My computer needs to lose some weight.
September 7, 2010 11:22 AM   Subscribe

My computer needs to lose some weight. I know, total rookie question, but how can I figure out what is taking up so much room on my hard drive so I can get rid of it? (10.6.4)

My Macbook has been running sloooow. 120GB hard drive with only 2GB remaining. If I see that little spinning pinwheel ball again I'm going to go nuts. I don't really do that much with this thing, so I'm having a hard time figuring out how it got so stuffed.

It seems like there must be some way to view a list of files by size so that I can get rid of the largest unneeded stuff first, but I can't figure out how to do it. I share the computer with my family, so it could be that there is quite a bit of stuff on there I don't realize. If I knew what was loading it up, we could all determine what should stay and what should go.

I also have a 500GB Timemachine,'m not really sure how to put that to best use.
posted by nickjadlowe to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Disk Inventory X
posted by The Michael The at 11:24 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Grand Perspective works well. As a general rule it's a good idea to have about 10% of the drive consist of free space.
posted by mikel at 11:37 AM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a Windows girl, and when I have this problem, I search for all files over a certain size. 50MB, 100MB, whatever works for you. This usually narrows down at least the categories of things taking up space. For me, it's typically podcasts and video files, and sometimes photos.

As for the Timemachine, I'd use it to go back in time with a sports almanac, make some bets, win lots of money, and use the money to purchase everyone their own damn computer and stop cluttering up yours. Or to host music/podcast/video files. Your call.
posted by booksherpa at 11:41 AM on September 7, 2010

posted by needled at 11:42 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

What Size > Disk Inventory X - Get the demo and clean 'er out

Also, get Monolingual - it removes not only old dictionaries / language packs (I myself only keep English / French and Japanese) but also old architectures from the OSX builds that are lying around (g3 / g4 /g5 libs etc)
posted by bobby_newmark at 11:46 AM on September 7, 2010

Best answer: Echoing what mikel said, you'll need to free up 10 GB at the bare minimum.

A few tricks for freeing up space:

If you don't care about keeping the drivers for printers you don't own, you can delete those drivers. They're in Home > Library > Printers sorted by manufacturer.

Have you emptied your Trash?

Have you emptied the trash in iPhoto? Aha.

I swear byMonolingual for getting rid of all the extra language localizations built into the OS and various apps. I'm never going to need to run iTunes in Russian.
posted by emelenjr at 11:50 AM on September 7, 2010

open up a terminal.

> du | sort -rn | head

shows you the 10 biggest files or directories in your current location.

Mac-mini:~ th$ du | sort -rn | head
135722568	.
92959544	./Movies
23448192	./Music
23448176	./Music/iTunes
23393720	./Music/iTunes/iTunes Media
11564832	./Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Music
9979064	./.Trash
8767088	./Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Movies
3659800	./backups
3659784	./backups/configuration settings

posted by jenkinsEar at 1:03 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

WinDirStat is a great little tool that analyzes your drive and shows you a graphic display of all your files. The display is color coded by file type and the bigger the square in the display, the bigger the file. Makes it super easy to find all those memory hogging files you forgot about that are eating up your hard drive.
posted by platinum at 1:08 PM on September 7, 2010

If there are multiple admin user accounts, most of those utilities will only find shared things plus things in your home directory. To get around this, enable root access, log in as root, and then run the utility.

Note: this gives you direct read/write access to everyone's folders and files. Some may find this to be an invasion of privacy.
posted by supercres at 1:14 PM on September 7, 2010

Response by poster: Very helpful answers everybody! Thanks. I downloaded Disk Inventory X and that showed me exactly what my problems were. Dexter Season dead. Chriss Angel Mindfreak...disappeared. And so on. From now on, all these things get put in a single place so I know where they are. Also, my computer is now completely unusable in Azerbaijani. I'll get by.

I like the colored graphic solutions because I'm kinda computer stupid that way. However, I'm going to try some of that terminal stuff because life doesn't always get solved with pretty pictures and I should know the basics of how to get around my own computer.

Thanks again.
posted by nickjadlowe at 1:25 PM on September 7, 2010

If you don't use Garage Band (I don't) the files that go along with it (music loops) take up a MASSIVE amount of drive space. Gigabytes. You can safely kill it all. Same goes for some of the files that go along with old versions of iMovie. Should be located in the /Library/Application Support folder. Root around and see what you can delete.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:04 PM on September 7, 2010

Printer Drivers are a massive waste of space for the most part on Snow Leopard. Also, consider running Monolingual to strip out any non Intel code (Snow Leopard is Intel Only). Additionally you can also remove all the language files you don't use. Don't need the Russian help files for iTunes? Delete them...

(Just keep the English!)
posted by Biru at 3:20 PM on September 7, 2010

Oops, someone already suggested Monolingual...
posted by Biru at 3:21 PM on September 7, 2010

Just wanted to post a more detailed version of the du-command-based solution posted by jenkinsEar

du -k /|grep -v /dev/fd/|sort -rn > ~/Documents/filesize.txt

which will take a while to run but produces lots more information. You'll need to sudo to get the details of system files and logs and so on, otherwise it will just do your personal files.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:02 PM on September 7, 2010

Note that Office Update specifically has some problems with Monolingual - removing the language files / architecture from MS Office can cause the updater to fail. Other than that, remove away.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:08 PM on September 10, 2010

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