Is the startup disk on your MacBook full?

MacBooks are beautiful laptops, and in my opinion, they are best in class. When comparing to PC laptops, entry-level Macs do not look too expensive because Apple provides tiny disks.

When I bought my 2014 MacBook Air, I thought that 128GB would be more than enough. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. 

Over time the disk space on any computer gets filled with apps, photos, videos, Word documents, etc. Also, apps tend to create temporary files, called cache, to speed up the app performance.

However, not all apps are created equal. Very often, I see some apps creating files and forgetting to delete them when they are not needed anymore.

As a result, you may see dreaded "Startup disk full" message on your Mac when you need to install another app or copy photos. As you understand, if there is a problem, then someone might have invented a solution. When it comes to disk space shortage, there are three possible solutions (ranked from hardest to easiest):

  • DIY method
  • Purchase commercial disk cleaning software
  • Buy extra storage

DIY method

This method is for those who have some technical skills, and as such, it's the hardest to implement the solution. The trick is to know how to find the files that can be safely deleted on your MacBook.

For instance, emptying Trash and Downloads folders is a low hanging fruit. On the other hand, finding a browser or system cache files is not an easy task. If you need detailed directions on discovering hidden places on your Mac, check my post "How Do I Free Up Disk Space On My Mac Without Software".

Warning: Be very careful with the DIY approach. You may delete the files that you think are not needed, but you never know if some apps using them. Again, this method is for people with technical skills.

Commercial disk cleaning software

Everything I outlined in my post can be done by using specialized software. Some companies claim they can monitor your computer and continuously remove unnecessary files. I reviewed CleanMyMac X and CCleaner apps in my post "What To Do If MacBook Pro Is Running Very Slow And Freezing".

While I can't recommend CCleaner, because some antivirus programs detected CCleaner as malware, the other app CleanMyMac is pretty good.

The advantage of using CleanMyMac over the DIY method is that you don't need to make decisions on which data can be removed or not. 

Buying extra storage

Having a program that continually monitors and cleans the storage is good. One more problem is gone, so you can focus on your work instead of sweating over the technical stuff.

However, there is a caveat. I can't recall how many times I delete a document and a week, or even a month later, I needed to recover it from Trash.

Now, imagine if you had an app like CleanMyMac deleting the documents permanently. Once the file is removed from Trash it's gone forever!

Luckily, there is a much easier solution.

There are two approaches to disk space shortage: reduce usage or increase the space. The first two solutions I described were intended to clean junk.

The cleaning approach has its limits, however. If I have 128GB on my Mac, and I objectively need more space, then I am faced with a dilemma: I have to delete something that I don't need at the moment, but may need later. 

But what if I didn't have to make such a decision? In my opinion, if I had a chance to increase the storage, it's a no-brainer solution. I can buy an external disk to store some files.

But, then I have to carry around the external disk and cables every time I drive to the office. It's too much hassle. I need something that is always on my MacBook. New MacBooks do not allow extending storage, but old ones can. 

For instance, there is an upgrade service provided by The Mac Support Store. If you have MacBook Air 13" 2010-2017, MacBook Pro 13" 2009-2015, MacBook Pro 15" 2009-2015, then you purchase AirSpace SD Card and immediately increase the storage by 64GB. 

Final thoughts

We reviewed three possible solutions to solve the full disk problem on MacBooks. The free DIY solution is the hardest one, and it requires understanding the macOS and file structure. If you are technically savvy and understand the risks involved, then it's the best approach.

Commercial disk cleaning software is a better approach for non-technical folks. However, this method has its limitations. After all, once all junk is gone and you still need more space, there is nothing you can do.

Unless you buy extra storage, adding a 64GB SD card will momentarily increase available disk space by 50% on MacBooks with 128GB disk.

About the author:

Al Abdukadirov – is a founder of You can reach him

at email:


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