Cleaning up my Mac drive
Fri, 25 Jan 2019 21:43:15 +0000

We accumulate lots of crap in our hard drives. Even more than in our homes, because the "crap" is not usually visible, so we keep storing and storing. Space is not much of a problem... or is it?

It turns out it is a problem for me. Every now and then I get warnings that I'm running out of space and I have to do some clean up. But because I only do this every so often, I always end up spending some time Googling about mysterious big system files, to check whether or not it is OK to delete these.

So I thought I could write a small guide for myself that I can come back to next year. Some parts of it may be useful to others, but some are dev-oriented.

But first, how much space do we have left? You can right-click on the hard-disk icon in any Finder window and click Get Info,

Or from the console, just type,

    df -h

    Filesystem      Size   Used  Avail Capacity	Mounted on
    /dev/disk1s1   234Gi  223Gi  6.7Gi    98%    /

Then, if you have no idea where to start, use a tool like GrandPerspective to get a visual overview of the biggest offenders. Here's my hard drive right now,

Big blocks are big files. You can hover over the blocks to find their location in disk. The blocks are also grouped. So you can see all the big blocks on the top left belong to the same folder. To see more details, I just go to that folder in the terminal and type du -h. In this case, that folder is the iOS DeviceSupport folder and is taking 42GB.

So let me start my check list of usual suspects.


  • ~/Library/Developer/Xcode/iOS\ DeviceSupport. This folder contains device symbols for debugging iOS apps. It gets huge quite fast (I had 42GB today!). I usually delete symbols for devices I don't support anymore. You can read about it here in this Stackoverflow answer
  • ~/.android. Similarly, you may find caches and devices here if you are also doing Android development. Since I only develop for Android from time to time, I usually delete the whole folder when I don't need it.
  • ~/Library/Caches/ It's also safe to delete this file, but I usually leave it there, because I'm scared Xcode will become slower or something.
  • ~/Library/Developer/CoreSimulator/Devices. These are the iOS simulators for Xcode. This also gets big (I had 18GB today). You can delete the ones you don't need, but then it may take you some time to restore them when you need them. The safe way to delete these is using simctl. Read this answer in Stackoverflow.
  • ~/Library/Developer/Xcode/Archives. These are the archives of the apps you have published in the App Store. You probably don't want to delete these, but you could move the old ones to an external drive.


  • Photos. If you use the Photos app, by default it stores your pictures in the Photos Library file inside your ~/Pictures folder. But you can move the file to an external drive, and open that file from the external hard disk.
  • Movies. Same as above. If you use iMovie, you can keep your iMovie Library file in an external hard disk.
  • Music. At the moment, I keep all my music in my laptop hard disk, because I listen to them often. I guess the best option would be to clean up from time to time and move albums to an external disk? Haven't put much thought into this. If you haven't started accumulating mp3, I guess I would recommend just to use Spotify or any other streaming service.
  • iPhone backups. This is a bit tricky for a normal user. These backs take lot of space. You can delete the older ones from iTunes → Preferences → Devices. The location where these backups are stored can't be changed, but you can create a symbolic link to an external disc. Move the ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/Backup folder to an external drive, and type ln -s /Volumes/YourExternal/Backup ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/ from a terminal window.

A bit of Marie Kondo

While we are at it, we could do some "marikondoning" on our drive. Is that 300MB PDF from 2001 still useful? Do you really want to move it to an external drive? Wouldn't it be better to just delete it completely and reduce entropy? Are you ever gonna come back to it? Have you EVER read it? Do you smile when opening that file? Burn it if not!

There are a quatrillion million small files that won't catch our attention in GrandPerspective because they are small. But they clutter our disk. It takes too much time to sort them once it's become like this. So you could move all the crap to a folder called "unsorted", for instance. That's what I do with the things in my Desktop, to keep it always tidy. Then, just rely on Spotlight to search and find them. But for important things, make sure to keep them tidy in folders with relevant names (e.g. Documents/bills).

And that's my 5-cents! I hope it's useful for others as well.

Happy 2019!


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