Getting my Mac back on track
January 4, 2012 11:47 AM   Subscribe

New Year's Resolution: Clean up my hard drive(s) by removing duplicate files, implementing a new folder hierarchy, and any other odds and ends I need you to tell me to do. Mac Pro 2009 running the latest pre-Lion OS.


1. Remove duplicate files. Years of somewhat manic backup strategies left me with multiple copies of entire user directories on different media. I disposed of the media in 2010 (mostly Zip disks), and aggregated all the files on a couple hard drives, but I really don't need five identical folders of my high school English papers.

Please recommend a Mac duplicate file finder that doesn't just match by name and date stamp (some files seem to have different attributes, but are the same). I am happy to pay for this.

2. New folder hierarchy. I think my "system" doesn't make any sense. Under users/AdmiralHaddock/, I've segregated files among "Word Documents" and "Excel Documents" and a couple other similarly large categories.

I'm not sure why I did this, because "Word Documents" (for whatever reason) contains the folders "Work" and "School" but also "Faxes, Scans, and Screen Shots" and "Graphic Design." I have no idea what's in the "Excel Documents" folder; it's been so long that I think spiders live in there.

Can you recommend a hierarchy or filing system for my "Documents" folder? I realize that how one organizes your files is an inherently personal thing--but I'm hoping for a grand Dewey Decimal kind of framework that I can adapt to put files into a rational hierarchy.

3. General Care and Maintenance. I have a Time Machine backup that backs up every 15 minutes, and I also have 2 SuperDuper! external clones (one of which I intend to start storing off site).

Beyond that, I don't do any kind of maintenance.

What should I be doing? I would prefer not to have to do anything in the Terminal--but I seem to remember something a while back about setting up cron jobs for various daily, weekly, and monthly UNIX thingies that were good for happy computers. I'm willing to pay for a program that does the right kind of maintenance (or maybe do it myself, but you'll have to talk me through it as if I were a slightly below average ferret).
posted by Admiral Haddock to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
For documents, I order them by client or project. Each project folder would contain the various Photoshop, Word, Illustrator, txt, etc. files dedicated to that particular project. It works for me. ymmv, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:58 AM on January 4, 2012

For the "various daily, weekly, and monthly UNIX thingies" you might look at the application Onyx, which will do some of the cleanup. Just make sure you download the Snow Leopard version, not the Lion version.
posted by bcwinters at 12:16 PM on January 4, 2012

For the hierarchy question, here is how I do it:

If I have a project, all stuff related to it goes in one folder with the project name. Recently, I made a digital slideshow for someone. The photos, the text explaining what they were, and the files where I created the slideshow all went into a folder called "Grams 90th Bday." That folder and every other folder like it goes into a folder called "Projects," until it is completed. Then the folder gets moved to "Completed Projects."

Everything else goes into a folder named after the file's extention, so I have folders with names like KEYNOTE/PPT, PDF, TXT, DOC/PAGES, NUMBERS/XLS, and INSTALLERS (for .dmg files) in my Documents folder. I also have a

When things start piling up on me, I just start dumping stuff into a "To File" folder. Then, when I have time, I just open the To File folder and sort everything by extention, and then drag things to the proper folder. For example, the list of .pdf files gets dragged en masse to the PDf folder, or you can use an app called Hazel to create rules, so when, for example, you drop a Keynote file into your Hazel folder, it automatically moves it to your Keynote folder and gives you a nice Growl notification letting you know the task is done.

When it comes to finding those fles again, Spotlight is your friend.
posted by 4ster at 12:34 PM on January 4, 2012

Admiral Haddock: "Please recommend a Mac duplicate file finder that doesn't just match by name and date stamp (some files seem to have different attributes, but are the same). I am happy to pay for this."

The obvious method is to compare hashes. I make no promises that it works on any platform, let alone OSX, but fdupes does roughly what I assume should be done: build a database of md5s and then double check matches.
posted by pwnguin at 12:50 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

For the "various daily, weekly, and monthly UNIX thingies"...

OSX handles the daily, weekly, monthly cron jobs on its own automatically.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:28 PM on January 4, 2012

It doesn't help with you explicit goals, but Disk Inventory X is a great program to visual the files on your drive and might help you clean out some clutter.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:34 PM on January 4, 2012

This is only for duplicate image files, but a couple of weeks ago I used PhotoSweeper to finally get around to trashing about 14 GB of duplicate images that I had in sprinkled about in scores of various folders and subfolders*.

I was able to get the app set up and then go watch a movie while it chugged away, finding all the duplicates. Once it was done, I could scroll through all the suspect copies it found, and then move all the ones I wanted to the trash with a couple of clicks.

* All of these duplicates were the result of a couple of different recoveries from an iPhoto update-related accidental erasure.
posted by blueberry at 1:50 PM on January 4, 2012

Finds duplicate files in a directory. Save as "", open, run:
perl /Users/yourname

If you have lots of data, this will take a long time.
use strict;

my $dir = $ARGV[0];

my %hashes;

sub check($)
  my $dir = shift;
  print "checking $dir\n";
  my @dirEntries;
  opendir D, $dir or die "Can't open '$dir'.\n";
  while (my $entry = readdir(D))
    push @dirEntries, $entry;
  closedir D;

  foreach my $entry(@dirEntries)
    if ($entry =~ /^\.+$/)
    if (-d "$dir/$entry")
      my $md5 = `md5 -q "$dir/$entry"`;
      chomp $md5;
      if ($hashes{$md5})
        push @{$hashes{$md5}}, "$dir/$entry";
        $hashes{$md5} = ["$dir/$entry"];


foreach my $key(keys %hashes)
  my @temp = @{$hashes{$key}};
  if ((scalar @temp) > 1)
    print "Duplicate files:\n";
    print join "\n", @temp;
    print "\n\n\n";

posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:20 PM on January 4, 2012

In the General Care & Maintenance vein, when was the last time you opened up the case and gave the insides a light once over with a vacuum?
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:53 AM on January 5, 2012

Response by poster: Minor update: I reorganized my documents folder in a way that makes more sense to me now--finances, work, schoolwork, graphic design, games, miscellaneous, etc. That was a big improvement by itself.

I've also been using DupeGuru to clean up duplicate files. I did a first pass through the documents folder over the past week, and now I'm working through all the zip disks I had saved. It's pretty tedious work--I have, in some cases, 9 copies of the same file. Unfortunately, there are also files that I have resaved in updated formats and changed the name--so, really, changed everything about the file--that will need to be manually sorted at some point. Once that's done, I have just one more set of files to go through and I'll be all cleaned up!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:24 AM on January 31, 2012

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