Your Mac is running a little slow these days. It takes forever to boot up. You have to delete something just to download that file attachment from Carla in accounting. Any time you stream a video it seems to lock up for a few seconds. Let’s fix all that.
Update Your System Software
Before we do anything, let’s make sure your Mac is up to date. Click the Apple icon > App Store, then click the Updates tab. Install any software updates you see here, including macOS updates. This might include security updates or small performance improvements for whatever version of macOS you’re running.
Of course, Apple’s operating systems have been free for the last several iterations, so if you want to also update to Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, or Sierra, you can usually do so without any knock on your Mac’s performance. This is completely optional and up to you, but make sure you are at least running the most recent version of whichever operating system you’ve landed on.
Get Rid of Old Apps
Generally speaking, cleaning up your Mac is often about deleting all the cruft you’ve accumulated over the years that causes your storage space to fill up. If you’re low on space or folders just feel too cluttered, it’s time to delete old junk. Personally, I like to start by removing apps and then move onto deleting files. It’s very easy to glance at a list and know whether you still use an app or not.
Open up your Applications folder, then sort the apps by size, with the largest at the top. If you have a huge application installed that you never use, like iMovie or Garageband, get rid of them. Remember, you can always download anything you got from the Mac App Store again. If you purchased software from a developer, make sure you still have the license key somewhere before you delete it, just in case you need it again at some point in the future.
We’re all trained to uninstall Mac apps by dragging an icon into the trash from the Applications folder, but doing so tends to leave random files associated with that app across your system. These orphan files are rarely substantial in size, but it’s clutter nonetheless. Instead, it’s best to use a utility that’ll also track down that orphaned files. I like App Cleaner for this because it’s free and easy to use. Click and drag an application you want to delete into the App Cleaner window, then App Cleaner hunts down and removes any files associated with that application.
Clear Out Your Storage Space
Chances are, once you clear out a bunch of dumb old apps you no longer use, you’ll have a lot more storage space. That’s not the end of the process though.If you’re working with small storage, you need to be more vigilant. Next up, it’s time to dig around for weird old files you no longer need.
If you’re running macOS Sierra, you can easily find and remove large files using the built-in storage manager. If you’re not on Sierra, I like the $10 hard drive analyzer, DaisyDisk. DaisyDisk analyzes your system, finds massive files, then lets you delete those files right from the app. Launch DaisyDisk and it shows you a graph with all your files based on type. This way, you can track down anything that’s suspiciously large, like some random video you needed one time, then delete it. DaisyDisk is idiot-proof and automatically hides system files. Since you can preview files in the app, it’s pretty hard to remove an important file on accident. Even still, before you do this, make sure you have backups of any important files.
Go through your very large files and delete anything you no longer need. Depending on how you tend to store files or if you have different backups, this might be a few downloads you forgot about, or it might be entire directories of files you no longer need. For example, as you can see in the GIF above, I can follow a trail of storage hogs all the way down to my email application’s hidden attachments folder.
If you don’t want to shell out the $10 for DaisyDisk and you’re not using macOS Sierra, Disk Inventory X is free and does the job as well, it just doesn’t look nearly as pretty as other options.