How to Organize Your Files on a Mac


How to Organize Your Files on a Mac

Whether you’ve recently switched to a Mac OSX or have been using one for some time, you probably know what it’s like to have disorganization everywhere. Unfortunately, Mac makes it difficult to save files into sub folders, and you might quickly find that anything you download piles up on your desktop instead of solely in the download folder. So, how do you organize your files on a Mac? We’ll go over removing duplicates, finding extra files, organizing with folders and tags, and more.

Cleaning Up

The first step to cleaning up your Mac is to remove unwanted, old, and unused files. One way to do this is to utilize a Mac cleaner/antivirus like Mackeeper which will find duplicate files, tell you which files take up the most space, and allow you to delete them more easily. If you don’t have this sort of program, then you can do most of it manually and with free software.

Cleanup Files in Mac

Duplicate Files – Open your finder and go to anywhere you may have duplicate files. For most people, this is in photos. Under the small gear menu, you should see a tool listed as ‘duplicates’. Click this. This will show you any duplicates that you have in the folder so that you can delete one or more copies. Keep in mind that sometimes you may have different sizes of the same files and it may not be a good idea to delete it.

Removing Unwanted Files – Unfortunately, removing unwanted files is something that must be done manually. Your best bet is to open a preview of each file, make sure that you don’t want it, and then delete it. If you’re going through a lot of files that will take multiple sessions, try tagging files that you want to keep. Simply tagging the file blue will let you know where you left off and what you don’t have to go through later.

Unused Files – Most of us collect a number of old and unused files over time, although sometimes you may want to keep these. In the case of software, you can most likely just delete it if you did not pay for it, but if you did pay for it, check the policy. Most purchases from the Mac App store can be downloaded whenever you need them, but other companies may have different policies. Usually, you just need your original key and you can reinstall it whenever you want. If you have old photos, videos, or music that you want to keep, but don’t necessarily have room for on your drive, consider purchasing an external drive or external USB. You can usually get a 32GB flash drive for about $30 on Amazon, or a 1-4 TB external drive for $100-$200 on the same site. This is the cheapest way to back up your data, and store files that you no longer have room for. Alternately try storing photos in an online cloud server like Dropbox.


Organizing your files is a multi-step process and there are a number of ways to go about it depending on what you use your computer for.

Cleanup Files in Mac

Use as many subfolders as you want to organize data

Folders – Creating a new folder is an extremely easy way to make your Mac files more organized, and you can have as many sub folders as you want. Just remember that Mac does not allow you to save into sub-folders, so you will have to drag and drop in the future. Create a new folder by pushing Command + N, or opening the Finder, going to the Folder you want your new folder to be in, and clicking the gear at the top. From there you can click ‘New Folder’ and you’re good to go. You can name your folder whatever you want, and then use it to organize any sort of data. One of the best ways to organize photos is to create year albums with sub-folders by month inside of it. You can also do sub-folders by event or by week depending on the number of photos that you have. Make sure you stay alert and watch where you put all of your new folders, or they will be just as disorganized as your files.

Cleanup Files in Mac

Tagging files is easy – just left click and pick a color

Tagging – If you happen to have OSX Mavericks on your Mac then you can use Mac’s tagging system to bring up files with the touch of a button. For example, if you have a work project on your Mac, you can tag it red, and bring up all of your files tagged red by going into Finder and clicking the Red tag. Using the tagging system requires that you A) use consistent color coding across all of your projects, and B) remember what each color code is for. If you just use your computer for home use, try tagging different colors for different photos of family members, different events your working on, or different colors for each thing you’re working on. For example you could tag all home stuff with blue, work stuff with red, garden stuff with green, and so on. How do you add a tag? Left click with your mouse to bring up the options menu and click the color of choice.


Cleanup Files in Mac

Some programs like Mackeeper automatically find duplicate files for you

You can also choose to use free (or paid) software to help you with organization. For example, many people use Evernote to store their current projects, calendars, and to-dos, while others choose to utilize Dropbox for storing photos or documents.
If you have trouble finding files with Mac’s Spotlight, the Alfred productivity app is a great free alternative you can try.

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