How to use the new Optimized Storage feature on Mac


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.