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Have you ever wondered where the disk space of your Mac hard drive has gone? There’s little reason to wonder, as Mac OS X has a really simple disk usage summary utility that shows you exactly where the disk capacity is being used, conveniently sorted into different file types.
Looking at the storage overview panel is a useful way to determine if a Mac is running out of disk space, to find out what file type is taking up the space, and to give you an idea of what how to free up space, and the panel can also be useful in determining whether an updated hard drive is a worthwhile investment for the Mac.
This tutorial describes how to view a summary of disk usage and storage on a Mac.
Access the Mac disk usage report
If you want to check a Mac’s disk space and usage, this is one of the easiest ways to do that:
- From anywhere in Mac OS, choose the Apple menu item and select ‘About This Mac’
- In the general ‘About This Mac’ window, click on the ‘Storage’ tab (or if you are using an earlier Mac OS X version, click on ‘More Information’ button)
- See the “Storage” tab for the disk storage overview and the capacity overview
The storage overview looks like this, with the disk space used on a Mac and the available disk space:
This will also quickly show what type of hard drive is included in the Mac, be it a traditional hard drive, a “Flash Storage” drive (SSD) or a Fusion Drive.
If this screen looks familiar, it could be because the usage summary for Mac OS X is very similar to viewing the usage summary in iTunes for a connected iOS device, which also breaks down details about space usage.
Understand the summary of Mac OS X storage
The usage summary shows the freely available disk space such as the Finder status bar, but also shows the total storage capacity of the disk and six general data categories in an easy-to-scan graph:
- Audio – all music and audio files stored on the Mac, including the iTunes Song and Music libraries
- Movies – all movie files whether created by user with iMovie or downloaded from iTunes or elsewhere on the web
- photos – all image documents stored locally, including user-imported photos from an iPhone or Camera, screenshots or digitally created image files from Photoshop and Pixelmator
- Apps – all applications and executables, including / Applications folder and all other .app files stored on Mac
- Backups – all locally stored Time Machine or iPhone backup files (this is often zero KB if you use the feature from)
- Others – any other document and file type on the Mac, including archives, zip files, docs, txt, pdf, dmg and other images like iso, saved messages, literally everything else, similar to “Other” in iOS
- (Free space) – the last item in the graph that is transparent, this is the free available space shown in relation to used capacity
In the above screenshot example, the “Photos” section creates up the vast majority of the disk space, which is quite common for users who take a lot of photos and take them from an iPhone or other camera.
While the storage overview panel provides a handy overview of where disk usage and capacity is consumed on each Mac, it is not a useful screen for users to clean up up their drives or file system. Instead, take the time to get out up disk space manually as described here by performing a variety of tasks, including emptying the download folders, backing upup up data to external drives with Time Machine or cloud backups, or by using tools such as OmniDiskSweeper to locate large files and data fields and thus free up disk space.
If you’re experiencing constant space issues, upgrading a primary hard drive can be worthwhile. At the very least, getting a large external drive to put up Mac backups and secondary storage is a good overall maintenance policy, but it can also help ease the load on a primary drive from less-used files and delete data.
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