MacMost Now 611: What To Do When Your Hard Drive Is Full

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.

Comments: 49 Responses to “MacMost Now 611: What To Do When Your Hard Drive Is Full”

    Wendee Mason
    8 years ago

    THANKS for this great video. Now I know how to find up what is taking all my space in my hard drive. You’re the best Gary.

      Joralee
      6 years ago

      I hav bought 3 ext hd, a 500Gb WD MyPassport Essential forMac, a 2Tb WD My Passport Studio forMac,& a 3Tb Seagate BackupPlus (forPC&Mac), still don’t know how to copy all pics & videos in iPhotos and my music library in iTunes to an ext hd as an ext storage and backing it up. My McbookPro 10.6.8 hd is almost full & an ext storage is a must. Pls help me do so as these contents from iPhotos & iTunes are treasures for me I want to keep it but my macbook pro’s 320Gb isn’t enough. Really need help

        6 years ago

        There are many ways you can do it. For instance, you could simply move your entire iPhoto library to an external drive. You can do the same for your iTunes library, or just move the media and keep the library local (like this — http://macmost.com/moving-your-itunes-media-to-an-external-drive.html)
        Just make sure one of the drives is only used as a backup drive (perhaps your largest one) and make sure it is backing up all of the external drives as well as the internal one. If you can’t figure it out on your own, seek first-hand help from an expert.

    cathy
    8 years ago

    Thank you so much! This is exactly what I needed. Now I can see exactly what’s eating up so much space without having to resort to last minute fire drills. I am very grateful. (PS — It will be interesting to watch this, now, and notice what seems to eat up whole gigs at a time….)

    Joshua Tabor
    8 years ago

    This is great! Thanks!

    Mick Pace
    8 years ago

    Gary, you do such a great job. I am a big mac fan but I only know a small portion of what these machines can do. also just bought the new Mac Mini and hooked it up to the big screen. Now I go to your site and instead of watching tv I educate my self on the big 55inch vizio.
    Thanks for all you do.
    Mick

    cathy
    8 years ago

    I see that most of my space is taken up with photos and videos. The iPhone makes it so easy to take and transfer these, iPhoto makes it easy to edit and manage them. But they are space hogs. So I’m moving them to an external drive. I hope I won’t lose all the tags and keywords. It’s a lot of work on thousands of files — I suppose then I can “point” iPhoto to the external drive, which may slow it down but won’t take up all the space on my hard drive? Any thoughts?

      8 years ago

      Unfortunately iPhoto does tend to get slow when you put the library on an external drive. But moving your iPhoto library to an external is probably your best way to clear up some space. Just make sure your Time Machine backup starts including that external drive (it should) — your photos may be the most important thing you need to back up (I know mine are).

        Ann
        7 years ago

        Thanks for the video, but I don’t understand why I would get an error message that tells me that my mac startup disk is full when the info on my Mac reads as follows: 295.14 GB capacity; Available: 215.84GB; & Used: 79.36 GB on Disc? So if I am not using almost of the space available why I am getting the message? Can someone help me?

          7 years ago

          I would have an expert take a first-hand look. You should not be getting that message. When does it appear? Is it from a certain app or something else?

    Jerry
    8 years ago

    Hmmm. Looked like a great idea. I turned it on for my “Pictures” folder and the column headers turned white and nothing happens when I click on them. I can’t even resize them. So I turned it back off. The sizes went away, but the other conditions remain.

      Jerry
      8 years ago

      Found it!! I had to change “Arrange by:” to “None.” Goofy. Whatever column you click on should change that setting, not the other way around. But it’s working now. Thanks for all your great tips, Gary

    Liz
    8 years ago

    Aha. I was ready to just buy a new Mac. : ) Well, maybe I’ll still do that, my PowerBook G4 is 7 — yes 7 — years old!

    Girly
    8 years ago

    Okay, you lost me at “ABOUT THIS MAC” I have MAC 0S X Version 10.6.8 and when I click “MORE INFO” I cannot view the graph/picture of what is taking up the space in my MAC. Please help.

      8 years ago

      That feature is new in Lion. You have Snow Leopard.

        Bill
        8 years ago

        Hey Gary, I also have 10.6.8 Is there any path that we can follow to see what is taking up space in our hard drive? I know that I have too many movies, but how can I be sure that I have deleted them if I don’t have a place to return to and see if they have reduced the amount of space. I understand me, sorry if it didn’t make sense.

          8 years ago

          Just select your hard drive and get info on it. You can see how much space is used. Or, look at the bottom of any Finder window that is open to a folder on your drive — the status bar at the bottom should tell you the amount of space left.

    Sue Ryan
    8 years ago

    Gary – you continue to be spot on with a breadth of really valuable information. This is great. I appreciate all you do and tell all my friends about your work – I tell every Apple person I work with too! Thanks again!

    Norac
    7 years ago

    Thank you Gary. I purchased a WD My Book Studio 1TB external hard drive because I my “start up disk is full” Most likely the thousands of photos on my MacBookPro OS X 10.6.8. I am not at all tech savy. I wonder if my ehd needs to have software updates? I was told to first transfer my photos to ehd then set up Time Machine. Should I update to Lion before or after everything is set up? Will it make my Mac slow (I’ve read about people having issues after upgrading to Lion? I’m just not sure the best way and proper order of this whole process and am afraid to lose something or mess system up somehow. See told you not tech savy ;-/ But thank you for your time and sharing all your knowledge.

      7 years ago

      I haven’t heard many people say that Lion makes their Mac slow. I’ve heard people say the opposite, though.
      Keep in mind that an external drive to store photos should be different than one to use for Time Machine. You shouldn’t try to use the same one for both. Especially for photos! (single point of failure).
      I’d transfer your iPhoto library first. Then set up Time Machine (another drive). Then after you have backed up completely (next day) upgrade to Lion.

    Kristine Kessler
    7 years ago

    I have saved my iPhoto library to my EHD. Now what do I do? How do I delete it from my computer? And how do I use the photos in iPhoto as my screen-saver if they are on the EHD. Excuse my ignorance, but I don’t want to lose my photos. I have 10.7.1.

      7 years ago

      If you are sure it is copied and all is well, and you are using it in iphoto, then just drag the old library from your Pictures folder to the trash.
      You can use any photo as a screen saver from iPhoto. Just have iPhoto running and then select it in the System Preferences.

    Chuck
    7 years ago

    Great video!!
    Thank you

    Rob
    7 years ago

    Excellent information! Just a question……on my Macbook, 54 GB of memory is used by “Other”…….what is that and can it be reduced??

    Tks,

    Terry Connolly
    7 years ago

    Great help. Grateful. Best wishes.

    Sandy
    7 years ago

    Appreciate this video, it was helpful, however, my son still has 469GB (over 500k files) of used storage under “other” (HD is only 500 GB). We can’t find these files in any of the folders. The storage space shows he is the one using this space, but mining down further into his folders we cannot see anything more than 5GB being used for photos. If we search a single letter we can find thousands of files, but this doesn’t seem practical to go through all 500,000 files. What else can we do? we are using os x lion.

      7 years ago

      You’ll need to examine it closer. Check his user folder — is that 400+ GB? Ok, so then you know it is in there. Then check each folder (Do list view, Then Command+J, “calculate all sizes”). See which one is huge. Then go into that one. Etc.

    Sandy
    7 years ago

    Yes, 439 GB. There is the problem I am encountering: Spencer the user shows 439 GB size, but when I click on Spencer the list of his folders shows 7 folders, only one with 6 GB, the rest are all less than 250 MB. Not sure if I need to find hidden files or what the case is, but I know those files are in there somewhere, just can’t get to them without searching by name each individual file. Anything else to try?

      7 years ago

      How about the Library folder? Are you remembering to look at that? Hold down Option and choose the Go menu, then Library. Then look at the sizes of those. You could always get an app that will help you investigate. Or the techniques here: http://macmost.com/finding-large-files-on-your-hard-drive.html (but if there are many small files instead of one large one it won’t work). Or, consult with an expert.

    Sofia
    7 years ago

    Hi Gary! This video was helpful, but I still am encountering the same problem and maybe you could help me. I get a “your start up disk is almost full” message pretty much everytime I connect my iPod to my Mac to charge it. Also, my computer becomes really slow and pretty hot under the keyboard like if I was running a big program. I turned off the option of opening iTunes when I connect my iPod because of how slow it gets, but it doesn’t seem to help much. Do you have any idea what causes this ? Thank you for your answer!

      7 years ago

      If your hard drive is almost full, then it accounts for both the message and the slowness. You’ll need to move some things off of there, or delete things you no longer want, assuming that is the problem.

        Sofia
        7 years ago

        But the thing is that my hard drive isn’t full at all… I have a 250 GB hard drive, and 207 GB is free! But when I connect my iPod, everything slows down and the left space on the hard drive goes down to 144 GB. Once I unplug my iPod and restart the computer, I go back to 207 GB of free space. I only get the message “your start up disk is full” when my iPod is connected… weird huh!

          7 years ago

          Something is not functioning correctly. You should have an expert take a look.

    Kimberly
    7 years ago

    This was a fabulous tutorial. However, after deleting all of my iTunes audiobook files, which was huge, the disc was still too full. I then rid my macbook air of garageband (I had never even opened it.) Wow, what a difference, literally went from 95% to 50%. I may never again have to worry about removing files from the startup disc. Yippee skippee. Thank you very much!

    Tim
    7 years ago

    Hey there, Gary.
    I wondered what the “other” is saved on my hard drive?
    What can I do to get rid of it because it’s taking up half my hard drive.
    Thanks
    Tim

      7 years ago

      Other is everything not listed in another category. So you have Audio, Movies, Photos, Apps and Backups. Other would then be things like you documents.
      If you want to clear out hard drive space, don’t use that simple chart as a guide. Instead, look on your hard drive and start trying to determine where things really are. Watch the video — get the size of your documents folder, the folders in that. Take a few minutes to figure it out.

    Sam
    7 years ago

    Clear, Concise, Easy to follow. Thank you Gary Rozensweig! This is a GREAT resource! Sam Botta

    Sara
    7 years ago

    I’m still perplexed. My MacBook Pro is literally 2 days old. All I did was transfer part of my iTunes library and it says I don’t have enough disk space. I’m so confused.

    Karmanie
    7 years ago

    Hi – I’ve been getting the start up disk is nearly full message. I know that the movies that on my iTunes take up a lot of memory. My question is, if I move these items to my external hard drive, which is what I use to back up this Macbook Pro, will I still be able to access the films on the computer, without it being connected to the external hard drive?

      7 years ago

      First, don’t move anything to your backup drive. Your backup drive should be ONLY your backup drive. Putting other things there could damage the backup, and it also means that those items won’t get backed up (think about it).
      So if you need to store something externally, get a second drive. And make sure that second drive is being backed up too.
      Second, if you store something on an external drive, and then you disconnect the external drive, then you won’t have access to the files there. You can’t play a movie that is on an external drive that is not connected.

    Jonathan
    7 years ago

    Yep very helpful, but pretty much what I have always done.
    But why should “startup disc full” be the message & not just “hard drive full”?
    Hmmm…

    Azzam
    7 years ago

    Ideally, if you have a 500gb hard drive then you should be able to use 90% of it in storage without fearing symptoms…?

      7 years ago

      Sure. That’s a good general rule. But it isn’t an exact number.

    Carl
    6 years ago

    Can you overcome “hard drive is almost full” by adding memory? Or, is this unrelated to the problem?

      6 years ago

      Memory and storage space are two different things. Memory is what your computer uses to get work done while you are using it. Storage space is your hard drive — it is where you store your files, photos, videos and everything else. So you would need to replace your hard drive with a larger one — but that is something you would need to get an expert to do for you, like in a shop. ANd you’d have to be sure that they transfer all your data carefully. Backup first (and always) of course.

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