Why does com.apple.IconService take up a lot of MB on the Activity Monitor? I'm aware this is a new feature, from 10.9 onwards.

I Googled solutions to this, but haven't found anything that works... yet.

I don't want to downgrade OS X, but I am interested to know why this happens

com.Apple.IconServicesAgent uses 140.9 MB, and on the hard drive, the folder /var/folders/randomstring/C/com.apple.IconServices takes up 127.5 MB, although this could grow.

My hard drive is 319.21 GB and I have 284.69 GB left, but it was 284.82 last night (no new apps installed or uninstalled, only some temp files/caches deleted), so I'm not sure if this is part of the problem.

Fixed disk permissions as suggested on some Mac sites; no major issues to report.

Is there a way to keep it manageable without losing the icons off the desktop or menu (I did used to delete the folder, killall Dock, killall Finder, restart when I first learnt about com.apple.IconServices).

I had a look on Apple's website, other people are having the same issue but there doesn't seem to be a solution to this. (I'm not that confident with things like Terminal apart from sudo deletion of trash, but that's as far as it goes!!)

All help is much appreciated.

  • My /var/folders/{some random directories}/C/com.apple.IconServices/ takes about 1GB, so I'm very tempted to delete it.. did you get more info about that folder? thanks
    – yorch
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 22:19
  • 2
    How much speed would you want to give up to free 0.14 GB and bump your usable space back up to 284.83 GB? (or worse, lose speed as the system rebuilds that cache of icons so that the system can work as it was designed?) What solution are you seeking?
    – bmike
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 17:43

3 Answers 3


To be frank, I wouldn't worry too much about it. You have plenty of space left. My IconServices folder was about 4 GB large and I had 3 GB of space left on my 160 GB SSD.

I can't tell you why Apple is creating or caching those files on OS X, sadly it seems to be a kind of mystery. I wasn't able to find out anything.

Anyway, after booting my Mac in safe mode (holding down the shift key on startup until the progress bar appears) and then booting up again, I ended up with 13 GB of free space. Try this to free up more space.

  • 1
    Starting in safe mode took me from 1.5GB free to 11.7GB. Good tip! (It reduced IconServices from 1.5GB to 650MB in the process.)
    – Phrogz
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 3:35
  • 1
    Same here. Starting in safe mode and then restarting freed up 16GB of space!
    – Tobia
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 13:15

My overall answer is the same as pattulus in that I wouldn't delete any files in /var/folders unless I had a plan for modifying the system to not recreate them. Especially on one like IconServices where the cached data will rapidly grow back to where the system wants that cache size to be and slow the system down in the mean time while it's rebuilding.

If you have multiple users (and all macs have some users that aren't your primary admin account) you're likely undercounting the IconServices storage penalty. Most Mac that are running with a few dozen apps and for 6 months or more on Mavericks will have between 500 MB to 1 GB of storage set aside for each user that IconServices has seen:

Mac:~ bmike$ sudo find /var/folders -name ISCacheTOC -exec sudo ls -l {} + 
-rw-------  1 502             staff           378016 Mar 12 11:10 /var/folders/04/g252hty50k15wmhckgpwfm6w0000gq/C/com.apple.IconServices/ISCacheTOC
-rw-------  1 503             staff           378016 Mar  9 18:08 /var/folders/gh/h072t02n1wngwzzqglbkdk580000gp/C/com.apple.IconServices/ISCacheTOC
-rw-------  1 504             staff           378016 Jan  6 21:55 /var/folders/rk/p7hlxttn44n05r2f_h4m6pmh0000gr/C/com.apple.IconServices/ISCacheTOC
-rw-------  1 bmike           staff           168016 Mar 14 12:19 /var/folders/tv/xyw2rpln7hq4gw2m0prg_src0000gn/C/com.apple.IconServices/ISCacheTOC
-rw-------  1 _securityagent  _securityagent  112016 Mar  7 13:27 /var/folders/zz/zyxvpxvq6csfxvn_n00000bh00002w/C/com.apple.IconServices/ISCacheTOC
-rw-------  1 Guest           _guest          112016 Mar 13 08:01 /var/folders/zz/zyxvpxvq6csfxvn_n00000s4000069/C/com.apple.IconServices/ISCacheTOC

In a case where you've deleted users, I suppose clearing those files would not harm anything and save some space in a pinch. For me, the space savings for swap/sleep image/compressed memory in /private/var/vm freed up more space than the IconService caches have claimed thus far.

Here's how I'd calculate the size of all such folders, and you can chop off the | awk ... tail end to see each user's allocation if you wish:

Mac:~ bmike$ sudo find /var/folders -name com.apple.IconServices -exec sudo du -sm {} + | awk '{ sum += $1} END {print sum}'
  • 1
    The du utility has the built-in ability to produce a total with the -c flag, so you could simplify the command to: sudo find /var/folders -name com.apple.IconServices -exec du -shc {} +
    – jmk
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 17:02

In my particular case, following did NOT help:

killall -KILL com.apple.IconServicesAgent

mkdir -p ${TMPDIR}/com.apple.IconServices

However, I was watching its behaviour via

sudo fs_usage -f pathname -w com.apple.IconServicesAgent | grep open

and saw extensive activity in various dirs (including VLC dir, and inside some system services dirs, like /System/Library/Extensions/IOStorageFamily.kext/Contents/Resources). I could reinstall VLC, but IOStorageFamily is sort of built in...

Anyway, after a bit deeper research, the culprit turned out to be XtraFinder! I restarted and updated XtraFinder, and so far IconServicesAgent has been quiet.

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