Wipe versus Clean: Which is Better for Mac Startup Disk Full Issue?

Summary: Know the difference between wiping and cleaning your Mac startup disk and decide which one out of the two is most suitable in your case. Download the 30-day free trial of SpeedUp Mac software from here to automate the startup disk clean-up process.

Your Mac startup disk can accumulate junks, leftovers, caches, and other unwanted files that bloat up the disk space and degrade system performance. You need to recurrently remove such items from your Mac startup disk to regain free space and speed up the performance of your Mac. You can either wipe or clean your startup disk depending on your requirements.

Wipe Startup Disk Using Disk Utility

The wiping process requires you to back up important files and folders from your Mac startup disk to an external storage medium. After the backup is over, perform the following task:

a) Restart your Mac, then press and hold Command + R keys until the Apple logo appears. Your Mac will boot into macOS Recovery mode.

b) From the macOS Utilities window, select Disk Utility and click Continue. Select Macintosh HD the startup disk from the sidebar, then click the Erase tab.

c) Fill the name, scheme, and format options from the pop-up window, then click Erase. Disk Utility will erase the startup disk.

d) Select Reinstall macOS from the macOS Utilities window. Perform the on-screen instructions to install macOS.

e) Once Mac completes the macOS installation process, use Restore From Time Machine Backup from the macOS Utilities window to restore your backed-up data to the startup disk.

You can also use Disk Utility’s Security Options to erase your Mac securely. The Security Options dialog window provides a slider with four stops to increase the complexity of erasing algorithms and the number of passes. The first stop is the normal erase, which is quick but not very secure. In contrast, the last stop uses a secure erasure algorithm, which is slow but most secure out of the four.

Wiping process requires you to back up > erase > reinstall > restore. The process is time-consuming and should be done only in case of critical errors or when you are repurposing or reselling your Mac. Wiping erases your Mac storage disk such that no data recovery software can recover your lost data. Also, your Mac will attain its lost performance, just like new.

Clean Startup Disk Using Manual Methods

Apart from wiping, you can clean your Mac startup disk using some easy to perform manual methods. The clean-up process is quick and doesn’t require you to erase your Mac startup disk.

So, begin by checking your Mac startup disk usage based on file types, then manage it using the following steps:

a) Go to the Apple menu and click About This Mac. Click the Storage tab to view a pictorial representation of storage drive usage based on file types.

b) Click the Manage tab to get an automatic recommendation for the clean-up task from the left pane. Perform the drive optimization task from the right pane.

Now, you should clean up your Downloads folder. Steps are as follows:

a) Open Finder from Dock. From the sidebar of the Finder window, click the Downloads folder.

b) Move the essential downloads to another Mac volume or an external storage drive.

c) Press Command + A to select all files, then press Command + Delete keys to delete them.

Next, remove the caches and logs from your Mac startup disk. Steps are as follows:

a) From the Menu Bar, click Go, then click Go To Folder.

b) Type ~/Library/Caches in the text box and click Go.

c) Delete the cache files by opening the individual folder.

d) Open the Go To Folder again, type ~/Library, and click Go.

e) Delete log files of unused apps by opening the Log folder.

Later, uninstall unneeded applications from your Mac by using the following steps:

a) Open Applications folder from Finder’s sidebar.

b) Sort the apps using file size, then check the unwanted large apps.

c) Drag and drop the selection to Trash to uninstall them.

Finally, empty your Trash after checking its stored content. Steps are as follows:

a) Open Trash from Dock.

b) Put back any essential files.

c) Click Empty Trash to clean up Trash.

You can even remove duplicate files from your Mac and move large files to an external storage drive. Plus, clean up leftovers, unneeded language packs, browser data, etc. The clean-up process is easy, but the manual steps are tedious.

Clean Startup Disk Using a Clean Up Software

A comfortable and efficient method to remove unwanted files from your Mac is to use SpeedUp Mac, a powerful clean up software. The tool helps you clean up your Mac startup disk with a click of a button. The steps are explained next.

a) Download and install the *free Speedup Mac software on your iMac, MacBook, or Mac mini.  

Free for 30 Days

b) Launch the software and select Macintosh HD, the startup disk, from the left panel.

c) Click the Scan button to start the scanning process on the selected volume; here, it is Macintosh HD, the startup disk.

d) Verify the total size of Mac storage space occupied by the cache files, log files, trash, leftovers, system junks, and language files. Select the files that you wish to remove.

e) Click the “SpeedUp Now” button to remove all the inessential files from Macintosh HD.

f) Allow the software to execute the cleaning task on the Mac startup volume.

g) Once the scanning is over, click OK on the “Process Completed” dialog window.

*The free SpeedUp Mac software is free for 30 days. In case you wish to continue using the clean-up tool beyond the free usage period, activate the software for a nominal annual charge.


By now, you must have understood which is best for you—wiping or cleaning your Mac startup disk. Wipe when the Mac is bloated with applications, running extremely slow, throws errors, or when you are selling or repurposing your Mac. You can use Disk Utility to wipe your Mac after backup.

Cleaning is recommended in most situations to regain startup disk space and boost Mac performance. Manual cleaning can be done time and again. But, if you aren’t comfortable with the tedious and recurrent manual clean-up procedures, use Speedup Mac software to automate clean-up tasks at a scheduled interval.

76% of people found this article helpful