Over the last year or so the startup disk on my main Pro Tools Mac Pro has had around 30GB of free space available on a 500GB SSD, not great but not the end of the world either. The other morning though my Mac suddenly informed me that my startup disk was almost full. I couldn't get on with any work until this was sorted, it was time to clear out my digital cupboard.
I only use my Mac Startup disk Mac OS and applications such as Pro Tools, plug-ins, Adobe Products, Final Cut X etc... where had all my hard drive space gone? Surely my applications didn't take up 500GB of hard drive space?
I had little choice, I had to fix this so I blocked out the rest of my day to be a digital detective only to discover that my main startup disk was in quite a state. After a few hours work, I managed to locate and trash over 200GB of files and apps. In this article, I share how I did this to help those who may also be in a similar low Mac Startup disk space situation.
CleanMyMac is a third party utility Mac application that automatically locates and safely trashes system junk, cache files & other useless sludge that gets nestled deep within hard drives - It is by far the best £35 I've ever spent on my Mac!
I've used the previous version, CleanMyMac 2, for a few years so I didn't hesitate to update to the latest version.
- Smart Cleanup: A one-click solution that quickly frees up hard drive space
- System Junk: Gets rid of broken items or leftover files and removes unused app binaries
- Photo/Mail/iTunes Junk removal
- Large & Old Files: Searches Mac for files such as .zips, movies and folders that are of significant size. Users have the choice to trash files or not
- Uninstaller: Removes applications and all related files to those apps without breaking the Mac OS
- Maintenance: Verifies disk, repairs disk permissions, reindexes Spotlight, Flushes DNS
- App Extensions: Enable/Disable extensions or remove altogether.
Running CeanMyMac 3
Before I ran any of the CleanMyMac processes I thought it would be a smart idea to aim to trash more than 30GB of space so that I wouldn't run into this problem again in the near future. I set the bar high and aimed at clearing at least half of my startup disk.
The Smart Cleanup section does a lot of the hard work here, it scans the hard drive then presents us with a combined figure of space that the application believes is useless system junk and trash items. This features quickly gave me back around 30GB, but I wasn't going to dash and run this time... I wanted to hit my target of at least 50% free space.
Uninstall Unused Applications
I rarely look in my Mac Application folder because my "go to" apps, such as Pro Tools, Final Cut, sit in my Dock. Under the Uninstaller section of CleanMyMac I was presented with all the apps currently installed on my system along with each app's file size and full file & folder directory. I was surprised to see so many applications, some were large apps, such as Logic Pro X, but many were some applications (sub 100MB) that I had only used once or twice.
In the pursuit of clearing out as much space as possible I didn't hold back. if I had not used an app for longer than a year I trashed it, if there was a duplicate (such as CleanMyMac version 2 or Pro Tools 12.4) I trashed it. I even went as far as trashing Garage Band and Microsoft Office as I don't use Garage Band and I have migrated across the Apple's own word processing app Pages. After the applications clear out I managed to double my available free space from 30GB to 60GB, but there was more file flab deep within my drive...
Removing Unused AU and VST Plug-ins
When I install new third party audio plug-ins I generally untick the AU and VST tabs because I don't use these formats in my workflow - I'm a Pro Tools AAX plug-in user, however, the option to not install VST or AU components isn't always available. Within the Extensions utility of CleanMyMac you'll find an Audio Plug-ins section that displays all VST and AU plug-ins on a system. I trashed nearly 600 unused AU and VST plug-ins off my system with the help of this section that returned me nearly 15GB of space - I know I was surprised as well! So far then I had managed to clear 75GB of space... but I knew there was more hidden away somewhere.
Clear Downloads Folder
I don't have very good disciplines when it comes to managing my Downloads folder. I download files or applications and often forget that a 20GB .zip file of a sample library is sitting at the bottom of a long list of other small downloads. The day I was clearing out my startup disk my Downloads folder was fairly empty so I didn't hesitate to trash whatever else was in it.
Large & Old Files
CleanMyMac 3 Large And Old Files section showed me a number of large videos that I knew I had elsewhere on backup drives. This helped me to slim down the size of my Documents folder, but not by much (5GB max) but I knew there was a folder or two that I had not discovered yet that were harbouring some massive files. I dug around the Users directory and looked under the Shared folder only to find many sample libraries that I believed were installed on my dedicated Sample Drive. I moved over 120GB of random Native Instrument Kontakt libraries from my Startup disk to my Sample Drive and trashed the instruments folders off my startup disk... Finally, I had over 200GB of free space.
Moral Of The Story
Ignorance is bliss when it comes to Startup disk file management... then, one day out of blue, your day is held hostage and you've got no choice but to spend several hours reorganising what is fundamentally the most important component of a computer - The Startup disk.
Avoidance is better than cure, I was lucky I didn't have a client in the studio that day.