What is System Data on Mac?

System Data encompasses various elements scattered across your Mac’s drive, including files that don’t fit into other categories like documents, apps, music, and pictures. This catch-all term refers to data and files used by macOS, caches, temporary files, backups, plug-ins, and other associated components.

Essential to the functioning of macOS and installed applications, System Data consists of the operating system itself, system files, preferences, logs, caches, and other generated or stored data. The operating system forms the core component, managing hardware, running applications, and providing a user interface. It comprises multiple files and components, which together ensure a stable and functional computing environment.

System files, such as kernel extensions, system libraries, and frameworks, are crucial for the proper functioning of the operating system and applications. Preferences, on the other hand, store user settings and configurations specific to each user account, typically saved in the user’s Library folder. Logs record events and activities within the system, helping diagnose problems and monitor system performance. Although they can occupy significant hard drive space, logs can be safely deleted once no longer needed.

Caches, another component of System Data, speed up operations by storing frequently accessed data for the system and applications. For example, web browsers cache often-visited web pages to expedite loading times. While caches can be safely deleted to free up hard drive space, they may be automatically regenerated by the system or applications.

Over time, System Data can accumulate and consume substantial hard drive space, potentially causing the system to slow down and compromise stability. To manage System Data, users can employ built-in macOS tools, such as Disk Utility and the storage management tool, to identify and remove unnecessary files, including System Data, ultimately freeing up hard drive space on their Mac. To check system storage, navigate to Apple menu > About This Mac > Storage and hover the mouse over each storage bar segment to see its representation, including System Data.

Can you delete System Data on Mac?

Although it is possible to manually delete files within the System Data category, it is crucial to proceed with caution, as inadvertently removing an important file could lead to complications later on. In the event of an accidental deletion, there are recovery methods available, such as using specialized software to retrieve deleted files on a Mac.

Before attempting to remove any System Data, it is highly recommended to perform a complete backup of your Mac’s storage. This precautionary measure ensures that you can restore your system to its previous state if any issues arise during the cleanup process. There are various methods and tools available for backing up a Mac, such as Time Machine, which is built into macOS, or third-party backup software solutions. Familiarizing yourself with backup techniques and finding the best software for your needs is essential to safeguard your valuable data.

To properly manage System Data, it is advised to utilize built-in macOS tools and features. For example, the storage management tool and Disk Utility can help identify and delete unnecessary files, freeing up space on your Mac’s hard drive. By using these tools and following best practices for data management, you can maintain optimal system performance and stability. In summary, carefully handling System Data and regularly backing up your Mac can prevent potential issues and ensure a smooth user experience.

How to clear System Data on Mac?

There are different methods to clear the System Data on your Mac that will be explained below, but note that not all files that belong in this category can (or should) be deleted. In other words, there’s a limit to how much storage you can reclaim by clearing your computer’s System Data.

Use macOS recommendations

Firstly, macOS offers features to optimize storage. To access these recommendations, navigate to the Apple menu > About This Mac > Storage, and click on the “Manage” button. If your disk is partitioned, note that these recommendations will apply only to the partition containing your home directory.

macos storage recommendations

Clear the cache on your Mac

Cache files are created by both the system and applications on your Mac, and can be found in the Library folder.

  1. To manually delete unnecessary cache files, open Finder, click the Go menu.
  2. Select “Go to Folder”, paste the following file paths into the search box, and press the Return key:
    • ~/Library/Caches/
    • /Library/Caches/
    • /System/Library/Caches/
      macOS go to cache folder
  3. Move unwanted files in these cache folders to the Trash and empty your Trash afterward.
    macos delete cache

Clear your Mac’s Log files

Log files, another component of System Data, can also be deleted to reclaim some storage space.

  1. To manually delete log files, open Finder, click the Go menu, and choose “Go to Folder.”
  2. Paste “~/Library/Logs/” into the blank box and press the Return key.
  3. Find the log files you wish to delete, select them, and press Command + Backspace keys.
  4. Repeat this process for the /Library/Logs/ folder.

Clear Time Machine snapshots

Time Machine local snapshots are backups of your Mac that are stored locally in case your external drive becomes unavailable.

  1. If you wish to manually remove these backups, open Terminal and type in “tmutil listlocalsnapshotdates“.
    macos terminal clear time machine snapshots
  2. This command will display a list of backup dates. To delete a specific backup, type “tmutil deletelocalsnapshots ‘xxxxxxx’” (where ‘xxxxxxx‘ represents the backup date).
  3. However, refrain from deleting local snapshots if you think they might be needed in the future.

Delete old backups for iOS

Old iOS backups are also part of System Data and can occupy considerable space on your Mac.

  1. To remove unnecessary iOS backups and connect your iPhone to your Mac.
  2. Open Finder, click on your iPhone in the sidebar, and click the “Manage Backups” button.
  3. Select the backups you don’t need and delete them.
  4. Alternatively, you can manually search and delete iOS backups by navigating to “~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/” using the “Go to Folder” option in Finder.

Check the Downloads folder

Regularly clearing your Downloads folder can help reduce System Data storage. Open Finder, click on “Downloads” in the sidebar, sort your files by size, and move unneeded files to the Trash.

Try restarting your Mac

Finally, simply restarting your Mac can resolve minor issues related to storage and performance. If it has been a while since your last restart, click the Apple menu and select “Restart.”

In conclusion, understanding what System Data storage on a Mac entails and adopting various approaches to clear it can help you maintain an organized, efficient system. With these methods at your disposal, you can effectively manage your Mac’s storage space and optimize its performance.