Keep your hard drive clean. How not be a digital pack rat.

We are digital pack rats (American slang for someone who hoarders) we never like to throw anything away. The problem is that that a computer needs to have free space to work properly. So how much free space dose my Mac need? How to keep your hard drive clean.

The quick answer is about 20% free space.

Think about this If you had a work bench and filled it with tools it would be hard to get any work done. Where as if you have a table that had free space you could get to work right away.

A hard drive should have about 20% free space or more to work correctly.

So how do you Keep your hard drive clean?

Back to the whole digital pack rat .. We never throw anything away. Over time this will be a problem so how do you keep that very important free space?

Back up your computer

Yes I just said to back up your Macbook. The whole point of this is to make sure that you have a backup before you start cleaning your computer. If something goes wrong and you delete the wrong information you can always restore it from be the back up.

For many people they never clean out their computer hard drive because they are worried that they are going to throw away something that is important. The problem is while that is true does it really need to be on the Mac? Important documents should be backed up to an external hard drive or usb stick then put in a safe place. (I have a fire proof safe)

Delete Project files when you are done

If you are working with any kind of creative software the project files are often much larger than the finished project. iMovie, Motion, Final Cut Pro, Garage band and Logic are notorious for having massive project files.

I just had a customer who is a big fan of iMovie. The problem is that they had 5 years of raw movie data on their computer and it used up all their space. (Almost 300 gigs of data) While this is important most of the videos they have already uploaded to YouTube and Facebook.

Ask yourself .. Am I still working on this project? Do I need to keep it? Can I move this project to an external drive for safe keeping?

Make an Archive Drive

An archive drive is just a fancy term for a hard drive where you keep stuff that you no longer need but might need. I do this with emails and old documents as well as photos.

Ask your self this?

  • Do I need to keep this data for legal reasons?
  • When was the last time I accessed the data?
  • Do I think I am going to need this data again?

Remove Bad photos and Movies

You will be amazed how much bad photos and movies fills up our phones and photos libraries And they all take up space. Now and then I go through my photos and remove any bad photos, screen shots as well as those moments when I hit record video instead of taking a photo. While you think this does not take up a lot of space it does.

Delete it

This is the hardest part. Looking at data and deciding if you need to keep it or not. The biggest problem with this is that you can not hire a tech to make that decision for you. Going through someone else’s hard drive is like going through their garage and trying to figure out if something is important.

Downloads folder

This folder will often be filled with data you no longer need. It is a good idea to find any of the data is in this folder and file it away where it belongs. Even if that is the trash.

Old backups

If you back up your phone to the Mac there is a good chance you have old backups for a iPhone that you recycled years ago. Do you really need to keep that?

Email Trash

While it is true that email does not take up as much space as it used to there is a good chance if you are like me you have 15 years of emails that you will never read again. If you are using programs like Thunderbird, email or MS Outlook it would be a good idea to find and delete old emails you no longer need.

Empty the trash

Now and then remove the trash in the bin. While it will not get stinky like the trash in the kitchen (Reminder to self take out trash when I get home) It however still takes up space until you actually tell the computer to empty the trash.

Old Software you no longer use

Now and then I go through the apps on my computer and see if there is anything I no longer use. While I do not recommend just deleting any software that you do not recognize or use (some are important to the operations of the computer) I do recommend that if you downloaded a free trial of software or a game and do not use it …delete it.

General rule is that if you remember downloading it is safe to delete it … but when it doubt it is OK if you do not remove it .


While software seems like a good idea to free up space. Most of the time its not all that effective and will continue to send you notifications to “upgrade’ and make your MacBook pro more efficient while using up important resources doing so.

Most of the software of this category is so bad it does more harm than good. When I am performing a Mac Tune up for a customer I will often remove software like this to improve performance.

Some of the software that claims to free space will often be malware in disguise. And difficult to remove.

  • Not worth the money you paid
  • Does not remove the data that is actually taking up space
  • Will slow down your computer
  • Continuous harassment to upgrade
  • Common malware for Macs

What is be best way to Keep your hard drive clean

The cup of tea Rule

As adults we like to work on something until it is done. The problem with going through twenty thousand photos to remove photos you do not need is that it will take a long time. Often longer than we have time to spend. We can also get bored of the task and then say @#$%@ it !! I’m watching Netflix.

The cup of tea rule is a way to keep from getting overwhelmed with a large task.

  1. Decide on what task you would like to do.
  2. Pour yourself a cup of tea
  3. Work on the task as long as you have tea in your cup
  4. When you are out of tea you are done for the day.
  5. Come back tomorrow and start again

When should you get a tech to help free up space on your Mac

There are a few things that you can do. While I am not able to see what you think is important or not. What I can do is clean up the areas that you are not aware that exists. Old iPhone backups, Caches , Download folders. etc.

I can also teach you how to be more efficient with your Mac. Show you how you can keep control of that urge to save everything. At the same time make it so you can find everything you need when you need it.

Maybe you need to upgrade

Sometimes you just need to upgrade you Mac computer. You can always give me a call. We can talk about how you use your computer and if you need to upgrade.

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