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Your startup disk is almost full on Mac OS X - How to fix it?

Updated on December 16, 2015

You opened your Mac today and to your surprise, it has shown an error saying “Your startup disk is almost full.” You don’t need to fret about it as you can solve this issue within minutes.

In simple terms, your Mac OS X needs some more space to breathe and is asking you to free up some GBs in your startup disk.

If computer terminologies don’t excite you much, you may ask “What is startup disk?”

Startup disk is the hard drive of your Mac that loads OS and other apps when you turn on your computer. So basically, your startup disk has everything, from system files such as OS to all user files such as apps, videos, documents etc.

There could be more than one partition of a hard disk, but since only one partition must have the OS your Mac is running, that partition will be called the startup disk.

Now the next question is, “How to free up considerable storage space from the startup disk so that there would be no such errors for at least some time to come?”

Let’s head straight towards some quick-and-dirty tips.

Find Out the Root Cause

What is taking up so much of space? To know this, follow these steps:

  1. Click on Apple Menu present on the top-left corner of your screen.
  2. Click “About This Mac”.
  3. Select “Storage”.

This will show you the space taken by various file categories such as Movies, Photos etc. Now you’ve got a fair idea of things that you may want to remove next to free up disk space on mac.

Remove Unwanted Applications

It is obvious, isn’t it? You might have thought about uninstalling a few apps before I mentioned.

To uninstall apps:

  1. Click Launchpad icon in the “Dock”.
  2. Select and hold an app’s icon.
  3. Click an app’s delete (X) button.

You can also uninstall apps by using “Finder”.

Click to open Finder and select “Applications” from the sidebar. Drag an app to “Trash” and drop it there.

Clean up unneeded large files

Generally, movies and other video files (especially those shot from your smartphone’s camera) take up considerable amount of space in the startup disk. It is easy to spot and delete obsolete large files by using any third-party cleaning app such as Disk Clean Pro. The app also has a duplicate finder, which complements the Mac disk cleanup tasks by enabling you to delete duplicate files from your Mac.


However, if you want to delete large files without help of any external tools, there is a way.

  1. Click Finder.
  2. Choose “Go” and select “Home”.
  3. Choose “File” and then click on “Find”.
  4. Click the “Kind” pop-up menu.
  5. Select “Other”.
  6. Go to “Select a search attribute”, and then choose “File Size” checkbox and click OK.
  7. Now change “equals” option to “is greater than”.
  8. Lastly, change “KB” to “MB”.
  9. Now, you can enter the file size in the appropriate box, and then all the files with the size greater than the mentioned size will be displayed.
  10. Delete all files that are obsolete and/or unwanted.

This method allows you to spot big files hiding in your Mac. You can also find files by other criteria by changing the search attribute.

Compress Files and Folders

What if there is a HD movie lying in your Mac which you don’t want to delete and at the same time you want to free up space? Compressing such files (that you rarely use) is your way out from this Catch-22 situation.

You can compress either a file or an entire folder. For compressing, you need to Control-click it and then select compress from the menu.

Pay a visit to Downloads Folder

With time Downloads folder swells up. We frequently download files and copy them to desktop or other convenient locations. This makes files in download folder redundant.

Go to downloads folder and delete unwanted files from there.

Delete iTunes Library Backups

iTunes creates a backup of your iTunes Library whenever you update the app. You can delete these old backups without any issues. To do this:

  1. Click Finder.
  2. Select “Go”.
  3. Select “Go to Folder”.
  4. Enter “~/Music/iTunes/Previous iTunes Libraries”

Select all and remove them.

Empty Trash

After performing all the clean-up tasks, you must remove the files permanently from the “Trash”. Open it from “Dock” and click “Empty Trash”.

Final Words

These were some of the tips that will help your Mac’s hard drive get back some free space.

If all the listed tips overwhelm you and if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, there are many apps on Mac App Store that allows you to do all the listed cleaning tasks from a single place and with a few clicks. Disk Clean Pro is one of the most affordable and efficient cleaning apps available on the App Store.

Have you tried a few tips mentioned here? Tell me in the comment-box how much storage space have you freed?


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