Apr 27 2009
What is it about data that makes it always seem to expand to fill the space it’s given? There is never enough hard drive space. Just when drives get to a size where you say to yourself â€œWoah! I’ll never be able to fill that!â€?, the next edition of Apple’s OS X, or the latest Photoshop version or even the very files they produce greedily gobble up every gigabyte. We used to get by transferring files on low capacity floppy disks and now we frequently deal with individual files that require a CD-ROM to effectively transfer them.
Think about it: say you have a high end MacBook Pro with a 160GB hard drive, once you synchronize all the music and video from your 80GB iPod and partition 10+ gigabytes to run Windows and a few of its applications, you quickly start to see the ceiling on that spacious new drive. And remember, the fragmentation preventing benefits of Mac OS X on HFS+ are only effective if there is enough free space on the drive to allow the file system to do its job.
The three programs I’m going to introduce to you will show you where all your drive space is going and help you to keep the Finder’s most common â€œdumping groundsâ€? free of excess weight.
WhatSize is a freeware utility that scans your drive and shows you which files and folders are the major offenders when it comes to drive usage.
You simply launch the application and let it scan your drive. When it’s done, it color codes the largest files and folders to show you just how far yu have gone astray with your organization. Do you really need all those Garage Band loops? Do you actually use iDVD?
WhatSize offers pretty crude file deletion functionality (ie: you could use it to delete the oversized files and folders, but you might be better off to properly uninstall them or maybe use a utility like AppZapper to remove them more efficiently). WhatSize’s main strength is in being a bit easier to use than the Finder’s own â€œcalculate all sizesâ€? function.
Common places for your hard drive to put on pounds include the Applications, Library, Music, Pictures and Documents folders (be careful deleting anything from the Library folders). Often the best places to trim the fat on your drive is to sort out your dump zones. Namely, your Desktop, Trash, and Downloads folders. For this we’re going to use automation….
Named after the title character of the 60s TV series played by Shirley Booth, Hazel (USD$16) is a maid for your Mac. You open up your System Preferences and you program it to make sure your Trash gets deleted if anything sits in there for too long or if it gets above a certain size limit.
It’s not limited to Trash though. You can get Hazel to check any folder on your drive. I use it to move applications, music, etc. out of my Downloads folder and into the folders they were intended to occupy. I then tell Hazel to set the Label color on the remaining files once they have lingered in Downloads for more that a few weeks.
I have a similar set of chores for Hazel on my Desktop. Since all the screenshots I take for tutorials and blog posts automatically get saved to the Desktop, it quickly gets cluttered. I get Hazel to sweep them away after they’ve sat there for 24 hours.
If you’re an Intel Mac user, you might want to set Hazel to scan your Applications folder and label any applications in there that contain the keyword â€œUniversalâ€? or â€œIntelâ€? –then you’ll be able to avoid launching slower PowerPC optimized apps in favor of the ones built for your processor.
iTunes and AutoRate
Your iTunes Library is another place where your hard drive puts on weight. If you’ve got one of the current 5G iPods, you have the potential to duplicate up to 80GB of music on you Mac and iPod. In fact, the way iTunes is set up, you can hold more music on your Mac than you sync to your iPod, so your Mac can really pack on the pounds.
The best advice I can give someone with an out-of-control music catalog is â€œarchive.â€? Sure you pride yourself on your extensive music collection but, c’mon, how much of it do you actually listen to? Don’t know? iTunes does! Try something like this Smart Playlist on for size:
If you have music that you don’t think much of, haven’t played more than 10 times that has been hanging around on your drive for over 6 months, I’ve gotta ask: why did you buy it? And secondly: why are you hanging on to it?
Set up this Playlist and then burn a data disc of the songs it finds. Then delete those songs off your drive. (Highlight the contents of the Smart Playlist and hit Option-Delete, Click â€œRemoveâ€? when iTunes asks you if you are sure and the click â€œMove to Trashâ€? when you are asked how you would like them removed. Don’t worry you backed them up, right?
Maybe you’re like most people and you haven’t gone through each and every song in you collection and entered in your Star Rating. Go get a copy of AutoRate and run it on your entire music library. AutoRate sets the Star Rating for your music based on how often each track has been played and how often it has been skipped.
I hope these tips will help you shed your Mac’s unwanted pounds and keep the weight off.