Brimming HD
May 10, 2010 3:06 PM   Subscribe

80 gb macbook HD... using ~10GB for stuff I care about. Constant "startup disk is full" message. I'm operating at capacity and constantly burning CDs to free up operating memory. Can I delete all of my local mail (I use gmail through the mail app) or something? Any way to just reclaim a massive amount of space?
posted by muscat to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You seem to know how much space the stuff you care about takes up. Why don't you delete the other stuff? Your local mail is probably not the problem.
posted by mzurer at 3:10 PM on May 10, 2010

Got $100? Buy a much bigger hard drive and connect it via USB with one of these. Once it's connected, initialize it, and then use this software to clone the materials on the old drive to the new drive. Then, it's not hard to swap the old drive with the new drive.
posted by eschatfische at 3:12 PM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Try whatsize ( It tells you what's taking up space on your hard drive and then you can decide whether to delete it or not.
posted by brgale at 3:20 PM on May 10, 2010

Grand perspective. Visually shows you what you have.
posted by filmgeek at 3:22 PM on May 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Download a visual diskspace monitoring tool like Disk Inventory X. Let it scan your drive (it'll take a few minutes), you'll probably find gigabytes of safely-deletable stuff you never use, like iDVD templates, GarageBand loops, etc.
posted by drumcorpse at 3:23 PM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding Disk Inventory X. Also check out Monolingual to remove extra localizations or one of the programs that removes unneeded print drivers.

Also, it's easy to upgrade the HD in a MacBook and it doesn't even void the warranty. You can get a 500 GB for at most $90 these days, I bet.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:28 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't understand. If only 10 GB is "stuff you care about," why can't you just delete everything else?
posted by reductiondesign at 3:40 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Check out AppZapper. If you're deleting programs it's good to clean up all their associated preference files and whatnot that have been added to your system library. It won't free up gigabytes of space, most likely, but it's still a great utility to have.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:46 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm going to try some of the suggestions.

To answer some of the questions... the "stuff I care about" is just my work in my documents folder. The rest of the stuff is the kind of stuff drumcorpse is talking about... like templates, printer drivers, etc.
posted by muscat at 3:47 PM on May 10, 2010

If you don't want to install anything new, you can find out where all your space has gone by opening the Terminal application (it's in Utilities) and typing this:

du -m -a | sort -nr | head -n 20

After a few minutes, you will see listed the biggest things in your home folder.
posted by Mwongozi at 4:12 PM on May 10, 2010

There's no way that 90% of the data on your hard drive is templates and printer drivers. Your entire operating system and all that associated stuff is unlikely to take up any more than 15-20GB at a push (unless you have some particularly huge third party software like Apple's Final Cut video editing software installed).

There are ways to save space — AppZapper is one of them — but life's too short to spend any of it constantly deleting files. I have to advise that you take up eschatfische's suggestion and upgrade your hard drive. Your computer will run quicker, and you can download with abandon. :)
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 4:12 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

No, you don't have SEVENTY GIGS of templates, printer drivers etc.

Something is wrong here, like you have a folder somewhere with 40Gb of partially-downloaded movies, or music, or you have never emptied your trash, or you have 4 other user accounts you have forgotten about.

An OSX installation, even with a whole mountain of apps, is not going to be more than 10Gb. You have 10Gb of documents. The rest... something is wacky here.

I'll second Grand Perspective, or one of the other "what is taking up all my space" programs to help you figure this out.
posted by rokusan at 4:13 PM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just make sure that you find the hard drive replacement instructions for the exact model Mac that you have, before you go down that path. The ones linked above for the 13" Macbook don't look too bad, but some past models were really awful. (I had an iBook and decided to swap the drive; I figured how hard could it be? It led to questions like "do you think dried blood will short out the motherboard?" Yeah, not good.) Since then I have been more cautious.

Unless you have a large movie or music collection that you want to carry around with you all the time, or you do video editing, 80GB isn't that bad for local disk. If you get a decent NAS unit you can push all your documents and media up to it, only keeping your current documents on the machine's local drive.

But I agree with rokusan; before you start buying hardware you should look at what kind of stuff you have on that machine. I think if you look you're going to start turning up junk that you've just forgotten about, and 70GB is too much for it to just be your saved email. Go for the low-hanging fruit; life's too short to sort through emails for what's worth preserving, but it's not too short to take a quick look through your drive to see what's taking up 7/8ths of it.

One way to start is to just open up your hard drive, select View:As List, go into "Show View Options" and enable "Calculate all sizes". Then sort the list by size, and drill down (using the expand arrows) through the folder tree until you find what's taking up all the space. I bet you're going to find some stuff that surprises you.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:54 PM on May 10, 2010 does use local storage to cache your messages from the server. You might be able to delete this cache, but it'll just accumulate again. That shouldn't matter though, because unless you've purchased a massive Gmail storage upgrade, or are using multiple accounts that are near their full capacity, its unlikely to shave more than 10GB.

As others have suggested, get a disk utilization visualizer like DiskInventoryX, run it, and figure out where all your storage is really going.

Do you have a huge big library or something?
posted by Good Brain at 5:13 PM on May 10, 2010

If you torrent a lot, remember that torrents 'bookmark' their space on your harddrive before they finish. I.e.- If you start a 7GB torrent, that torrent immediately takes up 7GB of space on your HD regardless of whether or not you finished the download. I usually end up with like 30 gigs of incomplete torrents on my drives that I have to periodically flush
posted by GilloD at 5:49 PM on May 10, 2010

There are a few conditions that will produce friggin ginormous log files. As others have suggested, either use a util or cmd J and check 'Calculate All Sizes' and sleuth it out. Something ain't right.

Macbooks (polycarbonate) take about 3 minutes to change hard drives in. super simple. New big drives are cheap. Get an enclosure too, clone your current drive to your new 500GB and use the 80 as an external. easy peasy. Newegg has deals on drives and cases, as do other retailers.
posted by KenManiac at 8:48 PM on May 10, 2010

Monolingual removes all the excess languages that are installed with OSX. Keep only the languages you need. This should free up a couple gigs pretty easy.
posted by ijoyner at 9:59 PM on May 10, 2010

I did forget about my itunes library, which is another ~8 gb.

I ran Disk Inventory X. There really was almost 10 gb in iDVD themes! Apps take up more room than I thought, as does mail.

You guys are right... I deserve to not have to deal with this. I'm buying an HD.
posted by muscat at 10:45 PM on May 10, 2010

Grand Perspective is great.
posted by OmieWise at 5:22 AM on May 11, 2010

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