How to Clean Up a MacBook Hard Drive

by Michael Cox

    Back when hard drives were tiny and expensive, every kilobyte counted. Today's drives can be measured in terabytes, with every bad photo, useless app and song that will never be played sharing space. Although the disk optimization features of a MacBook drive mean it doesn't normally need defragmentation, experts recommend cleaning up your drive periodically by purging unnecessary files and running Apple's Disk Utility to ensure peak performance.

    Step 1

    Delete any unnecessary files, especially larger files such as videos, photos and apps. If you use iPhoto to manage your photos and videos, remember to empty the Trash in the left pane of the iPhoto window.

    Step 2

    Close any open apps and start Disk Utility, which resides in the Utilities folder in your Applications folder.

    Step 3

    Select your hard drive from the list in the left pane, click the "First Aid" tab and click "Verify Disk." If your drive is partitioned, select the drive icon above your partition icons; Disk Utility will verify each partition. If any disk or partition displays an error, select it and click "Repair Disk." If there's an error on your System disk, you must restart from the Recovery partition by holding down "Command-R" during startup, then choosing "Disk Utility" from the Utilities menu.

    Step 4

    Select your System disk and click "Repair Disk Permissions." This process checks the permissions in application files against those listed in their "Bill of Materials" (BOM) file residing in the Receipts folder in your Library folder. If a file's permissions don't match, Disk Utility will repair it.


    • Many apps exist to help you maintain your hard drive and locate unnecessary files, including OnyX, Disk Inventory X and AppCleaner.
    • Make sure to back up your hard drive frequently. Apple's Time Machine enables you to create incremental backups to an external hard drive.
    • Disk Utility can't repair disks that aren't using the default "Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)" format. If you reformatted your MacBook hard drive in another format, you may see an error in Disk Utility.

    About the Author

    Michael Cox writes about lifestyle issues, popular culture, sports and technology. In a career spanning more than 10 years, he has contributed to dozens of magazines, books and websites, including and "Adobe Magazine." Cox holds a professional certificate in technical communications from the University of Washington.

    Photo Credits

    • Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images