Mac users often encounter the “Your startup disk is almost full” message, which can be frustrating especially when the disk space is not updating after deleting files.
Before we proceed with giving you possible fixes to your “disk space not freed up after deleting files” problem, let us start with the basics.
What Is a Startup Disk?
The startup disk is simply the hard drive that contains all your important system files, as well as your operating system. This makes it the most important disk in your Mac. So, when you encounter any error message related to the startup drive, it only means that your primary disk drive is running out of space and that is one bad news.
At first, your Mac will start to perform slowly. No matter how many times you delete junk and unwanted files with a Mac repair tool, your system will still respond slowly. Eventually, you will run out of storage space entirely.
Pro Tip: Scan your Mac for performance issues, junk files, harmful apps, and security threats
that can cause system issues or slow performance.
For your startup disk to perform efficiently, it requires at least 10% of the disk space to be free. If there is not much storage space, you are definitely headed for bigger problems.
But what if you have deleted tons of files on your startup disk but it is not freeing up space? What should you do?
What to Do If You Have Deleted Files but the Disk Space Still Shows as Full?
If you have deleted the files from your disk but it still shows as full, there are two solutions to try: optimize your Mac and create a backup.
Optimize Your Mac
The first thing you should do is to ensure you have optimized or freed up the storage space on your Mac the right way. Don’t worry because there are new tools and technologies that are designed to make it easier for you to find and remove unwanted or large files.
To begin with, go to the Apple menu and select About This Mac. From there, click Storage. You should then see an overview of your disk’s free space and the total space consumed by other file categories, such as documents, photos, and apps.
Next, click the Manage button to see recommendations on how to optimize your storage space. The general recommendations include the following:
1. Store in iCloud.
If you click the Store in iCloud button, you will be presented with the following options:
- Desktop and Documents. This allows you to store files from the Desktop and Documents locations on the iCloud drive. When storage space is limited, only the files that you have recently accessed are kept on your Mac. This way, you can work easily while offline.
- Photos. This option allows you to store full-resolution media in the iCloud Photos location. If you have limited storage space, only the optimized versions of photos and videos are made accessible to your Mac.
- Messages. This allows you to store attachments and messages in the iCloud Messages location. When there is a shortage of storage space, only the attachments and messages that you have recently opened are saved on your Mac.
Storing files in your iCloud will use up the storage space you have available in your iCloud storage plan. As soon as you exceed your storage limit, you will need to purchase more iCloud storage space or manually delete unnecessary files. An iCloud storage plan starts at $0.99 per month. It already comes with 50GB of storage space.
2. Optimize Your Storage Space.
This recommendation suggests that you optimize your storage space. If you click on the Optimize button, you can access the following options:
- Automatically Remove Watched iTunes Movies and TV Shows. This option removes the iTunes TV shows and movies you have already watched on your Mac.
- Download Only Recent Attachments. By default, your Mail app automatically downloads the attachments that you receive. But with this option, you can choose to manually download the attachments at any time convenient for you.
- Don’t Automatically Download Attachments. This option allows you to download an attachment only if you open the email or the attachment itself.
3. Empty Your Trash Automatically.
Emptying your trash automatically will permanently delete the files that have been in the Trash for a month.
Create a Backup
If you have optimized your Mac but the issue persists, the next solution you can try is to check if Time Machine is enabled on your computer.
To check if Time Machine is enabled, go to System Preferences and select Time Machine. If it is enabled, get your backup drive, connect it to your computer, and make a backup. The reason you have to do this is that your operating system is probably making local snapshots and they are all waiting to be backed up before they can be completely deleted from your computer.
As soon as you have created a backup, restart your Mac and check if it has freed up the disk space.
Other Ways to Clear the Startup Disk
Whether you like it or not, your Mac will create junk every time you use it. But you should not hate it for doing that. Your Mac is only doing its job. Like other operating systems, your Mac will create caches and temporary files for it to perform efficiently. As soon as these files have done their part, they will only consume space for no reason.
Here’s good news, though. You can remove all these futile files and free up gigabytes of space. How? Try these tips:
1. Delete iTunes Backups.
Sure, you love iTunes. But it loves to create backups. Every time you update the app, it will generate a backup of your entire library. This means that with every update, a new one is created. Soon thereafter, you will have loads of them, which you don’t really need.
To delete the unnecessary iTunes backups, follow these steps:
- Go to Finder -> Go -> Go to Folder.
- Into the text field, input ~/Music/iTunes/Previous iTunes Libraries.
- Sort the files by date.
- Erase all the files, except for the two most recent backups.
2. Delete Browser Cache.
Every time you visit a new web page, your browser will generate caches. By doing so, the web page will load faster the next time you visit it. Although it only wants to make things faster for you, your browser folder will consume space over time, creating a bigger problem.
So, you have to make deleting browser cache a priority. Here’s how:
- Launch your browser.
- Navigate to the History tab and click Clear Browsing Data.
- Select all the files you wish to remove.
- Hit the Clear Browsing Data button.
3. Remove Language Packs.
Most of the apps you have downloaded to your Mac come with language packs, which allow you to change the language preferences in-app. While it’s a useful option to have, let’s admit it: we only need one language. The rest is only a waste of space.
To delete language packs, here’s what you should do:
- Go to Applications.
- Right-click on an app.
- Choose Show Package Contents.
- Select Contents -> Resources.
- Delete the languages you don’t need.
- Repeat steps 1 to 5 for other apps.
The next time you find yourself in a situation wherein the Disk Space is not updating, even after deleting files, the first thing you should do is to optimize your Mac. If the problem still persists, try to create a backup. Hopefully, either of the two solutions can resolve your issue. To avoid having Disk Space problems in the future, make it a habit to clear your startup disk regularly.
Which of the solutions above worked for you? Let us know in the comments!