5 ways to visualize disk space usage on the Apple Mac

Track down large files and folders to free up disk space

Apple MacBook Air with macOS Big Sur on the screen

Do you look at your Mac’s drive and wonder what is using all the disk space? It is hard to see in numbers like gigabytes and megabytes, so here are four visual utilities to show disk usage.

If you have huge drives in your Mac, you probably aren’t concerned by the amount of space used, but many Macs have been sold with 128 and 256 GB drives. Some users even run out of space on 512 GB drives because of the size of video and photo collections these days.

The internal storage in Macs is not easily removed or replaced and it may be impossible on some models, so what should you do if you are short of storage space? External drives are one solution, but before you go down that route, are you sure the internal drive is not simply full of junk?

Maybe not exactly junk, but there are probably big files using up a lot of space that you could either delete or at least move to external storage to free up space on the internal drive. The question is, where are they?

It is not easy to find unwanted large files in Finder, but there are some great utilities for exploring the disk and viewing space usage visually. A picture is worth a thousand words and it is also good for showing gigabytes of storage too. Here are five visual disk space explorers that map the storage.

(When I talk about disks, I include solid state drives, hard disk drives and hybrids. It is all storage and it is easier just to call everything a disk even though it’s not actually a round disk these days.)

1 About This Mac

Storage details in About This Mac on an Apple MacBook

Click the Apple logo at the left side of the menu and then click About This Mac. Select the Storage tab and the disk usage is displayed as one or more bars. If the disk has partitions, you will see bars for each one. Colors are assigned to different types of content, like documents, apps, photos and so on. Let the mouse hover over a colored section in the bar and the type of content and the space used is displayed.

Click the Manage button and the space usage is displayed in a table. Select the type of disk content in the first column and a detailed view of what is using all the space is displayed on the right. Select Documents and then click the tabs to see different types of content, like downloads or large files.

It is OK, but you may prefer the following utilities, most of which are free.

2 Disk Space Analyzer: Inspector

Disk Space Analyzer app for the Apple Mac to show disk space usage

This is a great utility and it is in the Mac App Store, so just search for the name and install it. There is a paid Pro version with more features, but the free version is excellent and is all you need. (There are several similarly named apps in the store, so make sure you get the right one.)

Start the app and on the left is a list of drives and partitions, in the middle is a colored wheel and on the right are folders. Select a drive or partition and then click the arrow button next to it. This scans the selected item and builds a circular space usage map in the middle.

Each colored sector is a folder and the size represents the amount of disk space used. Let the mouse hover over a colored sector and the folder name and size is displayed. It is easy to see what is using the most space.

Double click a sector and the space map is redrawn using that folder as the starting point. Subfolders appear as sectors and you can click them to drill down until you get to files. Quick Look works, so when you find a big file, like a video for example, select it and press spacebar to view it. There is also a folder and file list in the right-hand column and folders can be double clicked to drill down and see what is using the space.

Disk Space Analyzer: Inspector is a very nice app and it is recommended.

3 CleanMyMac X

CleanMyMac X multifunction utility for the Apple Mac showing disk space usage

CleanMyMac X offers another way to view the contents of the disk and see what is using up all the space. The app is a multifunction toolkit that performs many disk-related tasks and browsing the disk visually is just one.

After selecting Space Lens in the sidebar and performing a quick scan of the disk, the largest folders are displayed on the right as circles within circles. The larger the circle, the more space the folder uses and the largest ones have the largest icons.

Click a circle and it opens the folder and updates the display to show the largest items in circles again. Eventually, there are no more subfolders and files are displayed in the circles. It is different and unique and you may prefer it to the other methods.

There is a folder and file listing in the middle column in addition to the visual explorer on the right. Ctrl+clicking items in the folder/file list or graphic enables you to open Finder at that location or use Quick Look to view an item. As you might expect for a clean-up utility, you can remove files to free up space, such as large unwanted ones.

CleanMyMac X (affiliate link) is not free, but Space Lens is just part of a much larger disk toolkit with many cleanup and optimization utilities. I keep it on my Mac.

4 Cleaner One Lite

Cleaner One Lite disk cleanup utility app for the Apple Mac

Cleaner One Lite is a disk cleanup tool and it is free in the Mac App Store, so go and search for it and install it. It has three main functions and Disk Map is one of them. Select it and then select the Mac’s disk or any folder, such as your home folder, and the app scans it.

There is a list of files and folders in the middle column, but the best feature is the circular graphic on the right. Subfolders are displayed as colored sectors and the larger the sector, the more space it requires. Click a colored sector and that folder is opened, allowing you to drill down and see where all the disk space is being used.

You can eventually get down to the level of files and see which ones are biggest. Select a file or folder and a Finder window can be opened to view it, open it, delete it or move it. This is a simple utility, but a useful one to have around.

5 Disk Cartography – clever disk space analyzer

Disk Cartography disk space explorer utility for the Apple Mac

Disk Cartography is a free app in the Mac App Store, so search for it and install it. You can select the whole drive or any folder, such as your home folder, which is where all your personal files are stored.

It scans and lists folders in the left column, lists the disk space in the middle column and shows a colored bar on the right that makes it easy to see which folders use the most space. Long red bars use the most space, orange uses some space and green use the least space.

There are several filters and the app can show all files except hidden and system ones, all files including hidden and system, or filter files according to kind, like video, audio, pictures and so on. Files under a certain size can be ignored, so it skips trivial files under 4 MB, 2 MB, 1 MB or whatever size you choose.

Bars can be clicked to drill down, so you can click a long red bar and the subfolders and files are shown, color coded as before. This makes it easy to find what is using all the space.

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