Make Space on Your Mac

You go in and delete what feels like hundreds of old files, yet it barely adds up to a gigabyte.
You sift through your applications, debating what to sacrifice and think, “Maybe I can delete Chess?”. Until you realize Mac doesn’t even let you delete their Chess app…

Why OmniDiskSweeper?

When those infamous 'Your disk is almost full' warnings start creeping in, it can be a headache trying to figure out how to start the cleanup process.

There are several applications that help you sort through your files, however several of the popular ones are expensive. In fact, most of the options for dealing with this issue can be costly, including purchasing online storage space or an external hard drive.

This is where OmniDiskSweeper stands out. In their own words: “OmniDiskSweeper shows you the files on your drive, largest to smallest, and lets you quickly Trash or open them.”

It’s a quick download and it’s free! Best of all, there’s a way to use it to search through your entire hard drive. This is useful in really understanding how your disk space is being used.

Using OmniDiskSweep

A Quick Warning

Before we start, it’s important to note that OmniDiskSweeper:

  1. Does not let you undo files deletions
  2. Does not let you recover incorrectly deleted files
  3. Gives you the ability to access files that should not be deleted

The takeaway is to work with OmniDiskSweeper like you’re doing surgery. Definitely don’t start deleting files aimlessly! Know exactly what you’re deleting and proceed to do so carefully. If you’re unsure about whether a file is useful to you or your system, it’s better to thoroughly research or just leave it be.

1 - Downloading and Installing OmniDiskSweeper

Start by downloading OmniDiskSweeper. You can do so by clicking the following link.

Download OmniDiskSweeper (free):

Download the appropriate version according to your Mac OS version (you can check your OS version by clicking the Apple symbol in the top menu bar of your desktop > About This Mac). The download should be relatively quick.

Download the Software from the OmniGroup Website

After the download is complete, the program will walk you through the final installation steps of agreeing to the Terms of Agreement and saving OmniDiskSweeper to your Applications folder.

2 - Starting OmniDiskSweeper

One way to start the disk sweep is simply by opening the OmniDiskSweeper application. However, this will only give you a limited look into the files on your hard drive, which can still be useful if you just have a lot of clutter and aren't trying to locate large hidden files. You can try this out and skip onto step 3 of this tutorial if you would prefer this route.

If you would prefer to do a more thorough search, you will need to open your terminal. To do this, press command + space bar at the same time on your keyboard, which will open the Spotlight Search. Type in terminal as shown below.

Open your terminal

Don't be intimidated if you're not familiar with the terminal; you won't be doing anything complicated. Just copy (highlight and hit command + c) the following italicized text:

sudo /Applications/

This is a line of code that will tell your computer to run OmniDiskSweeper in a way that will have it check your entire hard drive. Paste it into your terminal (hit command + v) and press the return (enter) key on your keyboard.

The terminal may prompt you to type in your password (of whatever account you logged into your Mac with). Type it in and press the return key on your keyboard.

Enter Password.png

OmniDiskSweeper will start running and you will see it open up in a separate window. Switch over to that window without closing the terminal window you were working on. You're now ready to start your hard disk sweep.

Running a Disk Sweep

To begin a disk sweep, select your hard drive (this is where you can see the current free/used disk space you have) and click the Sweep "your drive name" Drive.... button. OmniDiskSweep will start sweeping your drive and this is when you wait.

Start the sweep

You might be prompted to let OmniDiskSweep access various parts/features of your hard drive. Just keep clicking 'OK' so that your entire hard drive can be checked.

Keep clicking 'OK'

The main way you can know the sweep is finished is when the file sizes are no longer listed in red (the red indicates that files are still being sized/searched) and the window title no longer has (sizing) next to it.

Wait for the program to stop sizing

Searching and Deleting Files

The process of sifting through files is very simple.

Files are ordered by size. Simply click a folder name to see any of the files it contains. Once you've located a file you wish to remove, select it, and then select the Trash button in the bottom-right corner of the window. And that's all it takes!

In the window title, you'll notice that the amount of used hard drive space will be updated as you delete files, making it simple to monitor your progress. Here are some tips for optimizing the file removal process:

  • Focus on music, photos, and videos that are no longer of use to you. These take up a lot of space and create clutter. Even if they are useful, you can consider uploading these files to a USB, an external hard drive, or a file storage website like DropBox, Box, or Google Drive. As mentioned, this may not be free if your files exceed a certain size and it does take time and effort to do these uploads.
  • Deleted software often leaves behind 'traces'. If you see anything related to a software you don't have anymore, just delete it.
  • Clear up cached files. Go into folders holding cached files (again, from familiar software!) and delete. You can even do this with software that you actively use.
  • If you're not sure what a file is, check first. Try to locate the file (sometimes OmniDiskSweeper lets you open it from the software itself) and check out what it is. If it sounds odd to you, you can even do a web search of the filename to get some hints.
  • Remember that there is no undo or recovery of deleted files.
  • Stay away from anything that might be useful to you, your applications, or your system.

How Did We Feel About OmniDiskSweeper?

Overall, we had a lot of success with OmniDiskSweeper! No one paid us or promoted this software to us; it just came up several times while browsing online for a free alternative to CleanMyMac.

We were able to clear up 20gb just by sifting through files. However, we also found a virus that was leeching up 20 additional gigabytes of space. After clearing that up, we had freed up a total of 40gb. The best part was that it took minimal time and effort and it didn't cost a thing!