course, you oblige, but there’s a hitch: “Other” files are taking up a ton of data, and your computer won’t tell you what those “Other” files are. How are you supposed to delete the files if you don’t even know what they are?

What are the ‘Other’ files?

In macOS, Other files are just that — files other than those that fit neatly into categories, like music, movies, documents, and photos. Often, these Other files are system files that Apple doesn’t want you interacting with, simply because you usually have no need to.

Many of these files might be cache files, which are data that are supposed to help applications and services launch and run more smoothly. Over time, though, these files can add up, and their overall storage size can be more trouble than they’re worth, especially when you don’t use the app or function they’re tied to anymore.

Not all of the Other files are junk, however. Apple includes certain file types in this collection, like PDFs, zip files, dmg files, fonts, and other useful or important data. That’s likely why, even though Apple revamped its storage management system in recent years, it still doesn’t want you interacting with or deleting Other files.

You can see how much of your hard drive’s storage is taken up by these “Other” files by clicking the Apple in the top left, then About This Mac > Storage. After letting the system scan, you’ll see an array of file types. Other will be all the way at the end in dark grey.

Cleaning your cache

If you’re looking for a quick and easy solution to clearing out your Other files, start with clearing your cache. While Apple doesn’t advertise where it keeps these files, you can get yourself there by pressing Shift+Command+G, typing ~Library, then locating the Caches folder. While you can delete this folder entirely, it’s possible you might delete something important to one of your active apps.

Your best bet is to scan this list, deleting things relating to apps you don’t use, especially when those files are large. Remember, though, that the cache is constantly filled by apps and services on your computer. Once you keep using your Mac, the cache will start to fill back up.

Use a third-party cleaning tool

One way to get around Apple’s restrictions with Other files is to use a third-party cleaning tool. These tools can bypass macOS and show you all of your files in the system. The best ones do this in a way that makes it clear what you’re looking at, too, so you don’t need to be a Mac file expert to know what you’re doing.

One of the best is DaisyDisk, but it does come with a $US10 ($14) price tag after a free trial. CleanMyMacX is another fan favourite, but its features are mostly locked away behind a paid subscription. If you want to pay, go for it; they’re both great apps. However, you can take advantage of some free features to help you clean out your files.

Let’s look at CleanMyMacX, for example. Start with System Junk. For the most thorough scan, grant the app Full Disk Access. Click “Grant Access,” then click “System Preferences” on the pop-up. Now, click the lock in the bottom left, authenticate yourself, click the checkbox next to CleanMyMacX, then “Quit and Reopen.”

Once the app restarts, head back to System Junk and click “Scan.” As it scans, grant CleanMyMacX permission to various folders in your computer. Once it’s done, click “Review Details,” and you’ll see a complete list of the files that CleanMyMacX found to be wasting space. Click “Show” next to each item to see a full breakdown of the files underneath. Right-click on each, then choose “Reveal in Finder” to go directly to the junk file.

Image: Jake Peterson

Now you can simply delete that file, return to CleanMyMacX, and repeat the process for all the files you’d like gone. While it might be tedious, it is free, and you’re taking down some giant files you might not have found on your own.

You can clean other sections of your computer using CleanMyMacX as well, which can certainly help with storage space. But just know that the Other category will only be affected by the “System Junk” files.

This isn’t your only free option. There are apps like OmniDiskSweeper that are 100% unpaid and can help find large files. The problem is, it can be a bit complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing; the app essentially looks like Finder, just with file sizes next to each item. It’s easy enough to see what’s taking up the most space on your computer, but it’s not easy to know whether those files belong to Other, or if they’re important files you shouldn’t delete.