I have a 250 gig MacBook Pro with only 40 gigs of free space left...
February 22, 2013 7:49 AM   Subscribe

I have a 250 gig MacBook Pro, which is about 3 years old. I have approx. 115 gigs of music stored in my Itunes library. All duplicate MP3 files were deleted. That leaves 135 or some odd gigs of space. I keep a large majority of my documents and files in a cloud service. I maybe have 5-10 gigs of random files I keep on my HD. That leaves approx. 125 gigs of space... I know that the computer uses (and I'll guestimate 25 gigs for the OS & random program files I have on my system)... That still leaves about 100 gigs worth of space un-accounted for.... When I open my 'finder', it tells me I have approx 50 gigs of space available. I have downloaded Disk Inventory X which is suppose to give you a break down of where all the space is being used. I have also read about a program called DaisyDisk. Both seem to be reputable and popular. I d/l'ed DIX first cause it was free..It did the analysis.... But....While I have somewhat of an idea of computers, I am not sure what is safe to delete, what should't be touched....What if I delete something that has specs attached to files that shouldn't be deleted...Neither utility really gives me an idea of what is safe to delete and what should not be touched. I know I must have a large cache of files and stuff that could be deleted....Image previews, etc.... I just don't know where to look. What is safe to get rid of.....Not sure what to do..... Thanks!
posted by TwilightKid to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What OS are you running?
posted by Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo at 7:55 AM on February 22, 2013

FYI, even if you keep the majority of your files in a cloud service (say, dropbox), the files that are synced to any particular machine still take up space.
posted by Oktober at 7:56 AM on February 22, 2013

(JJJJS) OS 10.6.8

(Oktober) - I took that into consideration with the 25 gig estimate)....I use google cloud for all my documents & stuff, which is a strong majority of my files, so none of those are on my actual HD. I access them through the cloud when needed....
posted by TwilightKid at 8:01 AM on February 22, 2013

I haven't tried DaisyDisk, but Disk Inventory X doesn't really tell you anything particularly useful; if you've got a single hulking large file lurking somewhere deep inside a nest of folders, I guess it'll help you spot that, but you can do the same thing much more easily right in the finder (switch to list view, hit "Show View Options" in the View menu, and tick the "Calculate all sizes" box.) Sort the list view by file size and right away you'll be able to see which are your largest folders.

First thing, and sorry if this is too obvious, but have you emptied your trash? (I have mac-using relatives who did not know this was possible...)

OSX is pretty good about not building up a lot of unnecessary clutter; you can save a wee bit of space by trashing old preferences files and the like, but that's rarely a large enough amount of data to be worthwhile.

In general, anything inside /System, /Library, or ~/Library are DO NOT TOUCH territory unless you know what you're doing -- and those rarely bulk up with unnecessary clutter in the first place. The one exception to this is Library/Application Support -- if there are folders in there for applications that you are certain you no longer use, you can safely remove those.

You can also delete apps from /Applications if you're certain you don't use them (except for Safari; keep that even if it's not your primary browser.)

Unless you have a habit of moving files around to nonstandard locations, the places to look for clutter are generally inside your home folder (/Users/[your username]) -- look in particular at ~/Downloads (everything in it can safely be deleted), ~/Movies, ~/Pictures, and ~/Documents.

If there are particular folders you're seeing that contain a lot of data and you're not sure what they are, post them here and we'll likely be able to help you figure out whether they're necessary or not.
posted by ook at 8:25 AM on February 22, 2013

(everything in it can safely be deleted)

I'm just going to be paranoid and caveat this with a "if you're sure you don't use it."
posted by ook at 8:30 AM on February 22, 2013

Have you actually turned it off recently? If you leave your MacBook on and just let it hibernate for weeks or months instead of turning it off every so often (which I know a lot of people do), some portion of your hard drive space is increasingly used instead of RAM.
posted by yasaman at 8:34 AM on February 22, 2013

I do this every so often as well with GrandPerspective (which seems to be much like DIX). First up, you can do what Apple recommends safely.

As ook says, I'd focus on /Users/[your name]. You'll often see things in there that aren't needed as much as you think.

For example, Office Installers can be immense, but you often want to keep them. They are a perfect candidate for pushing off on to a flash drive or the like. If you have a TomTom GPS like I do, keep a look out for their backup files. They can be many GB and it'll just keep 'em around...forever.

One big place to look is ~/Library/Caches. As ook says, anything with Library must be approached with care, but many out there will agree that ~/Library/Caches can be cleared...carefully.

Finally, on many Macbooks the iPhoto Library is often the biggest culprit. There are many posts out there on cleaning it up that can often help regain space.
posted by Fortran at 8:46 AM on February 22, 2013

(ook) - Yeah, Im pretty OCD with emptying the trash, deleting duplicate mp3 files, etc... I keep my download folders pretty bare as well, moving stuff to a cloud or external hard drive every two weeks or so....

(yasaman) - i do turn off my computer for a night, once a week as well, to simply give it a rest...I do notice upon turning it on, that a decent amount of storage opens up (sometimes anywhere up to a gig or so)...

So, I just tried the Disk Inventory X, and outside of my itunes/music folder, the next biggest folder is called library and says that is taking up 20 gigs of space.....In the library folder, application support takes up 16.1 gigs of space, and of that, Mobile Sync takes up 15.5 gigs....

I do back-up my ipad and iphone to my computer....Does this back-up, not replace previous back-ups? or does it simply add all the apps and such to my computer compounding everything? If this is the case, if I delete the mobile sync folder, clearing up the 15 gigs, and then immediately back up my ipad and iphone again, i should be alright?

On top of that, if this is the case, when backing up my iphone/ipad through itunes, is there a setting for the back-up to simply relpace old back-ups, so I wont be building up this folder again?

thanks guys...learning lots..
posted by TwilightKid at 8:47 AM on February 22, 2013

if I delete the mobile sync folder, clearing up the 15 gigs, and then immediately back up my ipad and iphone again, i should be alright?

Probably that would work fine (though I've not tried it myself.) But you can also delete old backups from within iTunes (in iTunes, hit Preferences -> Devices) which may be safer.

when backing up my iphone/ipad through itunes, is there a setting for the back-up to simply relpace old back-ups, so I wont be building up this folder again?

That seems unlikely. (It would set up the potential for a 'bad' backup to overwrite the latest 'good' one...)
posted by ook at 11:21 AM on February 22, 2013

I just did the delete back up of my iphone thru itunes, and that ma have done the trick...

my free storage on my computer went from 50 gigs to 66 gigs...

Just re-backed up my phone.....everything seems to have went fine...

I know there is more i can clear out though.....
posted by TwilightKid at 11:30 AM on February 22, 2013

Is GarageBand installed? Do you use it? The audio samples for the program take up a pretty good chunk of drive space. You can safely delete them all. (See warning at the bottom of the page though if you use other Apple audio tools.)

You can also kill additional languages from many apps, or kill PowerPC builds from universal binaries.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:42 AM on February 22, 2013

There is a third option of course. Which is to ditch the drive and install a larger one. My 2007 MBP has a 640 GB drive installed, and it would be a 1 TB drive if the system had the space for it (need 12 mm clearance because the larger capacity drive is slightly taller, but the older MBPs only have ~9 mm to squeeze the drive in)
posted by caution live frogs at 11:44 AM on February 22, 2013

(cauiton live frogs) - i do have garage band installed and have played wit it a little bit, but never installed any additional sounds or components to it...

I thought MacBooks can't have their hard drives upgraded?
posted by TwilightKid at 12:20 PM on February 22, 2013

I recently upgraded my 2008 MacBook Pro hard drive to 500gb (and the 7200rpm vs the 5400rpm old one) because I was out of space or getting closer than I like.

I'm pretty sure you can upgrade your hard drive. Go to ifixit.com and find your model and look at the instructions. I got a hard drive at newegg and also ordered a USB enclosure so now I a 250gb portable drive. $100 and about 30 minutes of my time with screwdrivers and a torx screwdriver. Then a while to install mountain lion on the new drive. Then I used migration assistant to move over my apps and files from the old drive in the USB enclosure. The MacBook Pro is now zipper and I have 350 gb free space.
posted by birdherder at 5:56 PM on February 22, 2013

I was just trying to clear out my harddrive, too, as my 250GB Air was telling me I had like 2 GB remaining. I discovered that under my user "home" folder (don't know what that's called, it's the folder that basically houses all your crap), there was a folder called "deleted users" and that had an entire old profile of mine in there, like 77GB worth! Maybe that's worth a shot?
posted by tristeza at 11:50 AM on February 24, 2013

Actually....I tried to delete my answer above because I realized I'm too chicken to actually delete this huge file til I know for sure I can w/o screwing anything up, so.... I'll let you know what happens if I delete it!
posted by tristeza at 11:58 AM on February 24, 2013

TwilightKid - Depends on the version. The more recent ones with solid-state drives are soldered in, but if it's one of the unibody models from a year or two ago, the hard drive is pretty easy to remove: There's a video and more info here, instructions say the procedure is pretty much the same for MBPs (13, 15, and 17") made between 2009 and 2012.

Some of the Macs (last generation with removable batteries) had it even easier - a single screw to remove, flip the little lever to uncover the battery area, and there's a tab to pull to slide the drive out. This is how my wife's aluminum MacBook is constructed. Took me under 5 minutes to replace her HDD, while the same operation on my old 2007 MBP was a half hour+ of fussing with a million tiny screws. (And that half hour doesn't count re-assembly!)

If you do replace the drive, I highly recommend picking up an external case for the old one. Drop the new drive into the case, run SuperDuper! to clone the existing drive onto the new one, then swap (put the new drive into the machine and the old drive into the external case). If it works, your system is set, up and running. If anything fails, you can put the old drive back in, no damage done. And once you're sure the new drive is fine, you can keep the old drive as a backup for whatever you need, even as a bootable backup for any time your computer has issues. (I sent my MBP in for service once, and for about a week used my wife's Mac at work - using my old drive as a boot disk, meaning I had all of my files and software on hand, and was just using her hardware. It's pretty slick in a pinch!)
posted by caution live frogs at 1:04 PM on February 25, 2013

FYI today I got ballsy and deleted a bunch of stuff out of my "deleted users" folder - an old iTunes library, among other things....cleared up **40 GB**!! I have my hard drive back!
posted by tristeza at 10:30 PM on March 9, 2013

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