How to use the new Optimized Storage feature on Mac

By , Sep 23, 2016


One of the features Apple introduced in macOS Sierra that has a particularly practical application for users is Optimized Storage, a service that works to free up space on your Mac by removing unwanted files or moving infrequently used files to the cloud.

It helps accomplish this in four main ways:

  • Storing your files in iCloud and only keeping frequently used items on your Mac
  • Automatically removing watched iTunes movies and TV shows from your Mac
  • Regularly deleting items that have been in your Trash for more than 30 days
  • Suggesting large files and displaying sizes of file stored on your Mac for you to review and delete

Each of these can be individually used or not used when freeing up space on your Mac, meaning users have the ability to turn one utility on while leaving another off.

This is particularly useful if your iCloud Drive storage is still on the free 5GB option, as storing your files in iCloud would only fill up any remaining space without providing any real benefit. Additionally, users may want to leave this option off if they’re uncomfortable with the idea of not being able to access certain files offline, or if users don’t wish to trust iCloud’s sometimes unreliable syncing with the contents of their Mac.

How to access Optimized Storage

The various Optimized Storage utilities are available on any Mac running macOS Sierra. To get started, use Spotlight to search and open “Storage Management”, or click the Apple () icon in the top left corner of your Mac’s desktop, select About This Mac, choose the Storage tab, and click Manage. The Storage Management application will appear, displaying four main utilities.

Store in iCloud


Choosing this option will allow users to enable files from Desktop and Documents to be stored in iCloud Drive, and iCloud Photo Library can also be activated from here to store all photos and videos in iCloud. Users can decide to select one or both of these options.

To free up space, only recently opened files will be kept on your Mac’s local storage, and iCloud-only files will have a download button displayed next to them for downloading with a click.

Enabled iCloud Photo Library means your full-resolution photos and videos will be stored in the cloud, while your local storage will only contain optimized media on your Mac, with the full quality version being downloaded when the file is opened.

Optimize Storage


Using this method of freeing space gives users the option to have their Mac automatically remove iTunes movies and shows after they’ve been watched. Further, users of Mail in macOS have the option to only automatically download attachments from recent emails, or to download none at all until an email is opened.

Turning on Optimize Storage doesn’t consume any space in iCloud Drive.

Empty Trash Automatically


The simplest of all the utilities, this option permanently deletes items that have been in the Trash for longer than 30 days. One enabled, you can easily turn this off by going to Finder > Preferences… > Advanced, then uncheck the Remove items from the Trash after 30 days option.

Reduce Clutter


Similar to the Storage & iCloud Usage pane in iOS, Reduce Clutter helps users locate large files and files that may no longer be needed while providing the option to delete them. Users can also see what files are taking up the most space in their Downloads folder as well as across the file system.

There are other options also available under Optimized Storage for clearing out space. On the lefthand pane, users can sort through their largest applications, iBooks, photos, iOS backups, and more. This is an excellent tool for clearing out old, large files that have remained dormant on a Mac, and many users are sure to get some benefit out of it.

Do you use the Optimized Storage feature on your Mac? If so, do you use it to the full extent, or do you only use a few options? Share your set up in the comments section.

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  • Bacillus

    OHH Apple take my precious data (while restoring my former music & playlist data…)
    This seems THE feature to be waited and seen while other people test it.
    Beta quality guaranteed !
    I wll patiently await v 2.0 (=GM)

  • Agneev Mukherjee

    My worst feature of Sierra.

    • Adhithya Gokul

      Cant necessarily call it worst but most less used. Maybe some people need it. Its a good feature if you live in a developed nation with cheap and fast internet. Here in India with insane ISP rates and low speeds definitely not an option

      • Agneev Mukherjee

        Hmm.. You’re right…

  • NanamiAsuri

    I don’t know if it’s new but I like the option to empty the trash of items that have been in there for 30 days.

    • lakinen69

      And why exactly is such a problem to empty the trash by yourself? You see the icon in the dock, yes? You see there is stuff in it, yes?

  • mrjayviper

    Is it disabled by default? Thanks

  • Jose Rivera

    Seriously this is the stupidest thing they have ever introduced because I recently deleted over 60GB of useless filed on my own without needing this “optimized storage” and it turns out that it won’t truly delete your shit. It’ll just toss it into a “puurgeable” section that cannot be cleared for any reason what so ever. Apparently Sierra think that you’ll still need those filed for some odd reason, and actually stores them somewhere for future use. To be honest if I emptied the trash, there was a reason behind me deleted all of those filed for good. Why would I ever need duplicate copies of some files, incomplete downloads, MP3 files that were converted to AAC, or just old apps that were updated in iTunes. No seriously I wanna hear how any of that will be “useful” in the future?

  • Lorenzo Jiménez

    This solution is to make people dependant of iCloud. Of course there aren’t and will not be any plugin for OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox or else.