How do I find how large various files are?
March 13, 2014 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting a new external hard drive to back up my desktop files. The original one I had the Apple guy configure. Now that I don't have an Apple guy, I want to see how much of an external hard drive I need. How do I find the size of following things? My songs in iTunes? My photos in iPhoto? My stuff in DropBox? And, if possible, the size of everything that is backupable that isn't related to apps and the OS. Thanks.
posted by holdenjordahl to Technology (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ctrl-clicking on a folder and choosing Get Info will tell you the size of the folder.

There's no way I know of to get the size of everything that's backupable that isn't related to apps and the OS. However, if it helps, I've been using a 500 gig drive for Time Machine backups since early 2011 and it's still not full.
posted by Georgina at 7:18 PM on March 13, 2014

Best answer: The key thing you need here is Command-I: if you click on a folder in the finder and press Command-I, it will pop up a window (the "Inspector") that will show you information about that folder, including its size. Dropbox should be in a folder called "Dropbox" in your home folder; iTunes music under "Music" (actually inside it, under iTunes Media); likewise iPhoto stores things under "Pictures". So just highlight each of these folders, press Command-I, and it will show you the size of that folder.

More generally, I think OS X nowadays stores all of your documents, media, etc. in the home folder, so just checking the size of your home folder should give you a rough upper bound of how much non-OS-related stuff you have to back up. This still might include applications.

It can't hurt to buy a lot more space than think you need, either.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:18 PM on March 13, 2014

Response by poster: Excellent, folks! Thanks!
posted by holdenjordahl at 7:20 PM on March 13, 2014

Best answer: Windows or Mac, there's a folder at the top level of the boot drive called /Users, and in that folder there's a folder with your username on it. So, let's say /Users/holdenjordahl for OSX, or c:\Users\holdenjordahl for Windows. This home folder contains all files that are personal files: music, photos, dropbox, documents, downloads, bookmarks, browser settings. Back that up. You can "get info" in OSX, or right-click -> Properties in Windows to get the size of that thing.

There may be some applications that store files or settings outside of these, but they're relatively uncommon unless they're highly specialized, and if they're highly specialized, you probably already know how they store things. If you're in doubt, hit google up with something along the lines of "[appname] saved file storage" or even "where does appname store files" ( or savegames or records etc.)

Storage is cheaper than ever before (and nearly always has been) so you're basically looking at spending around USD $100-200, and you're looking at getting between 1 and 4 TB. Get 1TB, or 2TB if oyu think you have a lot of stuff. A backup system will store multiple copies and expand to consume the entire drive if you let it-- in a way this is desirable. Time Machine is definitely going to do this. Unless you need external storage (which isn't really a backup), let it happen.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:21 PM on March 13, 2014

Best answer: A fun and quick way to do this is to install GrandPerspective, an open source program which will let you, graphically see how big various files, and "clumps" (i.e. all music, all video) are on your computer.

Plus it's just cool.
posted by bswinburn at 7:21 PM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Grand Perspective does the job, but I find it hideously ugly. Personal preference, but I prefer the gorgeous and efficient Daisy Disk. It's also updated more often and you can sometimes find it in one of those bundle sales.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:48 PM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The unix command 'du' does this really well in the terminal without all the clicking of folders, if you're familiar with using unix-like command lines. If you're not, it's probably more trouble to figure out than just doing one of the above solutions.
posted by ctmf at 8:03 PM on March 13, 2014

Best answer: Seriously, open a Terminal window and type in exactly this, with line breaks:


du -hs *

You'll see a listing for each folder (Movies, Pictures, etc.) with the amount if space it is using, rounded to nearest human readable units.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:11 PM on March 13, 2014

Best answer: And to add a little more explanation to the answer I pecked out on my phone last night: in a Terminal window,

"cd" changes the directory to your home area.

"du -hs *" reports the disk usage of each folder ("*", or whatever folder you name here instead) in summary (so without reporting each sub-folder) and in human-readable units of kB, MB, GB.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:06 AM on March 14, 2014

Disk Inventory X
posted by the big lizard at 7:30 PM on March 14, 2014

In case any Windows users hit this thread, the file-size visualizer du jour for Windows is WinDirStat, a free program.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:43 PM on April 11, 2014

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