Tools for purging

My son has asked for help purging his very full five year old 1TB MacBook Pro - which has now slowed right down. He got one of the last models with a slot cd. He’s musician, video maker and cartoonist with a zillion files!

Would freeing up some space speed up performance?

What tools, preferably on the inexpensive side, would help us identify, sort and toss no longer wanted files?

What about external storage solutions? What are good options where files can be offloaded and not take up hard drive space?


DaisyDisk for identifying usage.


macOS likes to keep a couple of Gigs free to operate so if he gets close to filling it all up macOS not only gets slow, it crashes.

On the cheap; you can use Finder to look at folder info how much space they take and tear into the big ones recursively. On a hunch; I’d say look at the video, music and picture folders first. But Finder/info is not nearly as easy as using e.g. DaisyDisk (paid for app) which gives a quick insight where your best opportunities might be to free up some space.

There are some automated tools that clean out logs and more but I don’t like the idea of not knowing what goes out with the trash…

Looking for duplicates might help. Gemini is useful for that task.

His work (music, video, cartoonist) can result in projects with lots of files, and when the project is over he might not need all. So, archiving off to B2 using Arc might be an option. Storage in B2 is cheap, retrieval can be costly at times.


I think traditionally feathers were used for purging :slight_smile:

For off-loading, I like the SanDisk Extreme SSD. They are fast, reasonably priced, and can be slipped into a pocket when on the go. I have three of the 1T models, and have no complaints.

For finding waste the following work for me:

  • You can set up smart folders in Finder for files over or within some size range. These folders are accessible in Finder’s sidebar, os they’re always handy.
  • CleanMyMac works well, and can find things like giant iOS backups that are lying around. It can also purge cache files (I don’t bother), and find files based on size, time last opened, etc. It also does a good job of cleaning up when an application is deleted.
  • DaisyDisk, as others have stated
  • Gemini is okay. I have large files that must go in pairs, so it’s not as useful to me.
  • BeyondCompare is good for comparing folders, for instance if your son is obsessive about making backup copies, as I am. It also can compare files.
  • Finally, Apple’s own storage manager can be useful.
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Good answers above. I’ll add that you didn’t note how full the drive was. macOS historically has tended to perform best when drives have at least 20% free space.

Also, you don’t note how much RAM he has and how much is used. When RAM hits its limit it’s cached to the hard drive to act as virtual RAM, but the read/write times can dramatically slow down performance as well. You can see how much memory is being used and the size of your cached and swap files by checking the Memory tab of the Activity Monitor app. Right now for exmaple my iMac with 40Gb RAM (which hasn’t been turned off in 23 days - I need to do a restart to clean up some cruft) is just now maxing out its RAM (I’ve got 53 tabs open in Brave right now, in 3 windows) and my system is just beginning to be a bit slow for me…

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An oldie but a goodie from the OmniGroup:

Sounds like it probably has a HDD rather than an SSD (the 2012 MBP they produced into 2016). HDD performance drops precipitously when it gets nearly full because of disk fragmentation. The fragmentation doesn’t hurt an SSD. Also if he is using Mojave or High Sierra with APFS enabled, APFS is really designed for SSDs and does a bad job with HDDs.

Adding an external SSD would probably solve the performance problem, as would replacing the HDD with a SSD. If you can just archive off a bunch of files, frankly the easiest thing to do is to buy an external HDD and clone the system drive. Put the clone away somewhere – you can always read off of that.

If cost is an issue, for external storage of stuff that doesn’t need to be constantly accessed I use the plain old spinning disks.

A 1 TB SSD will set you back $170 or so, whereas you can get a spinning disk with double that capacity in the $60 range. :slight_smile: A 2 TB WD Passport would hold everything on his hard drive and probably serve him for several years of project archiving in the future.