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Question: MAC HD FULL!! HELP!!

Hi I really need help clearing up space on my mac... (OSX El Capitan 10.11.6). Im not even lying when i say i have 0KB free space. I cant even open safari. I’ve been searching on this forum for hours but all i see is paragraphs of people using words and terms I dont understand. Im not a tech guy at all. All i was looking for was a simple explanation on how to clean up my mac. I CANNOT download any kind of cleaning app cuz i literally have 0 space. Im losing my mind literally to the point that i feel my mac is lying to me about how much space i really have. I barely have any files on my mac but it says im using up 120gb?? Nah man. I dont believe that Lol. Im on the brink of giving up. Can I move all my files to an external hard drive (WD passport) and then proceed to delete EVERYTHING on my mac?? Sorry if i sound like a douche but im literally losing my mind. Plz help. Thanks

Edit: By “everything” i mean essays & work related documents. I have 0 music (even tho it says i have 2gb worth) and i have 0 movies (even tho it says i have 3gb worth)

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Feb 28, 2018 12:15 PM in response to duragshawty In response to duragshawty

If you have no free space on the drive then your only option is to erase the drive and install macOS. You cannot recover your data as it is all lost at this point.


Install El Capitan or Later from Scratch


If possible backup your files.


  1. Restart the computer. Immediately after the chime hold down the CommandandRkeys until the Apple logo appears. When the Utility Menu appears:
  2. Select Disk Utility from the Utility Menu and click on Continue button.
  3. When Disk Utility loads select the volume (indented entry, usually Macintosh HD) from the Device list.
  4. Click on the Erase icon in Disk Utility's main window. A panel will drop down.
  5. Set the Format type to Mac OS Extended (Journaled.)
  6. Click on the Apply button, then wait for the Done button to activate and click on it.
  7. Quit Disk Utility and return to the Utility Menu.
  8. Select Install OS X and click on the Continue button.


This will install the version of OS X you had installed.

Feb 28, 2018 12:15 PM

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Feb 28, 2018 12:30 PM in response to duragshawty In response to duragshawty

If Time Machine cannot find a backup drive it is because you don't have one or it isn't connected to your computer.


When a drive becomes full macOS cannot extend the directory space because there is not enough contiguous space on the drive for the extension. This causes a loss of the directory and all file operations. This is a catastrophic event. If you need to recover your files then you need to remove the drive, place it in an external enclosure, then use file recovery software to attempt restoring your data. See the following:


General File Recovery


If you stop using the disk it's possible to recover deleted files that have not been overwritten by using recovery software such as MAC Data Recovery, Data Rescue II, File Salvage or TechTool Pro. Each of the preceding come on a bootable CD to enable use without risk of writing more data to the disk. Two free alternatives are Disk Drill and Cisdem DataRecovery. Recovery software usually provides trial versions that enable you to determine if the software would help before actually paying for it. Beyond this or if the drive has completely failed, then you would need to send the drive to a recovery service like Drive Savers, which is very expensive.


The longer the hard drive remains in use and data are written to it, the greater the risk your deleted files will be overwritten.


Also, visit The XLab FAQs and read the FAQ on Data Recovery.

Feb 28, 2018 12:30 PM

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Feb 28, 2018 12:55 PM in response to duragshawty In response to duragshawty

No. As I explained, once you have reached this point you no longer can access your files except by using recovery software to try finding them and copying them to another drive.


All that I have related to you is based on your original post, "Im not even lying when i say i have 0KB free space."

Feb 28, 2018 12:55 PM

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Feb 28, 2018 1:10 PM in response to Kappy In response to Kappy

I do have access to my files tho... I can open all my essays & work related docs without issue. Im only having trouble opening apps (obvs because of the lack of space) & for some reason it wont let me delete certain files. What im having trouble understanding is why a company would create a computer that leaves you completely screwed if you use up all your space. And why they made it so confusing & hard for regular people like me who dont really know too much about all this tech stuff.

Feb 28, 2018 1:10 PM

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Feb 28, 2018 1:15 PM in response to duragshawty In response to duragshawty

Please! Complaining? This is a common problem with all operating systems on all computers. Please be more informed if you plan to complain.


If you can access and backup your files then I suggest you do so. If you are still able to delete files, then see the following:


How to Free Up Space on The Hard Drive


  1. You can remove data from your Home folder except for the /Home/Library/ folder.
  2. Visit The XLab FAQs and read the FAQ on freeing up space on your hard drive.
  3. Also, see Freeing space on your Mac OS X startup disk.
  4. Free up storage space on your Mac.
  5. See Where did my Disk Space go?.
  6. Be sure to Empty the Trash to recover the space.
  7. Replace the drive with a larger one. Check out OWC for drives, tutorials, and toolkits.
  8. Use OmniDiskSweeper or GrandPerspective to search your drive for large files and where they are located.

Feb 28, 2018 1:15 PM

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Feb 28, 2018 1:23 PM in response to Kappy In response to Kappy

Lol sorry for being a douche. This s**t just been stressing me out the whole day. I apologize. I just feel like things are a lot more complicated to deal with on mac than it is on a windows pc. So now that we have established that my files are not corrupted & that i can in fact access them. I want to ask again if i cannot just drag everything to my WD and then wipe out my mac? Or does the answer still stay the same? I know im probably mad annoying with all these questions but thats why im here because you guys know a lot more than i do. Sorry again.

Feb 28, 2018 1:23 PM

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Feb 28, 2018 5:43 PM in response to duragshawty In response to duragshawty

If you have access to another system then it may be easier placing your iMac into Target Disk Mode, essentially turning it into an external hard drive that you can connect to another device so that you can move the file. Target Disk Mode would allow you to backup your files to another volume, or locate and delete files that you know are safe to remove. Obviously you want to be very careful that you don't erase system files, however you should be able to look through your user account folders and delete unneeded files such as applications that are no longer used.


How to use target disk mode to move files between two Mac computers - Apple Support

Feb 28, 2018 5:43 PM

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Question: MAC HD FULL!! HELP!!