How to use the Optimized Storage feature on your Mac

In this tutorial, we will show you how to use the Optimized Storage recommendations on your Mac, which will free up space on your computer by removing unwanted files or moving infrequently used files to the cloud.

Mac storage settings screen

Optimized Storage on macOS Sierra and later helps manage your local space in four main ways:

  • It stores your files in iCloud and only keeps frequently used items on your Mac
  • It automatically removes watched movies and TV shows from your Mac
  • It regularly deletes items that have been in your Trash for more than 30 days
  • It also lists all the large files and displays sizes of files stored on your Mac for you to manually 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.


  • Storing files in iCloud Drive will not be helpful if you’re on the free 5 GB option, as storing your files in iCloud would only fill up any remaining space without providing any real benefit.
  • You may want to leave this option off if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of not being able to access certain files offline or if you don’t wish to trust iCloud’s sometimes unreliable syncing with the contents of your Mac.

Optimize your Mac’s storage

  1. Open System Settings on your Mac.
  2. Select General > Storage.
  3. You will see a Recommendations heading that has helpful options to manage your storage. We have explained the options below.
Storage recommendations turned on in Mac settings

If you’re on an old version of macOS, you can use Spotlight Search to open Storage Management or click the Apple icon  > About This Mac > Storage > Manage.


Store in iCloud

It lets you do three things:

Choose what you would like to store in iCloud on Mac

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.

Enabling 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 you the option to have your Mac automatically remove TV and iTunes movies and shows after they’ve been watched.

Further, users of Mail in older versions of macOS have the option to only automatically download attachments from recent emails or to download none at all until an email is opened.


Note that turning on Optimize Storage doesn’t consume space in iCloud Drive.

Empty Trash automatically


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

Remove items from the Trash after 30 days in Finder settings

Reduce clutter by deleting large files


Click the info button ⓘ next to Documents, and you will see a Large Files option. It will help you locate large files and files that may no longer be needed while providing the option to delete them. You can also see what files are taking up the most space in the Downloads folder as well as across the file system.

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 setup in the comments section.

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