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macOS Upgrade – Not Enough Free Space. How To Fix?

Tips • Dec.3, 2021

One thing we don’t care about much is the amount of free storage space. This becomes noticeable when you’re trying to install a new macOS update or some other app which makes you wonder, where did all those GBs go?

Upgrading macOS can prove quite a challenge if you don’t have the available storage space. There’s a high chance that you’re stuck at the “There is not enough free space” error. This is fairly common,

I tried to do the Monterey update and near the end of the installation i get the message. Then i’m asked to select a startup disk. I’ve tried rebooted a few times and it always happens. I assume i’ll need to do a recovery of some sort.

– Apple Discussions Forum User

I’ve been attempting to install macOS Monterey for the past day now and every time I try, it says I do not have enough free space. In the installer it says that I have 33.86 GB available, but in reality, I have about 108 GB available. That 33.86 GB keeps fluctuating too, every time I run it it changes.

– Reddit User

and a lot of users have been affected by it.

If you, too, are stuck in the same boat, don’t worry, as we’ve got the perfect fixes for you. So what are you waiting for? Jump straight in and follow the tips below to help solve the error.

How much space do you need to update macOS?

While the latest macOS Monterey installer takes around 12GB of space, it needs a lot more available space to install the update. You generally need about 40GB of available space for everything to update seamlessly.

However, we recommend keeping around 64GB free as you never know what lies ahead. So, being a little on the safe side is the way to go. You can check how much storage space you have available by following the steps below:

  • Firstly, go to the Apple menu
  • Next, select “About This Mac” from the list
  • Finally, go to the “Storage” tab and wait a few minutes for it to scan through everything

How to free up space on Mac for macOS upgrade?

Assuming you don’t have enough space to upgrade your Mac’s OS to the latest version, here are some ways to free up your storage space and fix the “not enough space to install macOS” error message.

Note: Before proceeding with any of the steps below, make sure to delete or remove any old backups or files that you don’t need. If you know that you have some useless data sitting around, then trash it as soon as possible. However, if you don’t have any large files that need deleting, go ahead and use the tips below.

1. Optimize your storage disk

macOS comes with a built-in optimization tool that can help scan for various files such as email attachments, movies, or TV shows that you’ve watched earlier and then removes them. This tool can also be found in the “Recommendations” tab, and you can get to it by:

  • Head on to the Apple menu and then select the “About This Mac” option.
  • Next, go to “Storage”, and click on “Manage”, and click on the “Recommendations” tab on the left panel.
  • Finally, click on “Optimize Storage” and let the process be completed, as shown above in the screenshot.

2. Clean out system junk

The other big contributor to low storage space is system junk. While you might be keeping all your data organized, the OS and apps can still dump junk files that are not needed. So, once in a while, cleaning the junk can help out a tonne, and you can do this (similar to above):

  • Firstly go to the Apple menu and then select the “About This Mac” option.
  • Next, go to “Storage” and click on “Manage”.
  • Finally, go to “Reduce Clutter” section and then click on “Review Files”.

3. Delete iPhone and iPad backups

The quickest way to gain a lot more free storage space is through deleting backups. Specifically, iPad and iPhone backups can take up a huge chunk of your storage. Here’s how you can delete those backups:

  • Connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac.
  • Next, open Finder and locate the device under the “Locations” tab.
  • Now, select “Manage Backups”, as shown in the screenshot above.
  • Finally, choose a backup and click Delete.

4. Uninstall unused apps

Another option to get some free space is to uninstall old or unused apps. Yes, we know that it takes time and is not as exciting. However, removing unwanted apps can seriously improve your overall performance and, as a side benefit, clear some of your storage space out. You can do this by following the steps below:

  • Firstly, go to Finder and select “Applications” from the left tab
  • Next, look for any old or unused applications you want to remove
  • Finally, uninstall the app, and voila, you have freed some storage space.

Note: Make sure to optimize your storage disk later on and do a system restart for everything to work smoothly and seamlessly.

5. Clean up the Downloads folder

The next thing you should do is to clean the “Downloads” folder. We all just download a lot of stuff and forget about it. So, cleaning it can help save a lot of space and help clean GigaBytes of data. So, the time has come, and you need to delete these files to get some storage space back. Similar to applications folder, you can do this by:

  • Firstly, open Finder and go to the “Downloads ” folder.
  • Next, click the “Group ” button and select the “Date Added ” tab.
  • Finally, scroll down to the oldest downloads and delete the files that you don’t need.

Note: You should also delete any large unused files on other folders, as this will help free up some storage space for your macOS upgrade to work smoothly.

6. Store on iCloud

You can also store your data on iCloud and then start your upgrade process. This is a great way to preserve all your files while the upgrade process is going on. You can easily do this by:

  • Go to Finder and then look for “iCloud Drive” on the left tab
  • Now, copy all your files and paste them into the “iCloud Drive” folder
  • Let the upload be completed, and once that’s done, delete the original files on your hard drive and continue with the upgrading process

Note: You need to have an iCloud account already on your Mac for this to work smoothly.

7. Upgrade from external drive

Finally, the last option that you can use to upgrade your Mac’s OS is to update it using an external drive. *Spoiler Warning* The process is lengthy and can get really confusing for some of you. So, I recommend following down the steps to the tiniest bit of detail so that you can successfully upgrade your Mac.

  • Connect your external drive to your Mac and format it with the “GUID Partition Map” scheme.
  • Next, download the macOS installer that you want to use from Apple’s page
  • Now, locate the installer on Finder and run it. Next, you need to select your drive as shown in the screenshot above and continue with the on-screen instructions
  • Finally, reboot your OS and press and hold the power button (Apple Silicon Macs) or the Option key (Intel Macs), and then select the external disk. This will start the upgrading process, and you can install the latest macOS version from it.

Note: Before you do anything, make a backup as if something goes wrong, you can just restore your old system, and everything will be working again. Also, make sure to have a drive with a minimum of 64GB of storage space.

8. Use a third-party cleaner

So, let’s say you don’t have time to go and delete files one by one. Well, neither do we. So, we use a third-party Mac Cleaning tool to quickly scan through different files and suggest the ones we need to delete.

You too can use a tool to do this, and we recommend CleanMyMac X as it works great and has an easy-to-use UI.

It can also help clear any system junk files, and you can also use it to uninstall and remove apps and other hidden files.

9. Wait for a new installer

Finally, if you still can’t seem to get past the “not enough free space” error while upgrading macOS and even after clearing all the required storage space, you don’t know what to do. Then my advice would simply be to wait.

Yes, it is frustrating. I know that, but macOS upgrade installers have been known to be bugged in the past, and it might just be the same case with you. While the latest macOS Monterey installer seems to be working fine for most people, it can just be a one-off with some devices.

Hence, waiting for Apple to deliver a fix is the only solution, and you would need to wait for it to come out.

Final words

Getting stuck while upgrading your Mac is frustrating. Even more so if the reason is insufficient storage space, generally, you should keep at least 64GB of space free as it allows your OS to function properly and everything to work smoothly.

So, clearing out some files and trash is the best way to go ahead. The tips above would surely help you get back on track with your macOS upgrade, and we recommend cleaning out the trash once or twice a month as this helps keep everything organized and avoids trash pileup.

With that said, we have reached the end of our guide today, and we hope that you can now clean your Mac effectively and upgrade it without any errors.

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