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Question: Not enough free space on your disk to install macOS Catalina

I cannot install Catalina on my MacBook Pro. When trying to quit the installer, I have not choices on the Startup Disk and I got stuck in a loop of automatically trying to install the new OS and Not free Space. I need to know how to solve it! Help me please!!!

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Posted on Oct 7, 2019 8:37 PM

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Recently answered here: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/250711825?cid=em_apple_email_question_correctanswer_go_to_the_discussion_en-us&answerId=251355788022#251355788022


I was facing the same issue and was on the verge of reformatting my macbook.


Here's what fixed the issue for me. I'm not sure if step 1 was necessary, but since I did this en route to fixing the loop of death, I'll list it here for you to consider.


  1. Try to reinstall Mojave (this won't wipe your disk) - I wanted to return my macbook to as original a condition as possible, and I figured attempting to install Mojave was the best way to do it. Since I couldn't boot from "Macintosh HD" anymore (I was just getting a white circle with a bar across it), I rebooted my macbook and pressed Cmd + r. This helped me boot into recovery mode. Once there, I clicked on "Reinstall macOS". Don't worry, you won't loose your data doing this as it merely overwrites the OS, it doesn't overwrite your files. Once you do so, and assuming you're connected to Wifi, your macbook will start downloading Mojave and eventually attempt to install it. After an agonizing 30-40 minutes, it'll give you the same error - "not enough free space to install the OS".
  2. Try restoring from Time Machine Backups (you might actually have one) - I cannot emphasize how strongly I believed I didn't have one of these backups, but unbeknownst to me, it did exist on my drive. Even if you're convinced you don't have one, it doesn't hurt to give this a shot. Reboot and go into recovery mode again (press cmd + r during reboot). This time when the options pull up, choose "Restore from Time Machine Backup". Now, as I mentioned before, I thought I hadn't got this turned on, but I guess it was turned on by default by the OS. Your macbook will prompt you to pick a disk where the time machines are stored, and I picked "Macintosh HD". When I clicked this option, I saw about 5 backups populate from today itself. I picked one of them that felt fairly far away from the moment I had began installing this OS. For example, if I started my installation at 4pm, I decided to pick up the recovery from 2pm (even though there was a backup available from 4 pm).


Within 5 minutes, the backup restored. All my files were intact, even though I had explicitly moved out/deleted about 30G of files while trying to debug the installation issue.

Posted on Oct 7, 2019 9:30 PM

Question marked as Helpful

Oct 8, 2019 11:36 AM in response to Nuno R.C. Lopes In response to Nuno R.C. Lopes

All I need is how to get out of this **** loop and log in via a Safe Mode to be able to free up space. I had 21GB free at the start, and this install does not check disk free space before installing and now I am left with a useless a MacBook Air all thanks to badly written code by Apple. How come something as simple as this be overlooked after so many updates over the years? Help please!

Oct 8, 2019 11:36 AM

Question marked as Helpful

Oct 8, 2019 7:14 AM in response to neotaruntius In response to neotaruntius

My problem, apparently, was different somewhat... I started the app to install MacOs Catalina, it all seemed right unitl I saw a message like the original post. Options given to me: restart or shutdown. I restarted, the installations restarted and got stuck on the same screen. I restarted with Command R and entered the terminal, deleted as many big files as I could, having almost 30Gb free, but didn't solve the problem (in that moment I backed up all the files I knew wheren't on any time machine backups and tried to continue). Continued stuck. I then tried to reinstall Mojave, but when I selected the Macbook Disk it said that it was going to be wiped clean... I didn't proceed and followed the step 2. It said that the disk was going to be wiped... without any other options I resumed this procedure, since my last backup was a few days ago and everything else important is in the cloud. This was a very poor update!!!! If I didn't have an external time machine disk with a recent backup, it would be very bad!!! I use Macbooks for over 10 years, this was the first upgrade with any problems, somebody screwed very badly here!!!

Oct 8, 2019 7:14 AM

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Oct 7, 2019 9:30 PM in response to PabloG2017 In response to PabloG2017

Recently answered here: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/250711825?cid=em_apple_email_question_correctanswer_go_to_the_discussion_en-us&answerId=251355788022#251355788022


I was facing the same issue and was on the verge of reformatting my macbook.


Here's what fixed the issue for me. I'm not sure if step 1 was necessary, but since I did this en route to fixing the loop of death, I'll list it here for you to consider.


  1. Try to reinstall Mojave (this won't wipe your disk) - I wanted to return my macbook to as original a condition as possible, and I figured attempting to install Mojave was the best way to do it. Since I couldn't boot from "Macintosh HD" anymore (I was just getting a white circle with a bar across it), I rebooted my macbook and pressed Cmd + r. This helped me boot into recovery mode. Once there, I clicked on "Reinstall macOS". Don't worry, you won't loose your data doing this as it merely overwrites the OS, it doesn't overwrite your files. Once you do so, and assuming you're connected to Wifi, your macbook will start downloading Mojave and eventually attempt to install it. After an agonizing 30-40 minutes, it'll give you the same error - "not enough free space to install the OS".
  2. Try restoring from Time Machine Backups (you might actually have one) - I cannot emphasize how strongly I believed I didn't have one of these backups, but unbeknownst to me, it did exist on my drive. Even if you're convinced you don't have one, it doesn't hurt to give this a shot. Reboot and go into recovery mode again (press cmd + r during reboot). This time when the options pull up, choose "Restore from Time Machine Backup". Now, as I mentioned before, I thought I hadn't got this turned on, but I guess it was turned on by default by the OS. Your macbook will prompt you to pick a disk where the time machines are stored, and I picked "Macintosh HD". When I clicked this option, I saw about 5 backups populate from today itself. I picked one of them that felt fairly far away from the moment I had began installing this OS. For example, if I started my installation at 4pm, I decided to pick up the recovery from 2pm (even though there was a backup available from 4 pm).


Within 5 minutes, the backup restored. All my files were intact, even though I had explicitly moved out/deleted about 30G of files while trying to debug the installation issue.

Oct 7, 2019 9:30 PM

Reply Helpful (14)
Question marked as Helpful

Oct 8, 2019 7:14 AM in response to neotaruntius In response to neotaruntius

My problem, apparently, was different somewhat... I started the app to install MacOs Catalina, it all seemed right unitl I saw a message like the original post. Options given to me: restart or shutdown. I restarted, the installations restarted and got stuck on the same screen. I restarted with Command R and entered the terminal, deleted as many big files as I could, having almost 30Gb free, but didn't solve the problem (in that moment I backed up all the files I knew wheren't on any time machine backups and tried to continue). Continued stuck. I then tried to reinstall Mojave, but when I selected the Macbook Disk it said that it was going to be wiped clean... I didn't proceed and followed the step 2. It said that the disk was going to be wiped... without any other options I resumed this procedure, since my last backup was a few days ago and everything else important is in the cloud. This was a very poor update!!!! If I didn't have an external time machine disk with a recent backup, it would be very bad!!! I use Macbooks for over 10 years, this was the first upgrade with any problems, somebody screwed very badly here!!!

Oct 8, 2019 7:14 AM

Reply Helpful (5)
Question marked as Helpful

Oct 8, 2019 11:36 AM in response to Nuno R.C. Lopes In response to Nuno R.C. Lopes

All I need is how to get out of this **** loop and log in via a Safe Mode to be able to free up space. I had 21GB free at the start, and this install does not check disk free space before installing and now I am left with a useless a MacBook Air all thanks to badly written code by Apple. How come something as simple as this be overlooked after so many updates over the years? Help please!

Oct 8, 2019 11:36 AM

Reply Helpful (13)

Oct 8, 2019 12:52 PM in response to Bergie ZA In response to Bergie ZA

I tried removing data from the terminal but the installer doesn't pick it up (I'd freed up about 70G but the installer still showed the same % of consumption as before on a 500G disk). Your best bet is to press Cmd+r during reboot (recovery mode) and restore from a time machine backup. Try installing Mojave before that for good measure in case that preps/overwrites some files for the time-machine to take effect more appropriately.

Oct 8, 2019 12:52 PM

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Oct 8, 2019 12:53 PM in response to PabloG2017 In response to PabloG2017

It’s mind boggling that an OS update allows you to get into this situation. I have the same problem and the fact that the installer kills the boot drive but is unable to actually install is amateur hour. I’m astonished that this was allowed to ship like this, someone should be fired.

Oct 8, 2019 12:53 PM

Reply Helpful (4)

Oct 8, 2019 1:12 PM in response to PabloG2017 In response to PabloG2017

A friend just ran into this so I gave him the following. I have not tried it personally nor has he given me any feedback.


Warning: This process will allow you to get to a terminal session so you can delete files from the terminal. If you’re not familiar with doing this you probably don’t want because it can seriously screw things up. Once the files are deleted you can’t get them back. Also, if you delete some critical files it may prevent you from rebooting.


  1. Boot to Recovery Mode by holding Cmd R while booting
  2. Once you’re in recovery mode a menu should appear
  3. Select Utilities -> Terminal
  4. Change directories to /Volumes
  5. Change directories to the main boot drive volume which is probably Macintosh HD
  6. Change directories to the Users directory
  7. Change directories to the user that has the files you want to delete. 
  8. Once there use the command line command to delete all your **** 😊 


There’s no Trash to empty. Once deleted they’re gone and there’s no going into the Trash to recover them. I’m being a bit conservative here because if you have and trust a backup such as Time Machine than you should be able to recover them from the backup source.

Oct 8, 2019 1:12 PM

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Oct 8, 2019 2:40 PM in response to wgkrueger In response to wgkrueger

I had the exact same issue , command + t while restarting , then restore the previous from time machine ( There are 4-5 backups available in time machine for the current date ) , once laptop is normal go about deleting some files , clearing some space , then re-install , it works ... but don’t know why this infinite loop arose at the first place because I had around 120 GB of free space that was more than sufficient to finish iOS Catalina installation , but this update took a long long time ... many hours got wasted in finishing this up ..

Oct 8, 2019 2:40 PM

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Question: Not enough free space on your disk to install macOS Catalina