When your hard drive is full it is time to look through your files and determine what you should archive or just delete. Old video files and applications you are no longer using are common culprits. A drive that is almost full can slow down your Mac.
HI this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today’s episode, let’s look at what you do when your hard drive fills up. The idea is to figure out what’s taking up all the space on your hard drive and see if there’s anything you can clear out.
In the Finder here, with the Finder window open, use Go and Computer and you’ll jump to the main level of your computer and you’ll see all the hard drives you have attached. Now, I have a whole bunch of hard drives on my Mac Pro. Chances are, you’re only going to have the main Macintosh hard drive. So you click on that and at the bottom you should see the amount of space available. If you don’t you can go to View and Hide or Show the Status Bar. You can see that’s what brings that up. Now to dig further in to what exactly is being used, you can go to the Apple menu and go to About This Mac. That brings up this and you can click on More Info. Under More Info, and this is in Lion, you can click over here on Storage and get this great chart here to see exactly what’s taken up on each drive. So I can see how much is being use by, say, photos and movies and things like that. And that might give you a clue right there, for instance, if you have a ton of movies. You may have some videos on there that you haven’t watched in a while and may want to get rid of or clear out; same thing for audio.
The next step is to be a detective to figure out what’s taking a lot of space. I like to switch to List View and then you can see the various columns here. I can move those over a little bit and I can see that one of the columns here is size. If I go to View > Show View Options, that’s where I get the option to turn on Size. You can see I have it turned on. So if you don’t see the Size column, it’s because that’s not checked. Then you can sort by size.
Now, notice you don’t know the size of the stuff that’s in the folders. So, the way to find that out is to actually turn on size calculation. So, let’s dig down into something like User folder, and under my current user I see a bunch of different folder there. I’ll go to List View. I’ll move the columns so you can see the Size column there. Then I’ll go to View > Show View Options. Near the bottom here, you’ll see Calculate all sizes. I’m going to turn that on. Now we can see that we’ve got sizes over here. Close that and then click on size to sort by size. So I can see here, for instance, that by far the folder that’s taking up the most space in my User folder is the Movies folder.
See here, I’ve gone back up to the hard drive level and I’ve turned on Calculate all sizes. Slowly, because it takes a while, it’s going to calculate all the sizes of all the files in all these folders. You can see it adding them one by one. I can sort and then watch as the uncalculated folders then bubble to the top as the sizes are calculated. This is very useful because I can determine, say, if I have a ton of applications taking up a lot of space. For instance, 40 GB for all my applications isn’t very much considering the type of applications I have.
But my next step, if I determine that is the problem, would be to dig down in my applications folder and there also, sort by size, and turn on Calculate all sizes. And now it’s going to start to pile things up. So right away, notice for instance, StarCraft II is taking up almost 10 GB of space. I haven’t played that game in more than a year. So, maybe if I need to clear off space that would be a good place to start, by simply uninstalling that.
It really is a matter of being a detective. Going into a folder, seeing what folders in there take up the most space, digging down into those and seeing which ones of those take up the most space. Maybe you have applications that are trials you installed and you’re no longer using, maybe you have a lot of videos saved up that you can archive off to a DVD or put on an external drive. You don’t really need them anymore; you just want to save copies in case. You can dig down and find out what you’ve got that’s taking up space and clear that stuff out.
So yes, there are programs you can get that would help you do this, that help you find large files or things you haven’t used in a while. I find doing this really gives you a better understanding of how you’re using your hard drive and may help you correct behavior that’s filling up your hard drive. For instance, if you’re always creating some videos in iMovie and then you’re just not accessing those projects anymore, you may want to consider archiving them on a regular basis to an external drive to free up space.
Ideally, you want to have at least 10% of your drive free because empty space is used for things like virtual memory, for cache files, for scratch space for some applications. So if you fill it up above 90% you might notice some slow-down. Ideally, you may want to have about 25% of it free. If you’re that close to filling it up, you probably want to consider a larger hard drive, maybe not for the Mac you have now but for the next time you upgrade, know that you’re going to use a lot of drive space and go for something bigger.
I hope you found this useful. Until next time, this is Gary with MacMost Now.