Manage How You Use Your Disk Space on Any Mac [How To]

Manage How You Use Your Disk Space on Any Mac [How To]

Apple’s new 11-inch Macbook Air with a 64Gb SSD drive is said to be very popular and flying off the shelves at Apple Stores everywhere and beyond. It represents  the smallest notebook computer that Apple makes and the default base model ships with the smallest system disk drive available in any Apple notebook. Therefore it makes sense for users to seek ways to optimize the way they use disk space on this tiny new notebook and it was the computer that inspired me to write this How-To — which actually applies to any Mac.

I’ll start out by saying that these tips are particularly useful for 11-inch Macbook Air users with the 64Gb SSD drive since they have the least amount of system disk space to work with. However, the tips are just as useful for someone like myself with a 13-inch Macbook Air and a 256Gb SSD drive. After all practically anyone can benefit from space-saving tips for portable computers that often have limited access to resources while on the road.

Although you could lug around an extra external USB drive to get around all this, but that kind of defeats the purpose behind carrying around one of Apple’s super slim MacBook Airs.

Empty the Trash

As simple as this sounds it is important. People tend to toss things into the Trash, but rarely remember to empty it periodically. You may not realize that it also fills up with even more files without your interaction, since some activities Mac OS X performs also adds files to the Trash. So make sure that you go to the menu in Finder, select Finder > Empty Trash or Finder > Secure Empty Trash when ever the Trash has content.

Manage How You Use Your Disk Space on Any Mac [How To]

Note that the latter takes the longest, but that the SSD drive in late-model Macbook Airs is so fast you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. If you are using the Trash to store files, like I know some people actually do, you are using it wrong — go find some other place to store those files.

Archive Data

Manage How You Use Your Disk Space on Any Mac [How To]

I’ve had my MacBook Air for months now and I’ve accumulated some data on my notebook that really doesn’t need to be there any longer. This data is composed of article drafts and related graphics, research, and many other documents for articles I’ve written. I’m not using any of these any longer so it is time to move them to CD/DVD or external archival storage on a RAID array, etc.

There are a lot of ways to archive files to CD/DVD, but one of the easiest is to use the built-in burn-to-disc feature of Mac OS X. Simply locate the files or folders you want to burn to disc, select them all with the mouse, and right-click them selecting “Burn x items to Disc…” from the pop-up contextual menu where x is the number of items you selected. Mac OS X will take care of the rest all you need to do is provide the media.

Once you’ve verified the archive method you used was successful drag the original files to the Trash and empty it. You’ll free up some disk space.

Compress Files and Folders

You can compress single files or folders containing multiple files and replace them with a Zip archive file. This is accomplished by right clicking the file or folder and select Compress “xyz” in the pop-up contextual menu where xyz is the name of the item you selected.

Manage How You Use Your Disk Space on Any Mac [How To]

The compressed file created by Mac OS X is often called Archive.zip or it may obtain a name related to the item or items you are compressing with .zip appended to the end. It can be used to replace the original uncompressed files. If you need to keep certain files on your Mac, but seldom use them this is a good way to store them using the least amount of space. Once you have the zip archive created throw the originals into the Trash — just don’t forget to empty the Trash later.

Monolingual

Monolingual is a freeware application for Mac OS X that is currently available on Source Forge. This application will remove unnecessary language resources from Mac OS X and it claims to allow you to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. I consider this app to be fairly easy to use.

Manage How You Use Your Disk Space on Any Mac [How To]

Perhaps it is to easy, so use it at your own risk and read the application FAQ before using it. There is a chance that if you use the application in correctly that you’ll have to re-install either Mac OS X or some of your applications – so use this at your own risk.

Download a copy of Monolingual 1.4.5, a universal binary for Mac OS X 10.5 or higher, here.

Remove Unused Applications

This is another easy no-brainer. If you’ve installed an application that you no longer use – uninstall it.

Manage How You Use Your Disk Space on Any Mac [How To]

Look up the uninstall directions on the particular apps technical support website or contact the developer for instructions on uninstalling it. It might be complicated or it might be as simple as dragging the applications folder or icon to the Trash and emptying it.

In some cases the developer might include an application that performs the uninstall. If that exists use it. Just like the one I recommended for removing Adobe Flash from your Mac.

Install Application Suites Frugally

If you’ve purchased one of Adobe’s software suites, MS Office, or any other large application bundle you don’t necessarily have to install every application that ships with a particular suite. The developers often provide custom installs that let you pick and choose between the applications you want to install.

Manage How You Use Your Disk Space on Any Mac [How To]

I’m a bit frugal now and I don’t just install every application in a particular suite any more especially ones like Adobe Web Design Premium and MS Office. I only install the applications I know I’ll use and I save a lot of disk space because of this.

Maintain Mac OS X Caches and Logs

I use Maintain’s Cocktail application to manage the caches on my Mac it’s easy and I don’t have to get all geeky to use it. Even though I could get geeky if I wanted too. Once in a while I like to take the easy way out and save my IT Ninja powers for something else. Cocktail saves me time.

Manage How You Use Your Disk Space on Any Mac [How To]

Download, purchase (single license $14.95, family license $29.95 or bundles), and install Cocktail from Maintain’s website. Launch it and select the Files icon and select the Caches tab. Next make sure that the User, System, and Internet options are checked are on the left hand side – you can add the other two for all user caches if you have other users on your Mac. Finally click the “Clear” button. You may need to restart your Mac – if you do proceed with the restart and then relaunch Cocktail for the next step.

Now you need to clean your log files by clicking the Logs tab under the Files icon. Click the “Delete” button and your logs will be purged and deleted.

It is recommended that you perform these tasks at least once a month although every other week would be better.

Cocktail can run periodic maintenance scripts for you so you don’t have to remember to do them manually and you can download a trial version for free.

Conclusion

Next week, after New Years, I’ll be writing reviews about Mac applications that can help you analyze how you use your system drive, slim down your applications, and compress your drives content. In the meantime, if you can think of any other tips that will slim down our system drives share it with everyone by leaving a comment.

Related
  • Alex Cormack

    Nice disc scan utility is Nektony Disk Inspector.
    It scans any supported drive and generates a chart representing the file system usage. 
    The trial version is available here:  http://nektony.com/

  • AndrewSpikes

    these guys have a couple more cool apps:
    • Disk Expert (available for trial) and
    • ClearDisk (quickly scans and clears cashes, language resources, downloads and trash)

About the author

David W. MartinDavid W. Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the industry as a programmer, systems and business analyst, author, and consultant. David has written for CNET's iPhoneatlas.com, MacLife.com, CultofMac.com, BYTE.com and recently for aNewDoman.net. He comes to Cult of Mac's website with deep knowledge and passion for the all things Apple. Follow David on Twitter @david_w_martin or see what he's up to now at davidwmartin.com.

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