Maintaining sufficient disk free space is a long-running challenge that became more difficult when SSDs—typically possessing smaller storage allocations—arrived. Fortunately, storage management tools ease the strain.
Apple's recently released macOS Sierra operating system includes new storage optimization features that simplify managing and freeing disk space. You can access these file management and storage tools by clicking the menu bar's Apple icon, selecting About This Mac, and clicking the Storage tab to access the Manage button. The Manage button opens the new disk management utilities (Figure A).
macOS Sierra includes disk management features to help Mac users administer file storage and free space.
macOS Sierra provides recommendations, which include storing all Desktop and Documents folders in iCloud. Clicking the Store In iCloud button prompts the operating system to store files from those locations in iCloud and keep only recently opened files on the local disk, when storage space is required. Those preferences can be modified within System Preferences, should users change their mind.
Clicking the Optimize button within the Optimize Storage section prompts the system to remove previously viewed iTunes movies and television programs and retain only recently received email attachments. A resulting pop-up window provides checkboxes for specifying whether iTunes movies and television shows should be removed and whether new email attachments should be automatically downloaded.
Within the Empty Trash Automatically section, users can opt to enable automatically deleting files located in the Trash that are more than 30 days old. Simply clicking the Turn On button enables the feature (although you'll still be prompted to confirm once more that you wish to activate the feature).
Apple also includes a Reduce Clutter option, which is triggered by clicking the Review Files button. The review option prompts the system to display large files the system believes are no longer required. On my MacBook Air, the review action identified a surprising number of files—28.69 GB in total—that could be removed. Collected within the recommendations were old virtual disk files, unneeded .dmg install files, and even an application I thought I'd already deleted and removed.
Users can review categories other than the Recommendations that initially display when the About This Mac's Storage tab's Manage button is clicked. Clicking Application within the left pane prompts the system to display installed applications in the right pane, from which programs can be highlighted and removed. The same is true for the Documents entry in the left pane, but instead of removing documents, applications, migrated photo libraries, and other unnecessary files appear.
A GarageBand entry is in the left pane. The tool displays how much disk space the program, instruments, and lessons are consuming on the disk.
The iCloud Drive left-pane option enables turning automatic Desktop and Documents folder files in iCloud, as described earlier, while the Mail option permits downloading only recent attachments. Photos and Trash enable administering files stored within those two elements.
All in all, macOS Sierra is making it easier for users to administer files, automatically move space-consuming files to iCloud, and maintain adequate free space on Macs. The days of requiring third-party disk management utilities to perform these tasks may well be approaching their end.
- First impressions of working with macOS Sierra (TechRepublic)
- How to create a bootable USB installer for macOS Sierra (TechRepublic)
- WWDC 2016: Will your Apple device run macOS Sierra or iOS 10? (TechRepublic)
- The good and bad of Apple macOS Sierra (ZDNet)
- Storage management software: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.