What is “Other” storage on Mac and how do I clear it?

If you want to check the used and available storage space of your Mac, just go to About This Mac > Storage from Apple menu. The simple bar chart gives you an overview of storage with information about specific category types (Apps, Documents, iCloud Drive).

While the standard set of labels makes sense, the ambiguity of the “Other” category usually confuses Mac users. The reason is that it often consumes a noticeable part of the space. We’ll explore what constitutes “Other” storage on your Mac, techniques for finding the relevant files, and ways to manage them.


What is Other in Mac Storage?

The storage usage chart gives you valuable system information in different color blocks. Each block is assigned a specific category label. For example, yellow for photos, red for apps, green for documents, light blue for iCloud Drive, etc. When you hover the pointer over these blocks, you’ll see the category name and an approximate disk space estimate.

As you explore, you might be surprised at how much disk space the Other category consumes. What is that? Well, the Other category represents all files not categorized by something specific like Apps, Documents or Mail.


disk space overview rated with category labels

Category-specific labeling has its pros and cons. Although you can see approximate used disk space versus available disk space, the categories don’t correspond to any specific folder on your Mac. When you click Manage to see the detailed information, the System and Other categories are grayed out. This further complicates the situation.

USE VIDEO OF THE DAY

system and others grayed out in the recommendations

With macOS Monterey, the Other category was renamed to “System Data”, but despite the change, the problem persists.

What constitutes other storage?

The following file types may be included in the Other category on your Mac:

  • Files used by the system, such as caches and log files. Cache includes both app and browser related temporary files
  • Application Support Files, iCloud Files, Font Resources, and Plugins
  • Virtual machine files, Windows boot camp partitions and hidden data in system folders
  • Old Time Machine and iOS backups
  • Archive and disk images (such as ZIP and DMG) in the Downloads folder
  • Email attachments
  • Messages app archives and attachments

Where is the other storage on a Mac?

The Library folder contains macOS and app-specific resources. It keeps user and system resources organized and separated from the things you use every day. There are three different Library folders. Each of them has a different role in the macOS file system:

  • /Library
  • /System/Library
  • ~/Library

The “/Library” and “/System/Library” folders are global in scope and their contents support all aspects of macOS. The System Library folder contains files that macOS needs to function properly. They are protected by SIP and only the operating system has root access to modify them.

If you look at the “Other” storage items above, most of them are app-related files and app data that you use every day. They are present in the user’s Library folder. By default, it is hidden to prevent users from accidentally making changes that could prove harmful.


Essentially, this means you should check the User Library to find most files taking up other storage on your Mac. Open Searcherthen click Goes in the menu bar and choose Go to folder. In the text field, type ~/Library and click Goes. Here you will find a list of the various folders that contribute to the Other Storage category.


mac user library folder

Techniques to Check Other Storage on Mac

There are several ways to look at the Other Storage category. These include using the Finder, Terminal, and third-party apps.

Change layout layout in Finder

Once you have opened the ~/Library folder, drag it to the Favorites for quick access. Go to List view to display the list of folders in an ordered and sorted array. Then Control-click the column header to view the date modified, date created, size, type, and other details.

Now click on the Equipment icon in the Finder toolbar and choose Show display options. In the dialog that appears, check Calculate all sizes.

Within minutes, you will begin to see actual folder size readings. Look at the most important folders and open them in a separate window for a closer look.


arrange finder layout to sort library folder

Run DU command in terminal

Open Terminal and type the following command, then press To return to:

sudo du -hxd1 /System/Volumes/Data

Enter your administrator password and wait a few moments to allow the command to capture data. You’ll see permissions-related errors, but you’ll know the exact size of the subfolders.

You can now type the following commands, followed by To return toto explore your Mac’s storage space:

  • from : view disk usage statistics
  • -h: display size in human-readable format
  • -X: filesystem mounts are not traversed
  • -D: folder depth one or two levels down from the root directory

disk usage data terminal

Use of third-party applications

With third-party apps, you can review Other Storage in minutes. To illustrate, we will use two popular applications to analyze disk space.


OmniDiskSweeper

Files and folders are displayed in column view, similar to a Finder window, for quick browsing. Additionally, folders are sorted by size and in different colors (light green for small files and dark blue for large files) for easy identification.


easily analyze their storage category with omnidisksweeper

DaisyDisk

It uses the sunburst map to show you an overview of the disk. Navigate to the Library folder and click on the identification areas to drill down and see which files are consuming disk space. You have the option to scan the disk as an administrator to reveal hidden files, space taken up by local snapshots, and purgeable space details.


scan library folder with daisydisk

Clean up other storage on Mac

Once you know which folders are taking up disk space and contributing significantly to the Other Storage category, it’s time to delete them.

Delete email attachments

For the Apple Mail app, navigate to “~/Library/Mail” and check the folder size. If attachments are a recurring problem, check out our guide on sending large files as attachments. In Microsoft Outlook, the attachments folder is located deep in “Group Containers/Office/Outlook/Outlook Profile/Main Profile/Data/Attachment” folder

Delete messages

Inspect the “~/Library/Messages/chat.db” file. They are always large because they keep the entire message history. The attachments folder stores the photos and videos you’ve exchanged in Messages. The archive folder stores messages that you have saved or closed.

Delete Electron apps

Many popular desktop apps like Slack, Discord, Zoom, Microsoft Team, Streamlabs, etc. use the electronic framework. The applications are large because they use the entire Chromium base plus the NodeJS runtime. For Discord, navigate to “~/Library/Application Support/discord/Cache”. If you installed an electronic application from the App Store, browse to the “~/Library/Container” folder.


cache storage space occupied by the Slack app

In addition to these locations, read our guide on folders you can safely delete to save disk space. In our experience, you will save a significant amount of disk space, and this will also be reflected in the Other Storage category. However, you must remember that Apple keeps some folders hidden for many reasons. If you mess with these directories, it could lead to an unstable system, data loss, or worse, it could prevent your Mac from booting.

It includes items in the “/private/var” folder, language files, items in the Application Support folder, mobile documents, containers, and hidden folders in the Home folder. To learn more, read our guide to macOS folders you should never touch and why.

Add more storage to your Mac

The Other Storage category is indeed a confusing label. It takes time and some knowledge of the Library folder to understand where your disk space is actually being used. Using this article as a guide, you will know how to review and manage Other Storage.

If you bought a Mac with less storage, you’ll need to spend more time cleaning up files and folders in the Other category. You can ease the pain by following our guide on options for adding more storage to your Mac.


Various storage options for MacBook
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Steven L. Nielsen