Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems
Q I have a MacBook that never seems to have enough storage left. It's not very old as I bought it around Christmas 2015. I thought I would have enough storage with 128GB because I don't watch movies on it or anything, but it now tells me I can't download anything else or even update my MacBook because I've too little storage left. I've tried deleting things but it doesn't seem to make any difference. I'm close to just wiping the whole thing and starting again with it, but I don't want to as there are still some files on it I'm not confident of transferring to another storage device in case I mess it up. Can you help?
A. I hope so. About a year ago I had a very similar problem with a three-year-old MacBook Pro, also with 128GB of storage. I had used it mainly for photo and video editing, but also for things like work presentations and normal work email. So it filled up with photos and videos pretty quickly. Like your experience, it soon started telling me that I had no room left to transfer any further photos on to it.
So I started shifting files on to an external hard drive and into cloud storage. But as soon as I went to check on the MacBook Pro's updated storage status (in 'About This Mac' and 'Storage') it again told me I had no space. I was baffled - why were the removed files (some of them close to a gigabyte in size) not being registered as freed-up space? Looking more closely at what the computer's storage breakdown was specifying, a mysterious category called 'other' was getting bigger and bigger as a proportion of the storage taken up on the machine.
The more photos or music or videos I dumped, the bigger the 'other' category became to apparently take up the space I had freed by removing the photos and videos. Eventually, it rose to take up 75GB of my 128GB storage limit, with no sign of abating.
Online guidance on what to do wasn't much help, even on the Apple forums. Sickeningly, a storage 'management' system (which might have helped) was introduced with the newest Apple operating system update (Mac OS High Sierra), but my machine didn't have the space to download the update! I was in a catch-22.
But yes, I did finally overcome it, though not for free: it cost me €40 in the form of an online app called CleanMyMac from MacPaw.
Because it was a small file, I managed to download it. It basically went through all my hard drive's sections and removed significant piles of useless files that were hanging around - these weren't malware, but remnants of programs or files I no longer needed but couldn't directly access myself to delete.
But the real revelation came when it became apparent that a large chunk of the 'Other' storage category that was ruining my life was taken up by large attachments from my email. Like many who work in media, I send and receive lots of large-ish attachment files on a weekly basis. It turns out that these attachments were clinging on to my laptop's hard drive, sucking up all the available storage.
It's a decent bet that the same thing is happening to you.
The good news is that this is a solution that stops short of doing the equivalent of a factory reset of your MacBook, which can lead to all sorts of administrative headaches.
RECOMMENDATION: CleanMyMac (€40, pictured, from macpaw.com/store/cleanmymac)
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