The Downloads Folder

I did Mac tech support for several years. And, I still support my family and several friends with their Macs. It seems one thing many people don’t do is manage their Downloads Folder. The macOS along with most Apps are set to download stuff into the Downloads Folder in the Finder. Typically what happens is the Downloads Folder becomes very full, mostly with files you have already used and no longer need. This becomes a problem, but there is a fix.

The Problem

Here is what usually happens. You download a file or possibly an installer of some sort. It goes into your Downloads Folder. After a few days or weeks, the Downloads Folder becomes very full. So, you download an important file. When you go to look for it you have to search through tons of files in the Downloads Folder before you find it. Or, maybe when you downloaded the file you did not pay attention to the actual name of the file so when you go into the Downloads Folder you don’t know what you are looking for.

Now, if you tell me you use the Downloads Folder to store stuff, well let me discourage you from doing that. Create a Folder on your Desktop for storage, or just save the downloaded file to wherever it needs to go. There are a few solutions to this problem just choose the one that works best for you.

The Solution

There are several different ways to fix this problem. One solution is to Manually empty the Downloads Folder once a day or perhaps once a week. You could set a reminder in your calendar. It does not take too long to go through the stuff in the Downloads Folder and save whatever needs saving.

Another way to fix this is to get a very handy cleanup App called Hazel by Noodlesoft. Hazel is a cool organization App for the Mac. You can move, delete and generally organize most anything on your Mac. Here is the main window of Hazel:

I don’t have a lot of Rules in there right now, but I am adding them all the time. You can see the “Old Downloads” Rule. Here is what that looks like:

It is kind of like Email rules. It is fairly self-explanatory. There are all kinds of things you can do with the various drop downs. I guarantee you if you buy Hazel, you will find all kinds of things you can do to automate your workflow. You just set it and forget it. Hazel costs $32, but if you wanted to save yourself some time everyday, it is worth the price. Using Hazel presupposes you are monitoring your downloads. You pretty much have dealt with the downloaded files as the came into your machine and then moved.

If you don’t want to spend the money for Hazel, you could do this with the builtin Automator App. Boot up Automator and select “Application” from the icons in the main window. When you get to the creation window scroll through the Actions list and drag “Find Finder Items” into the Application window:

Once that is over there, you have to setup your parameters. You have to choose the Downloads Folderfirst. You are telling your App what Finder Items you are interacting with here. Then, set your interval for the items stay in the Downloads Folder. I have this set to “1 day”. After an item has been in the Downloads Folder over 1 day it will be removed when I run the App. There are several other parameters to choose from:

But, I digress here. Let’s finish the App. Look in the Actions List and drag over “Move Finder Items to Trash” into the Applications window below the first command:

So, your Application is telling the Mac to move any items in the Downloads Folder longer than 1 day to the Trash.

What I would do with this is save the Application to the Desktop. Or, save it to your Applications Folder and put an Alias to it on the Desktop. Then once a day or once a week or whatever your interval is, double-click the App to run it. You will get this warning message:

Click OK and any items that qualify for your parameters in the App will be moved to the Trash. I imagine if you messed around in Automator, you could get it to not show this warning message, but I don’t have the time to do that now.


Here is the bottomline folks. It is worth while to manage your Downloads Folder to keep it fairly cleaned up. Not only will it make finding things easier, you can save quite a bit of space on your Hard Drive by Deleting a bunch of this stuff.