Find Large Files in Mac OS X with Search

Apr 17, 2012 - 10 Comments

Whether you’re feeling the pinch as hard drive space runs low or you’re just wondering where all your disk space went, it’s easy to find large files in Mac OS X by using the built-in search tools. You don’t need to use any third party tools here, instead you’ll rely on search operators and the excellent Spotlight locating functionality that is a core feature of all Macs. If you’ve never used these features before, you’ll find it’s simple to do, just follow these steps:

  1. From the Mac OS X Desktop, open any new Finder window
  2. Hit Command+F to bring up Search
  3. Click on “Kind” filter and select “Other”, then select “File Size” from the attribute list
  4. Click on the second filter and choose “is greater than”
  5. In the third space, enter the size to search for anything greater than (ex: 100) and choose either MB or GB as the final filter

Find Large Files in Mac OS X with Search

The file and app list below will automatically update as anything larger than the specified file size is found on the hard drive. Be sure that “This Mac” is selected if you’re getting limited results, though you can also use the search limiters to find large files contained within single folders or user directories.

Want to use this feature to track down large files often? Click on the “Save” button in the upper right corner and you’ll turn the File Size search into a Smart Folder that can be easily accessed from the sidebar for easy future retrieval, plus that folder will constantly be updated with large files only, making it a very useful way to instantly find any big item laying around on a Mac.

If you’re hunting down large files because you’re running low on hard drive capacity, don’t miss these tricks to free up disk space on any Mac. Even if you’re not in dire need of more disk capacity, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you can use a tip or two from that list to find and recover some disk capacity.

One very common pit of enormous files is the user Downloads folder, which often contains .dmg .zip and other downloaded items that have long since been forgotten, so don’t be surprised if you’re using the file size search and discover that directory is consuming much of the disk space, or at the very least, is the primary location of many large files. Typically that directory can be cleared out with little impact, though you will want to confirm the contents and the necessity of keeping them around yourself before making such a drastic move.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

10 Comments

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  1. James says:

    Great tip, but it’s made much more useful if you use Size as a sort item too so you can find the biggest items on top of the list.

    Keep em comin!

    • Maxint says:

      On Lion you can add columns on finder. Add Size column before or after the search and tap/click on the column name to order by the column.

  2. ispooky83 says:

    Good trick…and you know what…i have Google Chrome that is almost 1.5GB…how can be possible??

  3. Alex says:

    Thaks for the tip.
    Anybody knows how to filter files by kind, to show ony mpgs or xmls like in Win7?

    • ed says:

      @alex

      you search by file type ie; .mpg or .jpg to search for all jpeg images you would just type this in the search box: .jpg

  4. Khan says:

    Nice sharing, I am going to throw my mac away, waiting for WIN8, amzing sys

  5. jimi says:

    James, how do you use size as a sort item, w/o Lion? Thanks, J

  6. Josh says:

    Best part about this search function is that it doesn’t actually search all of the files on your computer. Strong logic. (No offense to the editor)

  7. [...] files in an obscure folder and you can no longer locate them on your own, don’t forget that you can perform file size specific searches with Spotlight in the OS X Finder to quickly track down any large item in the file system. [...]

  8. Alex says:

    There is a great visualizing app for this issue – Disk Inspector.

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