What Is Other in Mac Storage And How to Clean It Up

Safely remove unwanted files from Other Storage on your Mac

Between photos, videos, documents, and everything else, even the biggest Mac hard drives tend to fill up deceptively fast. You can shuffle some things off to iCloud, but what about the cryptic Other Storage and "other volumes in container" categories? Here's what Other storage is on Mac and how to clean it up.

What Is Other in Mac Storage?

Your Mac conveniently categorizes files into a number of broad containers, including Apps, Photos, Movies, Audio, and Backups. These categories are easy to understand. For example, files included in the Photos section are clearly photo files like JPEGs and PNGs, and your iTunes library probably takes up the lion's share of the Audio category.

A Mac with a lot of space taken up by Other storage.
mediaphotos / E+ / Getty 

By including the Other category, Apple is able to simplify their storage report and make everything look nice and neat. The issue is the Other category, also referred to as "other volumes in container" depending on your version of macOS, literally contains every file type that doesn't fall into any of the other categories.

Some of the most common files included in the Other section include:

  • Documents: Word processor documents, proprietary image files like .psd, Adobe Acrobat files, and various other documents all fit into the Other category. Some of these, like proprietary image files, can take up a lot of space.
  • System and temporary files: All of your macOS system files are lumped into this category, along with temporary files that are created by the system or downloaded and used in system updates. Starting with Catalina, most of these files are grouped into the self-explanatory System category.
  • Cache files: When an app like a web browser, or macOS itself, creates a cache file, it gets grouped into the Other category.
  • Archives: If a file or set of files are archived, like .zip and .dmg files, they are grouped in this category. Removing the files from the archive will cause them to show up in the appropriate categories.
  • App plugins: If you download and install a plugin or extension for an app, like a browser plugin, it will be grouped into this category instead of the Apps category.
  • And everything else doesn't fit neatly into the other five categories.

How to Clean Up Other Storage on a Mac

Now that you know the sorts of files that get lumped into the Other category in your Mac storage, it should be clear cleaning up that space isn't as simple as flipping a switch. You can target individual file types though, with special attention paid to large and unneeded files, to free a lot of space.

Here's how to free up some space on your Mac by deleting from the Other category:

  1. Close any open windows, and return to your desktop.

  2. Press Command + F.

    A screenshot of a macOS search.
  3. Click This Mac if it isn't already selected.

    A screenshot of a Finder search on macOS.
  4. Click the first dropdown menu field and select Other.

    A screenshot of a Finder search settings on macOS.
  5. From the Search Attributes window, select File Size and File Extension.

    A screenshot of a Finder search attributes on macOS.
  6. Enter a document type like .pdf, .csv, .pages, etc. You can also search for disk images and archives, like .dmg and .zip.

    A screenshot of a Finder search window on macOS.
  7. Examine the list of items.

    A file search on macOS.
  8. Delete any items you no longer need, or back up items you don't expect to need in the near future.

  9. You can also search for files that are larger than a specified size to identify candidates for deletion.

    A screenshot of a Finder file size search on macOS.

    Press the + button on the right side of the window to add another search condition, allowing you to search by file type and size at the same time.

  10. Continue this process for various file types until you have freed a satisfactory amount of space.

How to Clear Cache Files on a Mac

Cache files can take up a large chunk of your Other category, and they won't show up when you search for old and unwanted files as you learned to do in the previous section. To clear out cache files, you need to navigate to the location where they are stored and delete them.

Cache files are created all the time during the normal operation of macOS. As soon as you delete your cache files, you'll immediately see new ones start to populate the once-empty space.

  1. Open Finder.

    A screenshot of a Finder window on Mac.
  2. Navigate to Go > Go To Folder.

    A screenshot of opening the go to folder option on a Mac.
  3. Type ~/Library/Caches, and click Go.

    A screenshot of the go to folder function on macOS.
  4. To prevent any possible issues, drag the Caches folder to your desktop temporarily before deleting anything. If you experience problems, you can simply drag it back and delete one thing at a time.

    A screenshot of deleting cache files on a Mac.
  5. Select everything in the Caches folder, and move it to the Trash.

    A screenshot of deleting cache files on a Mac.
  6. All the items from your cache file will be moved into the trash and you can close the file.

    A screenshot of cache files repopulating on a Mac.

Removing App Extensions on a Mac

Most of the space occupied by the Other category is taken up by uncategorized files and cache files, which you have already learned to clean up. If you want to squeeze out a little more space, consider removing any application extensions which you no longer use.

You can free up a lot more space by uninstalling old apps you no longer use, but app data is appropriately held in the Apps category. Extensions and plug-ins, however, are small additions that are lumped into Other as they aren't full apps.

If you use Safari, you can view and remove any Safari plugins you no longer need to free up some space. Other apps that use extensions and plug-ins have similar processes to allow you to remove the add-ons without removing the base app. For example, Chrome users can navigate to More > More tools > Extensions, click on an extension, and click Remove.

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