Not having enough storage on your Mac is one of the most frustrating problems you can have. It limits your freedom to store the items most precious to you on your computer, all while being wasted on things you didn’t even know existed.
Most of the storage that is taking up space on your Mac’s hard drive is not coming from applications or documents, but rather from something called “System Data” (or Other data). Well, if you’re wondering just what this is, and how to clean it off your system, read on. In this article, we will discuss what is “System Data” in Mac storage, and how to delete it.
RELATED: The Best System Monitor Apps to Check Your Mac’s Performance
What is System Data / Other storage
Both “Other” and “System Data” refer to the same category that houses all the miscellaneous files on your device. For example, you can find temporary files, app plugins or extensions, cache files, disk archives, and backups inside system data.
It’s just that Apple renamed “Other” to “System Data” in macOS Monterey. The label will remain as “Other” if you’re on macOS Big Sur or older iterations of macOS.
How to check System Data storage
Checking System Data storage on your Mac is easy, but it will depend on which software update you are currently running.
To check System Data storage on macOS 13 Ventura, open System Settings. Click General, then select Storage. Within the storage tab, the overall data stored on your Mac’s hard drive will be displayed on a bar with different colors. The System Data Bar is the gray bar farthest to the right. Hover your cursor over the bar to see exactly how much space System Data is consuming.
Viewing System Data on macOS 12 Monterey is very similar to Ventura. Begin by opening System Preferences and click General. Just like Ventura, select Storage and view the storage bar to see your System Data.
Pre-macOS 12, to view your storage and System Data, begin by opening the Apple Menu. Then click About This Mac, and select the Storage tab to check your ‘Other’ space usage.
Bonus tip: Try DaisyDisk app
DaisyDisk is a different way to look at your storage by utilizing disk storage analysis software. The app will help you remove old junk on all of your disks, including everything from Macintosh HD to Thunderbolt disks.
DaisyDisk works to free up storage space on your Mac by scanning your disk even your cloud storage accounts and producing a profile map of all its content. The interface of the app generates a display of all of your folders and files, which will highlight any outstanding large files. In addition, Daisy Disk allows you to preview individual files within their interface, allowing you to make sure you do not need the file before you delete it.
The DaisyDisk app is priced at a one-time purchase of $9.99.
How to clear System Data storage
Clearing System Data storage does not have to be expensive or time-consuming. By using these tips, you will be able to quickly and efficiently navigate your Mac to remove unwanted data and gain back space on your hard drive. It is not uncommon to remove at least 15 GB of data during this process if you have had your Mac for more than a year.
Optimize your storage via Mac Storage Manager
One of the best ways to make the most of your Mac’s storage space, especially if use a newer Mac with limited hard drive space, is to use the built-in Optimized Storage/Storage Management feature.
The whats and the hows of macOS Optimized Storage are easy to follow. This feature allows you to tell your Mac how to handle individual components in your storage. You can optimize the storage of a few different categories, such as iCloud, Apple TV, Bin, and just generally reduce clutter.
Before you install an external storage management software, use this free feature that is already available on your Mac to make the most of your storage.
Delete Time Machine backups
Time Machine is a built-in backup feature on your Mac that will automatically save your personal data onto an external device. This includes information in apps, music, emails, photos, and documents, allowing you to recover lost data.
Although Time Machine can prevent you from losing a document or file that you might need, it can also contribute immensely to the amount of System Data that exists on your hard drive.
To remove storage taken up by backups from Time Machine, go to System Settings. Then select General, then Time Machine, and disable automatic downloads. This will remove local snapshots that have been saved. Additionally, to free up more space in the future, you can exclude items from backups. This ensures that any future backups with Time Machine will be limited and run the way you want them to.
Clearing system data storage with Finder
To clear more System Data storage, open Finder, then click Command + Shift + G at the same time on your Mac’s keyboard. Then enter ~/library into the text field. Both of these are shortcuts that will save you time and effort scanning through finder to get to your library, which is where we need to go to begin freeing up storage space.
Clear caches / after effects
Caches are hardware or software devices that are used to store data on your device. Some caches are useful and do their job well in keeping your data organized on your Mac, but many caches are useless junk just taking up space.
To view the caches stored on your hard drive, use the same shortcuts while in Finder as previously mentioned: Command + Shift + G and ~/library/caches. Before clearing caches, double-check to make sure that the cache you are deleting is truly unnecessary. This can be quickly and easily done by checking the applications, documents, and files that you frequent the most, and looking to see if the same cache files are present.
Besides junk and cache files, some of the most common Adobe applications that can take up lots of space are Photoshop, After Effects, Indesign, and Dimension.
To remove the junk occupying space on your computer, you can either go directly to the Adobe file or enter ~/library/caches in the text field that first popped up after entering the first previously mentioned shortcut. From there, you will be able to see the Adobe file more easily and select between any of the Adobe software applications you have installed on your Mac for organized cleaning of individual files.
Alternatively, if you are confident you will not need any of the files within Adobe, you can easily select and delete all of the after effect files at once by clicking Command + A, then Command + delete.
Check iCloud Drive
iCloud is a fantastic storage system that synchronizes all of your data across all of your Apple devices. This is great because it means you have everything you want on each of your separate devices at all times, as each device is communicating with each other via iCloud to ensure your data is updated.
This great system has one major pitfall. If you did not already know, iCloud does not store most of your data in an Apple-managed data server, but rather on your Mac. You can see this for yourself by opening Finder, and clicking on the iCloud logo. Then, enter the Command + Shift + G and ~/library shortcuts to return to your System Data library. Finally, scroll down and click on Mobile Documents to see the same files as in iCloud.
Unfortunately, there is little you can do to reduce the storage iCloud takes up on your Mac. To manage the synchronization of data, Apple limits your ability to interfere with the data from iCloud saved on your hard drive.
Fortunately, you are still able to delete old and unused files stored in iCloud. This is the only way to reduce in any meaningful way the amount of System Data iCloud contributes to and can be further complicated by the reality that you might still need most of these files. Regardless, you do still have the option to remove some data from iCloud on your Mac.
Empty the Trash / Bin / Applications Log Files
This tip is another obvious one, but it is easy to forget because it requires you to remember to remove all of the trash from your Mac’s bin. If you have not seen your System Data total storage amount go down at all, even after using all of the aforementioned methods, it is worth checking the bin.
Items will not be fully removed or deleted from your hard drive unless you manually remove them from your bin. Data you thought you removed can remain in the bin for long periods, artificially decreasing the amount of storage available on your Mac. To clean the bin, click Empty in the top right corner.
You may be also unaware that there is a large number of log files generated not just by the operating system but also by the software running on the computer. While these files do not take a lot of space initially, they may end up being quite the disk space hog if they are not cleaned for a year or two.
Most Mac application logs are saved in the same place (~/Library/Logs) while Mac system logs are found elsewhere (/var/log). These logs are plain-text files you can find on your Mac’s local disk, too. Deleting log files will remove them temporarily. If your Mac needs to log any further information, however, the log files will be recreated.
Bonus tip: try 3rd-party cleaning software
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.
For our review of the best Mac cleaner software, CleanMyMacX has a variety of features that smartly automates the cleaning process and helps you gain back storage and System Data. However, do note that CleanMyMac X costs $35 yearly. It does have a free trial that you can try to get a feel for things.
How do I find out how much System Data is taking away from my storage space?
Go to System Settings, then click General, then select Storage. A bar of how much System Data exists on your hard drive will be displayed in gray, in addition to the other forms of data taking up storage space.
Do extensions take up a lot of disk space?
It depends, but typically no. Extensions take up disk space with every new tab opened, but this is usually quite small. Extensions can slow down your Mac’s processing, which is an especially common issue on browsers that offer many extensions, such as Google Chrome, but this has a minimal effect on your storage.
How can I optimize my Mac storage space?
Remove junk and unused documents from your Mac. The whats and hows of optimizing Mac storage are essential to a better user experience.
If I remove System Data on my Mac, will it remove it on my iPhone too?
No. Not all of the System Data is synchronized like iCloud. There are some documents and cache that will only exist on your Mac, just as there are some applications that will only exist on your iPhone.
Free up your system data today on Mac
By freeing up space on your Mac’s hard drive, you are opening up a multitude of opportunities. Instead of having the space taken up and wasted by System Data, you can put that space to good use with more applications, more photos, and better extensions.
You will also be more conscious about what is stored on your computer, which will save you more space in the future. By being more aware of how the storage system works on Mac, you will be able to manage your hard drive more efficiently. This will ultimately keep your storage cleaner and will help your Mac run better, and for longer.
Keeping your Mac organized in all ways is always beneficial, especially when it comes to storage. Better yet, keeping storage in mind is not only applicable to but also beneficial to all of your devices. Getting rid of the junk wasting space will let you take back full control over your experience, allowing you to download and save the most important files to you stress-free.