Why can't computer things just work the way they're supposed to?
November 28, 2010 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Why does my 500gb Lacie external hard drive only show that I have 24gb of space?

I have a Mac with Snow Leopard 10.6.3. The drive is connected via USB. I have files on it, but they add up to less than 20gb. I don't understand why it only shows that I have 24gb available. I am not tech savvy, so I'm not sure I can fix this myself

I might be able to do de-fragging and reformatting, but someone would have to give me step by step instructions. I've looked everywhere on the web, and this seems to be a problem on both PCs and Macs, but the answers for why this happens and how to fix it vary wildly, and are written for tech-savvy users. Some guesses were: 1) It's that the USB drive can only support/recognize a limited amount of external memory. 2) Something about only being able to see certain "partitions," and there's more memory available in a hidden place that I don't understand because I don't even know what a partition is, or how to see it/access them. 3) Defragging and formatting needed. Don't know how to do either.

Is this something I could take to the mac store and have them look at? Or does the fact that it's a third party device mean they won't look at it?

This is frustrating because, I have a computer guy, but he charges $175-200 an hour, and it would be cheaper to buy a new external drive. PLUS, I might get a new hard drive and have the exact same problem.

I'm hoping there are some simple things that I can either be guided through, or that there's a cheaper place that could look at my problem and resolve it for less than the money it would cost to get a new hard drive.

Basically, I need to be educated, so I can either understand why this has happened, so I can either easily fix myself, or so I can I understand what needs to be done when I take it to some computer place to get it checked out. Right now, I'm just confused.
posted by generic230 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How are you determining the amount of free space?
posted by Mwongozi at 10:52 AM on November 28, 2010

Response by poster: It says it when I open the hard drive. In the window - available space 24.67 gb. And it refuses to let me add any more than that to it.
posted by generic230 at 10:55 AM on November 28, 2010

Go to your Applications folder, then the Utilities folder within it. Launch Disk Utility. Click your external drive on the left hand column, and look at the partitions tab. Let us know what you're seeing there.
posted by teg at 10:55 AM on November 28, 2010

That's a bit weird.

Primer: hard drives can be divided into "partitions", which have hard limits on the amount of space they allocate. This can be used for segregation (core OS files in one partition, third-party programs in another, personal files in another) or, in the past, to get around hardware limits on the amount of space a computer could access.

Open Disk Utility with the drive plugged in, click on the drive name in the left-hand column, and tell us what it says. What you might need to do is copy the files somewhere else (perhaps a 32GB USB stick) then use Disk Utility to reformat the drive. Defragging shouldn't enter the equation here.

Do you need to share those files with a PC, or are you okay with them being accessible only by Macs?
posted by holgate at 10:57 AM on November 28, 2010

Best answer: Open a Finder window, select the disk in the sidebar, and select "Get Info" from the "File" menu.

What does it say for "Capacity" and "Used"?
posted by Mwongozi at 10:57 AM on November 28, 2010

Have you put files on it, and then deleted them? Like, a large amount of material? I had a similar problem and it turned out I just had to empty my trash. For some reason, the disc was still holding space for the files I deleted, until I cleared them from my Trash.

Admittedly, this was a USB-key type of thing with a much smaller capacity than you're using, so I'm not sure if it will be relevant to your situation.
posted by torisaur at 11:07 AM on November 28, 2010

Best answer: Have you emptied your trash? Ive noticed space on my drive does t change until I empty my Trash.
posted by backwards guitar at 11:09 AM on November 28, 2010

Response by poster: It says 475.3gb used, but I just went through and added up all the files I have on it, and it comes to 203gb. I didn't realize i'd used up 203gb, but still, I should have more space left. The files I'm putting on it now are Quicktime files of my HD videos. I've been digitizing them, and I have about 70 to do. I've only put 4 on the external drive so far.
posted by generic230 at 11:12 AM on November 28, 2010

Response by poster: YES! I now have 127gb! You saved me a couple hundred bucks. Sweet.
posted by generic230 at 11:24 AM on November 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much backwards guitar. This is why askmefi is so awesome. Problem solved in 2 minutes without any useless expensive software, cables, and new purchases.
posted by generic230 at 11:25 AM on November 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your quick response and generally helpful nature. Very appreciated.
posted by generic230 at 11:35 AM on November 28, 2010

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