How to Clean Caches & Temporary Files from Mac OS
Some Mac users may want to clear caches and clean out temporary files from Mac OS. Caches and temporary files can include things like web browser cache and history, messaging cache, app specific temp files and caches, partially completed downloads, and much more. While most apps will handle cache management on their own, and Mac OS will handle some other cache type files directly too, more advanced users can manually intervene and clear out their own cache and temporary files from a Mac as well.
This walkthrough will show you how to manually clear and clean out caches and temporary files from the active user on a Mac. There are no downloads or third party tools required.
To be clear; this is not a recommended task, nor is clearing caches and temporary files on a Mac something that you should need to perform. Generally you’d only want to trash caches if they’re hogging a large amount of storage capacity, or if a particular app is not functioning properly or is serving stale data served from old cache. Despite what some “cleaner” apps might claim, cleaning our Mac cache and temporary files is not going to give your computer a magical super performance boost or make you more popular with the ladies and gents, all it does is remove temporary files from the computer. Sometimes it might help particular app performance, but usually it does not. If you don’t have a specific reason to clear Mac caches, don’t do it.
You should always back up your Mac before performing any procedure like this. Backing up insures that if you mess up, or if something goes awry, you have a recent backup handy to restore the computer to. Do not skip making a backup.
How to Clean All Caches and Temporary Files from Mac
Backup your Mac with Time Machine before beginning. After a fresh backup has completed, here is how to delete and clear cache and temp files from the active user:
- Quit out of any actively open Mac apps
- Go to the Finder in Mac OS
- Hold down the SHIFT key (in Sierra) or OPTION / ALT key (Earlier) and pull down the “Go” menu in the Finder
- Choose “Library” from the Go menu options
- Once inside the Library folder, find and open the “Caches” folder
- Choose which caches and temporary files to clear, you can selectively choose specific app caches and temporary files to clean*, or select them all, then place those cache items into the Trash
- Empty the Trash in Mac OS as usual to clear those cache and temporary files from the Mac
* The caches folder will contain many nonsensical file names and folder names, with names like “com.apple.iTunes” and “com.apple.Safari” and many others. To find a specific app cache, you’d look for a folder of file that matches the name, for example the contents of “com.apple.Safari” would contain the Safari caches. This caches and temporary files folder is not intended to be user facing or user friendly, so don’t expect it to be.
If you are aiming to clean out web browser caches, a better approach is to empty cache in Safari on the Mac or empty cache in Chrome on the Mac, both of which can be done directly from the web browser apps themselves.
As mentioned multiple times, it is not necessary nor is it recommended to manually remove and clean caches yourself like this, unless you have a specific reason to do so, typically for troubleshooting.
How to Clear Out System Caches and Temporary System Files on Mac
The above method covers deleting and cleaning out caches and temporary files from the active user account, but the Mac system software and system level apps can also create temporary files and cache files. There are various system level cache files and folders and most of them should never be manually interfered with, doing so can result in all sorts of unexpected behaviors or worse. So what should you do?
The safest way to clean out the Mac system caches and temporary system files is by simply rebooting the Mac as discussed here. This is as easy as it gets:
- Go to the Apple menu, and choose “Restart”
Rebooting triggers specific system maintenance tasks in Mac OS that automatically and safely deletes Temporary Items and the /private/var/ folders in Mac OS with zero manual intervention of effort. This includes Mac system caches like sleep images, swap and virtual memory, tmp folders, completed software updates, Mac App Store caches, and much more.
Do you have any particular experiences, opinions, or thoughts about clearing caches and cleaning temporary files from a Mac? Let us know in the comments!