The big clearout

by Giles Turnbull

It began when I installed iWork (of which more anon).

My beloved old G3 iBook has a mere 20GB of hard disk space. I smile ruefully now, when I remember buying it and thinking "20GB? I'll never fill that!"

But fill it I very nearly had, and iWork is a demanding piece of software. It wants a gig or so of my precious hard disk. What's more, it's not as flexible as I'd hoped. When it came to running the installer, I thought I'd try just installing Pages first, and leaving Keynote 2 for another day. But when I clicked on "Customize", expecting the chance to pick and choose what software was installed, it turned out the choices were very limited. All the installations options were checked by default, and uneditable. When it comes to installing iWork, it's all or nothing.

So I had a little think and decided the time had come for a hard disk clearout. What stuffs were hogging my hard disk, and which ones could I safely delete?

My first thought was my music collection. There must be gigabytes of rubbish in there that I never even listen to, I thought. But no - my iTunes library is only 707 songs, most of them much-beloved tunes that I really like to have around. Not much room for deleting stuff there.

What else was cluttering up my hard disk?

Aha! My spurious "~/downloads" directory, which turns out to be crammed full of out-of-date disk images of old software products which most of the time, I don't use. Junk it; wow, two fresh, clean gigabytes to play with. What else can I get rid of?

I turn to my "~/_current" directory, which is where I keep all the bits and pieces and bits and bobs that would otherwise lurk on my desktop, if I were the sort of person to have a messy desktop.

What a treasure trove that turns out to be. Look, here's a bunch of mp3 files I copied from a friend, intending to listen to. I drag a few of them into Audion, and satisfy myself that none of them are terribly necessary. Command+Backspace the lot of them, and another gig of space is freed up. I'm enjoying this. What else can I trash?

Command+Tab to the Finder; Command+N for a new window. Hmmm. For a long time now, I've had a "~/Applications" directory as well as the root-level "/Applications" directory. It's time for a Grand Clean Out.

I churn through both directories with something approaching wild abandon. When was the last time I used $this_application? If I can't remember when it was, it's clearly no use to me. Command+Backspace. Command+Backspace. Command+Backspace.

What's the point of two locations for applications anyway? I ask myself. Shazaam! With one drag-and-drop, I move everything to "/Applications". I quit Quicksilver, restart it, wait for it to find all my apps in their new home.

I emerge after an hour or so of ruthless file management, and what have I got?

Back to the Finder, hit Command+N. Look at the bottom of the window.

"11 items. 5.5 GB available."

Wow. All I've been doing is deleting stuff, but it feels like the most productive hour I've spent on computer maintenance for ages. Now feels like a good time to return to that iWork installer. Insert disk.

It's a very satisfying feeling, isn't it?


2005-03-14 06:32:43
The big wasteland
Hi all,

I've been a mac user for a year now, and my 30Go hard-drive is nearly suffocating. I try to delete unused software sometimes, clean my download directory and store my music on my idod (no backup, gasp :/).
But with Panther comming in next few weeks, I'd like to get back a lot more space to be confortable.

Does someone know where to find the big Wasteland on Mac Os Sytem?

2005-03-14 08:00:51
Next time, use OmniDiskSweeper :D

Even if you don't register OmniDiskSweeper, you can still sort your hard disk(s) by the size of the directories it contains.

The idea's the same as what I try to use in life: attack the most important things first.

When you're trying to free up some space, you save time by not looking in directories at little, tiny files that won't gain you much space. By registering the app, you can delete the files from right within the UI: otherwise, you have to go to the Finder to do it.

2005-03-14 08:10:17
Next time, use OmniDiskSweeper :D
Great tip, Dork, thanks. OmniDiskSweeper is indeed a good choice (and I did use it as you describe, to find where the big stuff was) during the clearout process.
2005-03-14 13:37:10
Next time, use OmniDiskSweeper :D
thanks for the tips, nearly gain 6Go finding some old P2P cache in an obscure directory ;)
2005-03-14 16:20:16
cleaning out photoshop filebrowser cache
i have 300mb of cache files in my home/library/appsupport/adobe/psCS/filebrowser folder, and the trouble is, they all have obscure numerical names, so I imagine there are thumbnails there for images not even on the system any more. There are also metadata files, and the dialogue in photoshop is very confusing about how these sidecar files are handled. Can anyone shed any light on this-
I second or third the omnidiscsweeper application, you can go straight for the meat and not waste time deleting files that occupy little or no space. i would consider these metadata files the same, except I have a third of a gig of them and I'd rather the metadata be embedded in the image rather than sidecar'ed.

2005-03-16 13:55:31
remove unneeded languages & fonts
Run a program like monolingual to remove all the dozens of extra languages.

I used this and retrieved 500MB+ of space this way.

2005-03-24 00:10:42
The big wasteland
But with Panther comming in next few weeks

Hey, why don't you wait just a little while longer and get Tiger, like the reset of us? ;-)