How to Recover Disk Space in macOS

This guide will take you step by step through the process of figuring out which files are taking up so much disk space on your macOS computer (so that you can recover it) using completely free and open source software.

Using the fantastic Disk Inventory X App, you can scan your hard drive(s) and you’ll be presented with a detailed, easy to read list of all the files on your drive – sorted by file type and size. Then you can decide what you want to delete or move to another drive in order to free up disk space. It’s super easy to use and hands down the most effective way to recover disk space in macOS. Plus, it’s completely free and works in macOS Catalina (and earlier).

  1. Head over to the Disk Inventory X home page and download and install the App. Then launch it from your Applications folder.
  2. Each of your currently mounted drives (including the .dmg for Disk Inventory X if it’s still active) will be displayed. Select the drive you want to examine, and then click Open Volume.
  3. a Disk Inventory X window displaying your Mac hard drives

  4. The app will explain what it’s about to do. Click the OK button.
  5. the Disk Inventory X explanation window

  6. A series of permission windows will appear. Click OK on each one.
  7. a permissions request from Disk Inventory X

  8. Depending on the size of your drive, the number of files on it, and its speed, it can take a few minutes for Disk Inventory X to finish its examination.
  9. a mac hard drive being scanned

  10. When the scan has completed you’ll be presented with the ‘results’ window and its side panel.
  11. the main disk inventory x results windows
    click to enlarge

  12. To sort the file types by size, click the Size column in the side panel (see screenshot below). As illustrated in that screenshot, Virtual Disk Image files were the kind that take up the most space on my Mac.
  13. sorting file types on a Mac by size

  14. You can also discover the identity of large files by clicking on a “block” in the main window. As you can see in the screenshot below, the largest of the neon-green blocks was the iMovie App.
  15. recover disk space macOS by selecting a file to learn its size

  16. If you right-click on any of the files and choose Reveal in Finder, a Finder window will open and display the file in question.
  17. view a large file in Finder to recover disk space in macOS

If you have a Windows PC, this guide can help you accomplish the same thing in Windows.


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6 thoughts on “How to Recover Disk Space in macOS”

  1. Great article–I’ve been using this for a while. As my movie/mp3 collection has grown into the +200gb area I’ve had to be memory conscious. This is def the best tool for it. Thanks for showing some extra tricks!

  2. Oh my gosh. I just cleaned about thirty GBs off my hard drive. So far I haven’t run into any problems of the “Whoops, I guess that was kind of essential” variety yet. Thanks for the post.

  3. Thanks a lot, i’ve been looking for such a program during several years (on pc) but it helped me troubleshooting our OS X server today. Disk was saturated and no way to find where the problem came from, with disk inventory X, it’s been fast and easy !

  4. I’ve been using Disk Inventory X for a long time now and have absolutely loved it. It gives a very intuitive feel to where you disk space is used.

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