Help, there's no more room on my Notebook!
November 8, 2004 12:45 PM   Subscribe

iMac notebook + OS9 + OSX = no hard drive space. Even more helpful, installing/reinstalling anything doesn't seem to work. iMore inside...

My stepmom's iBook has a 10 gig hard drive with only about 200 megs free space - but the finder doesn't list enough stuff to account for the amount of the drive that is filled. my dad claims he installed OSX on it, which would account for the "missing" space, but (a) OS9 is the default boot, (b) OSX doesn't show up in the boot drive list, and (c) re-running OSX setup ends with an error message. Plus, (d) trying to upgrade OS9.1 to 9.2 (in an attempt to help fix things) ends in an incomplete download and an error, even though there is enough free space to get the 80-some MB file from the apple support server.

The main problem is that it's a school computer, the school wants things to be upgraded to OSX, but my stepmom keeps it in OS9 mode by default because none of the classroom computers she uses are running X yet... now we can't get it to switch back. I'm not a mac person - I can work with OS9 and have installed & configured OSX on a different system, but this is beyond me. Any help?
posted by caution live frogs to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
My best guess as to what's causing the problems is that most installation/upgrade procedures require enough free space to back up or temporarily expand the installation files into, and 200MB isn't enough for them. Do you have specific error messages handy, by any chance? (A tip, in any computer related troubleshooting, make a point of writing down any and all error messages you get--that way anyone trying to help will be better informed.)

Regardless of the cause, for a solution the best bet is probably to do a clean install from scratch, if possible. What kinds of personal/work-related files are on this computer right now, and how much? Is it possible to back up to another machine temporarily?

If so, back everything up (including applications that aren't going to be easy to find and reinstall) and install OSX from scratch. There should be an option during the install for installing Classic (OS9), although being an OSX-only person, I've never bothered, so I'm not positive. If that option doesn't exist, installing OS9 from scratch and then immediately installing OSX from scratch should work--OSX will detect that OS9 exists and should step around it.

If the above procedures work, you should find yourself with an iBook that still has ~8GB free (maybe even ~9GB) and hopefully the files you backed up won't take up all that space. Unless your stepmom is working with lots of video or graphics files (or has a large-for-this-hard-drive-size iTunes music library) 10GB is plenty of space for the average work/education user.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 1:42 PM on November 8, 2004

Oh, I almost forgot--by default, OSX will set itself up as the default boot, but if everything is normal (i.e. no hardware problems and no software glitches) you can very easily go into the System Preferences and choose the Startup Disk pref-pane, and you should be presented with the option of choosing OSX or OS9.

Selecting OS9 will ensure that it is the primary boot until you tell OS9 otherwise, which is exactly the same procedure--Control Panels -> Startup Disk, choose OSX, reboot.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 1:44 PM on November 8, 2004

Whenever I see a system with unexplained space problems, the first thing I do is a full hard drive search using Sherlock for files > 50-100 MB. Often turns up a culprit or two right away.

You should also try booting from the OS9 CD and running Disk First Aid or, even better if you have it, Disk Warrior; sometimes unexpected space problems are a sign of filesystem corruption.

Finally, in OS 9, having virtual memory on (and it's on by default), creates a permanent file the same size as the amount of virtual memory (by default the amount of real memory + 1 MB). You can turn it off to free up a bunch of space in a hurry if you need it, though I don't recommend that as a permanent setting.
posted by boaz at 6:44 PM on November 8, 2004

Response by poster: searching for large files turned up one ~200 mb quicktime movie file, deleting this was the only reason there was about 200 mb free in the first place - before that there was only 7 mb free. my major issue is that NOTHING else on the drive (as far as the finder knows) can account for the missing space. there's less than 1 gig of actual files on the drive - and 9.7 gigs of used space.

OSX doesn't show up on the boot menu, tried that - reinstalling just either hung or gave a random error (my dad was trying to do the install, i never saw the error messages).

not sure how much of the drive i can back up. i don't have another mac i can copy things to, and don't want to risk copying things to a windows box, what with the usual screwups you get with file compatability.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:48 AM on November 9, 2004

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