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How to Manage Downloads on Mac: 6 Best Strategies

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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Are you tired of searching through a cluttered Downloads folder to find the needed files? Whether you’re a student, a freelancer, or a business owner, downloading files is a regular part of using a Mac. But it can quickly become overwhelming, leaving you with a cluttered Downloads folder and a headache.

In this blog post, I’ll show you how to manage downloads on Mac like a pro, so you can save time, stay organized, and maintain the performance of your computer.

Before We Begin

If you have a cluttered Downloads folder, it can become difficult to find the files you need in the sea of files and folders where you may have downloaded some files multiple times. MacKeeper can help you declutter your Mac. You can use its Duplicates Finder to manage downloads on Mac. 

Where Are Downloads Located?

On a Mac, downloads are stored in the Downloads folder, which is located in the user’s Home directory. By default, any file you download from the internet, receive as an email attachment, or save from an app will be saved to the Downloads folder.

To access downloads on a Mac, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click the Finder icon in the Dock (it looks like a blue and white smiling face).
click finder in your dock
  1. In the Finder window that appears, look for the Downloads folder in the left sidebar. If you don’t see it there, click Favorites at the top of the sidebar and select Downloads in the submenu.
  2. Once you’ve located the Downloads folder, you can open it by clicking it.
click downloads in the left sidebar in finder
  1. In the Downloads folder, you should see a list of files you’ve downloaded on your Mac. You can sort the files by Name, Date Added, Size, or Kind by clicking the appropriate column header.
sort the files by name date added size or kind

6 Ways to Manage Downloads on Mac

Managing downloads on a Mac can keep your files organized and prevent your Downloads folder from cluttering. Here’s a breakdown of the steps you can take to manage downloads on Mac:

1. Configure Web Browser Default Settings

Configuring Safari or other web browsers involves changing the default download location in your browser settings to a folder of your choice. It ensures files are downloaded directly to the designated folder without further manual intervention. 

To configure web browser default settings, follow these steps: 

  1. Open the browser you want to configure (e.g., Safari) and go to its Settings menu.
click safari in the top menu bar and select settings
  1. Click the General tab and find the File download location option.
tap file download location under the general tab
  1. Click the drop-down menu button and choose Other to select your desired folder to save your downloads. You can create a new folder specifically for your downloads or choose an existing one.
choose other and select the folder to save your downloads
  1. From now on, all downloads made through that browser will automatically be saved to the designated folder.

2. Remove Duplicate Files Using MacKeeper

Since your Mac is the central location for all of your digital assets, it’s possible to have duplicates. These duplicate files take up significant space on your hard drive, leading to your Mac running slow and you having trouble finding the right files.

Manually identifying and removing duplicate downloads can take a significant amount of time. However, with third-party software like MacKeeper, you can locate and erase duplicate downloads on your Mac in just a few clicks.

Here are the steps to remove duplicate files on your Mac using MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click the Duplicates Finder option in the left sidebar.
click duplicates finder in the left sidebar
  1. Click Start Scan to start the scanning process.
click start scan in duplicates finder
  1. Once the scan is complete, MacKeeper will display a list of duplicate files on your Mac. Select an item from the list to review duplicates manually.
click an item in the left sidebar
  1. Alternatively, click Check All and tap Remove Selected.
click check all and tap remove selected
  1. Click Remove on the dialog box to confirm the deletion.
click remove on the pop up window in duplicates finder to manage downloads on mac
  1. It will remove duplicate files, and you’ll see a completion notification on your screen. Click Finish to complete the process.
click finish to complete the process

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides deleting duplicates on your Mac, MacKeeper can free up precious RAM, uninstall unwanted apps, delete cache files, and manage login items. You can check out my detailed MacKeeper review to learn more about its features.

3. Clear Out Your Downloads Folder

It doesn’t take long for the Downloads folder on your Mac to fill up with things you don’t need or use, taking up precious storage space. You can keep your system operating efficiently and stop clutter from accumulating over time by regularly cleaning up your system and organizing your files on Mac

To delete downloads on your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Finder icon in the Dock (it looks like a blue and white smiling face).
click finder in your dock
  1. Open the Downloads folder by clicking Downloads in the left sidebar.
click downloads in the left sidebar in finder
  1. Go through each file and decide whether you need it or not.
  2. For any files you want to keep, consider moving them to a more organized location on your Mac, such as a folder within your Documents folder.
  3. Select the file or files you want to delete. You can click a single file to select it or hold down the Command key and click multiple files to select them simultaneously.
macbook pro command key
  1. Drag the selected file(s) to the Bin icon in the Dock. Alternatively, right-click the file(s) and select Move to Bin from the context menu.
right click a file and select move to bin
  1. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Command + Delete to move the selected file(s) to Trash.
  2. Once you’ve deleted unnecessary files and moved important files to a new location, empty Trash on your Mac by right-clicking the Bin icon in your Dock and selecting Empty Bin to delete the files permanently.
right click the bin and select empty bin
  1. Consider setting up automatic cleanup for your Bin. In macOS, you can do this by going to System Settings > General > Storage and tapping the Turn On button next to Empty Bin automatically.
turn on button next to empty bin automatically

4. Sync Files With iCloud Drive

Syncing your Mac files with iCloud Drive is a great way to keep your files organized and accessible across all your devices. This is especially useful if you work on multiple devices or need to access your files while on the go.

Here are the steps to sync your Mac files with iCloud Drive:

  1. Go to the Apple menu on the top left corner of your screen and click System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click Apple ID and sign in with your Apple ID if you haven’t already. If you have, click iCloud.
click icloud in apple id
  1. Click iCloud Drive.
click icloud drive in icloud
  1. A new pop-up window will appear. If the iCloud Drive is not enabled, tap the Turn On button and click Done.
tap the turn on button and click done
  1. You can also click Options to select the folders you want to sync with iCloud Drive by checking the box next to each folder. Click Done when finished.
you can also click options to select the folders you want to sync with icloud drive
  1. Any files you save to the synced folders will automatically be uploaded to iCloud and can be accessed from other devices signed in to the same Apple ID.
  2. To access your iCloud Drive files, go to Finder and click iCloud Drive in the left-hand menu.
go to finder and click icloud drive in the left hand menu

5. Use Smart Folders 

Using Smart Folders to delete large or old files is an efficient way to free up space on your Mac and keep your Downloads folder organized. It is irreversible, and deleting important files can cause data loss. So, make sure to double-check your Smart Folder results before deleting any files.

Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  1. Open Finder and go to the Downloads folder.
click downloads in the left sidebar in finder
  1. Click File at the top of the screen, and select New Smart Folder.
click file in the menu bar and select new smart folder
  1. In the window that appears, click the search bar in the top-right corner.
in the search bar that appears set the conditions for the files you want to delete
  1. Click the small + under the search bar to set the conditions for the files you want to delete.
click the small plus button in the top right corner
  1. You can narrow the search results using various parameters like size, download date, file type, etc. For instance, you can select files of a certain type (e.g., PNG, PDF) or files downloaded before a specific date (e.g., one month ago). Then, click Save.
set search parameters and click save
  1. Once you’ve set your conditions, give your Smart Folder a name and click Save. This folder will save your search criteria for future use.
specify a name and location for your smart folder and tap save
  1. The Smart Folder will now display a list of all the files that meet your search criteria. Select the files you want to delete.
  2. Right-click on the selected files and choose Move to Bin from the context menu.
right click a file and select move to bin
  1. Next, empty the Bin by right-clicking the Bin icon in your Dock and selecting Empty Bin.
right click the bin and select empty bin

6. Backup Important Data

Time Machine automatically backs up your Mac every hour if the backup disk is connected. You can back up all your data to avoid losing any important files. After backing up, you can delete it from your Mac.

Here’s how to use Time Machine to backup your Mac:

  1. Connect an external hard drive or SSD to your Mac.
external hard drive connected to mac
  1. Go to the Apple menu on the top left corner of your screen and click System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Time Machine.
click on time machine
  1. Tap the Add Backup Disk button and choose the external hard drive you connected.
click add backup disk in time machine
  1. Once selected, Time Machine will automatically start backing up your data.

Final Words

Managing downloads on a Mac is an important aspect of maintaining a clean and organized system. By combining automatic and manual methods, you can keep your Downloads folder under control and ensure important files are backed up.

Here are some more tips to optimize your Mac’s storage:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What backup options are available for downloaded files on a Mac? 

    Some backup options available for downloaded files on a Mac include Time Machine, which automatically backs up your entire system to an external hard drive, and cloud-based storage services like iCloud, Google Drive, or Dropbox.

  2. Can I set rules in Finder to automatically move downloaded files to designated folders on my Mac? 

    Yes, you can set rules in Finder to automatically move downloaded files to designated folders on your Mac. To do this, go to the Finder window, click File > New Smart Folder, and set the conditions for the files you want to move. Once you’ve set your conditions, select Add to Sidebar to save the Smart Folder to the Finder sidebar for easy access.

  3. Can I configure my browser to save files to a specific folder on my Mac automatically? 

    Yes, you can configure your browser to save files to a specific folder on your Mac automatically. In Safari, for example, you can go to Settings > General and choose a location for downloaded files.

Emman Zahid

Author

Emman is a MacBook and Apple enthusiast with a strong foundation in Computer Science. Her passion for Apple products started during her college years when he got her first MacBook. Over the years, he has built profound expertise in the Apple ecosystem, which he has eloquently shared through writings featured in tech publications such as Laptop251, NotJustLaptops, and TechanZone. Furthermore, marketing giants like OptinMonster, TrustPulse, and WPRocket have leveraged her insights. Emman's strength lies in simplifying complex technical details into understandable information for both tech experts and novices. He currently contributes to the MacBook Journal, ensuring her pieces are accurate, detailed, and engaging. Outside of writing, Emman continues to explore Apple's innovations, always eager to discover and share new insights with fellow Apple enthusiasts.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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