Getting a Macbook Air in a couple weeks and need advice on moving to the smaller hard drive, specifically relating to iTunes and iOS devices.
January 25, 2012 7:40 PM   Subscribe

Getting a Macbook Air in a couple weeks and need advice on moving to the smaller hard drive, specifically relating to iTunes and iOS devices.

I currently have a Macbook with a 750 GB hard drive. I currently have 305 GB of data. The MBA has a 256 GB hard drive, and I figure I shouldn't go above about 75% capacity (190 GB). I download a ton of stuff on a regular basis so I'd like to keep it even lower than that, maybe around 150 GB.

I can't imagine how anyone manages with such a small hard drive these days and would appreciate any tips and advice. More details and specific questions below.

Here are my biggest space hogs right now:
• iTunes music: 130 GB (about 60 GB of which I could move to an external drive)

• Photos: 57 GB (actual photos could be moved to hard drive. I would keep my Lightroom catalog on my laptop)

• iTunes videos, movies and TV: 18 GB (all could be moved to external drive)

Disk inventory X screenshot. Note: where it says " documents", that section is mostly full of large images (TIFFs).
If I remove the items above, it reduces my hard drive usage from 305 GB to 170 GB, which is getting close to where I want to be. I have some serious questions about about this plan:
• If I have 2 music libraries, how do I control which syncs with my Apple TV (1st generation)? Can I sync both? If I only sync my primary library, but it doesn't include TV shows and movies, it kind of defeats the purpose of the Apple TV.

• Same for my iPhone and iPad... assuming I can only sync with one iTunes library, how will I get both music and video onto my devices?

• What else can I move to get down to about 150 GB?

• I use Superduper to back up my hard drive daily, and I also do a Timemachine backup to a 1 TB Apple Time Capsule every few days. I think I could just connect my external drive to my laptop and back up both drives at once. Right? Keeping both backed up makes me nervous.
As you can see, I don't really have a plan figured out yet. I'm sure that the lighter and faster laptop will be worth it, but I am very nervous about this backwards in hard drive space.
posted by kdern to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You know about iTunes Match, right? It works really well with your iOS devices and computers.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:52 PM on January 25, 2012

Rock Steady: iTunes match won't work with a first-gen Apple TV.

kdern: He's on the right track, though. My suggestion would be moving everything to the external drive, getting a next-gen AppleTV, and using iTunes Match to get to your music from Everywhere.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:56 PM on January 25, 2012

What is the rest of the 170GB? Seriously...if you eliminate media, OSX Lion is only a few gigs in size. I've had a MBA for about a month, using it _heavily_ (iMovie HD video editing of CES footage, Aperture library of all my video and audio of the show, the full Adobe Suite AND Microsoft Office) and I'm not even scratching 100GB. Oh, and 35 Gigs of that is my Dropbox full of docs and presentations.

If you ID where the rest of your space is going, that's the first step. IMHO, iTunes Match is good enough that I'd upgrade to the Apple TV 2 to get it working.
posted by griffey at 8:01 PM on January 25, 2012

Response by poster: Doesn't iTunes match download rather than stream? I don't understand how that helps me... can you explain? I listen to music constantly on multiple devices, and I also use iTunes for podcasts, tv and movies.
posted by kdern at 8:02 PM on January 25, 2012

Why does half the iTunes library have to stay on the laptop? I'd start by moving the whole thing to an external drive. No puzzles about switching between libraries. That by itself gets you down below your target. This would mean to you'd have to carry an external drive around with you if you want to have iTunes available on the road. This is what I do [though not with a MBA, with a big ol' HP laptop]. I started doing it so I could share the same iTunes library between a MacBook and a Windows laptop. When I stopped carrying the Macbook around, I just kept up with the external drive.

My desktop machine at home also has the iTunes library on an external drive, even though there's plenty of space on the internal drive.

I'm also puzzled by where the space is going. Is that itemization on the right showing only the contents of the Users dir?
posted by chazlarson at 8:15 PM on January 25, 2012

Response by poster: Chazlarson... Nope, that's the whole drive.

I can't imagine plugging in an external drive every time I use my computer... I listen to music all the time and move my computer to different locations throughout the day.
posted by kdern at 8:27 PM on January 25, 2012

Response by poster: I can post another screenshot if that would be helpful... tell me what directory I should post the inventory of.
posted by kdern at 8:33 PM on January 25, 2012

This would mean to you'd have to carry an external drive around with you if you want to have iTunes available on the road.

Or would you still have wifi/3G/etc access to your iTunes cloud? Isn't that the point of the cloud, to give you always-there access to stuff?
posted by at 9:16 PM on January 25, 2012

iTunes Match downloads, but only temporarily. If you have a decently fast internet connection, though, it fundamentally streams inasmuch as it can play while it downloads, and usually it doesn't keep the songs around for too long unless you manually download them first instead of just hitting "play"
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:49 PM on January 25, 2012

The MBA has a 256 GB hard drive, and I figure I shouldn't go above about 75% capacity (190 GB).

As I understand it, SSDs don't slow down/get messed up the same way that HDDs do when they get full. Of course you want to keep enough space to download stuff, but it shouldn't affect performance if your hard drive is relatively full.
posted by number9dream at 9:55 PM on January 25, 2012

I have a MacBook Air, and I had the same issue. In fact more so, as I got the 128mb one. However, I've moved all my media to an external hard drive over wifi (connected to my router, so it's always accessible in the house). It actually works really well. All my music is on my iPhone, so I can listen on the go, and my old MacBook is always on, connected to the TV. I can play music and radio over AirPlay through any combination of speakers in the house at any time, and I only use about half the SSD at any time, even though I've got XCode and some other heavy stuff there. Also, Time Machine over wifi. It works great.
posted by iotic at 11:27 PM on January 25, 2012

Response by poster: OK - thanks for all the tips. I'll try itunes match. Sounds like it could work.
posted by kdern at 7:44 AM on January 26, 2012

I can't imagine how anyone manages with such a small hard drive these days and would appreciate any tips and advice.

My solution is not to use my MBA as my main storage location. (Though having an older model from when 128 was the max, 256 seems luxurious!) One thing to help with the mental adjustment is to realize that, assuming you are using some kind of lossy compression, even just 15GB of music (what is on my MBA right now) is on the order of 6.5 days of straight listening. By my calculations your total music collection is probably on the order of 280 straight days of listening, unless it is lossless. You can keep a tiny fraction of that around and not run out of things you haven't heard; I find it a somewhat refreshing to have to think about what I am actually listening to and what is really important in my music collection. I also only keep video on my mba that I have not watched, otherwise it gets moved onto an external drive.

To transfer music/etc. to my mba, I tend to use non-automated solutions such as dropbox and thumbdrives/external drive.
posted by advil at 7:45 AM on January 26, 2012

I have a 128GB MBA and a 16GB iPod Nano...and 115GB of iTunes stuff. So what I did was this:

- Made two iTunes libraries, one on my external HDD, one on my MBA.
- The MBA one has only the current heavy rotation media on it -- IE: when I look at my Last.FM stats, what have a listened to the most recently? It also contains anything I'm test-driving before adding it to the other library. It sits between 5-7GB. The iPod syncs with this constantly.
- The EHDD library is the master one, with all 115GB of data in it. When I had an iPad, I sync'd it with this. It's just a matter of plugging in the drive and hitting option when you open iTunes to pick the other library, then proceed as normal.

I do the same with my photos. The originals all go onto the external drive, with only the ones I want to do something with put into iPhoto. All in all, I have 70GB of free space at the moment, and that's with Sims 3+expansions and Sims Medieval (hey, we all have vices) installed as well.

So you could do this and just sync your Apple TV, iPad, etc to the master library on the EHDD rather than the one on your MBA, and still have the best of all worlds. I think. I might be off-balance, but I like to think it's a simple solution that won't cost you an extra $25/year.

As for Time Machine, it's generally pretty intelligent about more than one computer backing up to the same HDD. When I was running two computers, I didn't even worry about it.
posted by iarerach at 2:20 PM on April 3, 2012

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