What to Do if the Startup Disk Is Full on MacBook Featured Image

What to Do if the Startup Disk Is Full on MacBook?

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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As you continue using your MacBook, the available storage on your startup disk may decrease. Eventually, it can reach a point where your startup disk becomes full, leading to issues like slow performance, crashes, and inability to save files. You may even receive a notification saying, “Your startup disk is almost full” on Mac.

If you encounter this problem, taking action and freeing up some space on your startup disk is essential. This article will provide a detailed guide on what to do if your startup disk is full on MacBook.

Before We Begin

When your startup disk is full on MacBook, it can slow down your computer’s performance and cause crashes. MacKeeper’s Memory Cleaner and Safe Cleanup can save significant RAM and storage space on your Mac, preventing crashes and sluggishness. So, download and install MacKeeper and optimize your Mac’s disk space.

Why Is My Startup Disk Full on Mac?

Before we dive into solutions, it’s essential to understand why your Mac startup disk might be full.

If your startup disk is full on your Mac, it means the storage space on your primary hard drive or SSD (Solid State Drive) is running out of free space. This can occur due to a variety of reasons.

Here are some common causes of a full startup disk on your Mac:

  1. 📁 Large Files and Downloads: You may have large files, such as videos or disk images, that take up significant space. Delete unnecessary files or move them to an external storage device.
  2. 🧹 System and Application Caches: Over time, temporary files and caches generated by your operating system and applications can accumulate and consume considerable disk space.
  3. 🌐 Language Resources: macOS includes language resources for multiple languages. You can remove unnecessary language files if you only use one or two languages. Be cautious when deleting system files, and ensure you have a backup.
  4. 🔁 Duplicate Files: Duplicate files, such as photos, documents, or music, can consume a significant amount of storage space. Use duplicate file finders like MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder to locate and delete duplicate files.
  5. 🗑️ Trash Bin: Empty your Trash on Mac as files you delete are not immediately removed from your disk. You can right-click the Bin icon in the dock and select Empty Bin to delete the files permanently.
  6. ☁️ iCloud Storage: If you use iCloud to store your files, you may have local copies of those files on your Mac, taking up space. Optimize your iCloud storage settings to keep only essential files on your Mac and store the rest in the cloud.
  7. 📷 Photos and Videos: The Photos app can store full-resolution copies of your media locally, taking up substantial disk space. You can optimize the photo storage settings in Photos preferences to save space.
  8. ⏲️ Old Backups: If you use Time Machine or other backup software, old backups may take up space on your startup disk. Review and remove unnecessary backups or consider using an external drive for backups.
  9. 💻 Large Applications: Some applications, particularly professional software or games, can be quite large. Uninstall any applications you no longer use or move them to an external drive.

How to Check If Your Startup Disk Is Full on Mac

To check if your startup disk is full on a Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen and select About This Mac from the dropdown menu.
click apple icon and select about this mac
  1. Click More Info on the window.
click more info
  1. In the About section, scroll down to the Storage section and tap the Storage Settings button.
tap storage settings button
  1. You will see a visual representation of your disk usage, with different categories like Apps, Bin, Other Users, macOS, and System Data.
mac storage consumption
  1. Check the colored bar representing your startup disk. If it appears nearly or completely full, your startup disk is running out of space.

Following these steps, you can quickly determine if your startup disk is full and take appropriate action to free up space.

How to Clean Up Space on Startup Disk on Mac

If your startup disk is full on Macbook, there are several solutions you can try. Below, I have shared some of the most effective methods to clean up your Mac and free up space on your startup disk.

1. Remove Large Files on Mac

Your Mac can gather large and old files over time, occupying valuable storage space and causing your system to slow down. It’s important to regularly delete these files to reclaim storage space and maintain an organized Mac.

Follow these steps to delete large and old files on your Mac:

  1. Open a new Finder window and navigate to the location where you want to clean up, such as Documents, Downloads, or specific folders.
  2. Change the view to list format by clicking the View menu icon and selecting as List option.
click the view icon and select as list 1
  1. Click the Size column to sort the files in descending order, making it easier to identify the largest files.
size column in finder
  1. Review the files with the largest size and consider whether you still need them. Look for files like videos, high-resolution images, disk images, and large applications that are taking up significant storage space.
  2. Select the files you want to delete. You can drag the selected files to the Bin or right-click the files and choose Move to Bin.
right click the files and select move to bin 1
  1. After deleting the large files, empty your bin to remove them permanently from your Mac. To empty the Bin, right-click the Bin icon in your Dock and select Empty Bin.
right click the bin and select empty bin

2. Clear the Cache Files

Caches are temporary files your computer uses to speed up specific processes. However, temporary files and caches generated by your operating system and applications can accumulate over time and consume significant disk space.

You can use third-party cleaning tools like MacKeeper to scan and remove these unnecessary files. MacKeeper can optimize your Mac’s performance by clearing out caches, logs, and other system-generated files.

Follow these steps to clear the cache on your Mac using MacKeeper:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper.
  2. Open MacKeeper on your Mac and click the Safe Cleanup option in the left-hand sidebar.
click safe cleanup under the cleaning section
  1. Click the Start Scan button.
click start scan in safe cleanup
  1. Once the scan is complete, you will see a list of files that can be deleted, including Logs, Caches, Trash, Languages, and Mail Attachments.
  2. Check the boxes next to the files you want to delete.
select junk files to remove or click check all
  1. Click the Clean Junk Files button at the bottom of the window.
tap clean junk files to empty startup disk
  1. This will remove the cache files from your Mac.

If you don’t have MacKeeper, you can delete cache files manually. Here are the steps to manually delete the cache on your Mac:

  1. Open Finder, click Go in the top menu bar, and select Go to Folder.
click go in the menu bar and select go to folder
  1. Type the following path into the Go to Folder search bar and press Enter:
~/Library/Caches/
type library caches in the window
  1. This will open the Caches folder. Here, select the folder for the system data you want to clear.
  2. Right-click the files and select Move to Bin.
right click system folders and select move to bin
  1. Permanently delete the cache from your Mac by right-clicking the Bin icon and selecting Empty the Bin.
right click the bin and select empty bin

3. Delete Unused Apps Using MacKeeper

Review the applications installed on your Mac and identify those you no longer use. Uninstalling unused applications can help free up considerable disk space. You can uninstall applications manually as well as using MacKeeper.

To uninstall unused apps on Mac using MacKeeper, follow these steps:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper.
  2. Open MacKeeper on your Mac and click the Smart Uninstaller option in the left-hand sidebar.
click smart uninstaller in the left sidebar
  1. Click the Start Scan button.
click start scan in smart uninstaller
  1. Once the scan is complete, you will see a list of installed apps on your Mac. Identify the apps you want to delete and select them by checking the boxes next to their names.
  2. Click the Remove Selected button.
select the applications you want to remove and click remove selected
  1. Tap the Remove button on the pop-up to confirm your decision.
click remove on the pop up window in smart uninstaller
  1. This will remove the selected apps from your Mac.

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides clearing the cache and deleting unused apps, MacKeeper can scan your Mac for malware, delete duplicate files, and remove unnecessary login items on your Mac. Check out my detailed MacKeeper review to find out more about its features. 

If you don’t have MacKeeper, you can uninstall apps on Mac manually. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Click the Launchpad icon in your Dock.
click on the launchpad icon in your dock
  1. Click and hold the app you want to uninstall.
applications in launchpad
  1. Click the X that appears in the top left corner of the app icon.
click the x icon to delete the app in launchpad
  1. Tap Delete to confirm.
tap the delete button to confirm
  1. After deleting the app, right-click the Bin icon in the Dock and select Empty Bin.
right click the bin and select empty bin

4. Optimize Storage on Mac

Another way to free up space on your startup disk is to optimize your storage settings. Optimizing storage on your Mac helps you efficiently manage disk space, improve system performance, and ensure a smooth user experience.

With regular optimization, you can reclaim valuable storage capacity and organize your files on Mac to maximize efficiency. Here are some steps you can take to optimize your Mac’s storage:

  • ☁️ Use iCloud: If you’re running low on storage, you can use iCloud to store your files and free up space on your hard drive. You can also use iCloud to optimize your photo storage, saving much space. 
  • 🖼️ Optimize Photos: Photos can take up a lot of space on your hard drive. The Photos app can optimize your photo storage by storing full-resolution versions in iCloud and smaller, optimized versions on your hard drive.
  • 📂 Manage Downloads Folder: The Downloads folder can often become a repository for various files you’ve downloaded from the internet. Manage the Downloads folder on your Mac by sorting through its contents and deleting the files you no longer need.

5. Delete Old Backups

Backing up your data on Mac is crucial for protecting important files and system configurations, but over time, outdated backups can accumulate and consume valuable storage space.

By identifying and removing old backups you no longer need, you can free up significant disk space while maintaining the latest and most relevant backup versions. To remove old backups on a Mac, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open the Finder app on your Mac.
click finder in your dock
  1. Click Go in the menu bar and select Go to Folder.
open finder click go menu and select go to folder
  1. In the Go to Folder window, type the following path and press Enter:
~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/
library application support mobilesync backup
  1. In the Backup folder, you’ll see a list of folders with long, random strings of letters and numbers. Each of these folders represents a backup of your iOS devices.
  2. Identify the backups you want to delete. You can sort the list by date modified to help you find the oldest backups.
  3. Drag the folders for the backups you want to delete to the Bin.
  4. Empty the Bin to delete the backups permanently.

6. Remove Unnecessary Language Files

Your Mac comes with files for every language it supports, but if you only use one or two languages, you can free up space by removing the others.

Here’s how you can remove unnecessary language files on your Mac:

  1. Open Finder and click the Applications folder in the left sidebar.
click on applications in the left menu bar
  1. Right-click an application and select Show Package Contents.
right click the app and select show package contents
  1. Open the Contents folder and double-click the Resources folder in it.
navigate to the resources folder in contents
  1. Look for language-specific files (e.g., folders named “en.lproj” for English) and delete the ones you don’t need.
select a language folder in resources and delete it

7. Delete Old DMGs

Deleting old DMGs (Disk Image Files) is an effective way to reclaim storage space and declutter your Mac. DMGs are commonly used for software installations, but they often get overlooked and accumulate over time, taking up valuable disk space.

Removing outdated DMGs frees up storage and streamlines your system, making it easier to locate and manage current software installations. Here’s how to delete old DMGs on your Mac:

  1. Open Finder and go to the Downloads folder.
click downloads in the left sidebar in finder
  1. Identify DMG files you no longer need.
  2. Right-click each file and select Move to Bin or press Command ⌘ + Delete.
right click the dmg files and select move to bin
  1. Empty the Bin to remove the DMGs from your Mac permanently.
right click the bin and select empty bin

8. Declutter Your Mac’s Desktop

Decluttering your Mac’s desktop can improve your productivity and make it easier to find the files and applications you need. Here are some steps to help you declutter your Mac’s desktop:

  1. 📂 Evaluate and Organize: Take a close look at the files and folders on your desktop and determine which ones are essential and which can be moved or deleted. Create a folder structure that makes sense for your workflow and move files into appropriate folders.
  2. 🗑️ Remove Unnecessary Files: Delete files or shortcuts you no longer need on your desktop. This can include old documents, screenshots, or unused application shortcuts.
  3. 📚 Utilize Stacks: macOS offers a feature called Stacks that automatically organizes files on your desktop into neat stacks based on file type. Right-click your desktop, select Use Stacks, and choose how you want your files sorted. This declutters your Mac and keeps your desktop clean and organized.
right click the desktop and select use stacks
  1. ⚓ Customize Dock: Move frequently used applications to your Dock for quick access. This reduces the need to clutter your desktop with multiple application icons.
  2. 🗂️ Use Finder Effectively: Instead of storing files on your desktop, use the Finder to organize them in appropriate folders. This allows you to navigate and locate files easily.

9. Empty the Trash on Mac

When you delete files, they move to the Bin, where they continue to occupy valuable disk space until you empty it. Emptying the Bin ensures these files are permanently deleted from your system, freeing up storage and maintaining a clutter-free environment.

Here’s how to empty the Trash on your Mac:

  1. Find the Bin icon on your Dock and double-click to open it.
click trash bin in dock
  1. Click Empty in the upper-right corner of the Bin window.
click the empty button in bin
  1. Confirm the action by clicking Empty Bin when prompted to delete all items in the Bin permanently.
click empty bin on the prompt

10. Upgrade Your Storage

If you’ve tried the above methods and you’re still running low on storage, you may need to upgrade your storage. Here are some options:

  • 🔧 Replace the Internal Hard Drive: If your MacBook has a traditional hard drive, you can replace it with a solid-state drive (SSD) for faster performance and more storage space.
  • 💾 Use External Storage: You can also use external storage devices like USB or hard drives to store your files.

⚠️ Not all MacBook models allow for hardware updates. Before proceeding with any changes or modifications to your Mac, it is essential to check the specifications and compatibility of your specific MacBook model.

Clear Your Startup Disk on Mac

Once you have cleared your Startup disk, you must take some extra steps to keep your MacBook safe from any other issues. Here are some tips to improve your Mac experience:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I move files to an external hard drive to free up space on my startup disk?

    Yesm you can move files to an external hard drive to free up space on your startup disk. You can use a USB drive, external hard drive, or cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive to store your files.

  2. Will upgrading my storage erase my data?

    No, upgrading your storage will not erase your data. However, it’s always a good idea to back up your data before changing your computer or upgrading your storage.

  3. Can I delete system files to free up space on my startup disk?

    No, you should not delete system files to free up space on your startup disk. Deleting system files can be risky and may cause problems with your computer. Deleting system files is generally only recommended if you know what you’re doing.

  4. Should I use a third-party app to clean up my Mac?

    Yes, you should use a third-party app to clean up your Mac regularly. A third-party app can be an excellent option to clean up your Mac more thoroughly than the built-in options allow. However, it’s essential to be cautious when using these apps and use only reputable ones.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

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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