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Managing Your Mac’s Hard Drive Space

by
Gift

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I love my Macbook Air. It is a workhorse in an insanely portable package. I do, however, have one complaint: The hard drive. It is small. Think smaller than an iPod classic. So I’ve been forced to come up with some tricks to both maximize my existing space as well as keep the space I have tidy.

In this tutorial, I will share a few of these tricks. Including:

  • How to find and remove large files and duplicates.
  • Basic .zip/compression techniques that makes the big stuff smaller.
  • How to use a Time Capsule for additional storage.
  • The benefits and use of cloud storage.

Screencast


Managing Your Mac’s Hard Drive Space

A Megabyte Saved Is a Megabyte Earned

Finding and removing large files or duplicates is a great way to create and maintain free space on your hard drive.

Click on the Finder Application
Click on the Finder Application

Click the Finder icon on your dock.  Finder will launch in All Files mode.  You will be presented with a list of files already sorted by size.  In fact, Finder will even group these files.  Example groups are 1-100 MB or 100 MB-10 GB.

Start going through the files in the largest file group.  Trash any file that is either a duplicate or no longer needed.  If you must keep the file, that is ok.  I will show you how to offload it to the cloud later on in this tutorial.

All Files sorted by file size
All Files sorted by file size

Deleting the file won’t free up the space on your hard drive.  You must permanently remove it by emptying your trash.  To empty your trash, move your cursor down to the trash can icon on your dock and secondary click on it.  Choose Empty Trash.  You will be prompted for a confirmation that you wish to permanently erase all the items in Trash.  Confirm by clicking Empty Trash.

Empty the Trash

Empty the Trash

If You Can’t Delete It, Zip It

Archiving, or zipping, if you will, is a technique in which you can take one or many files and convert them into a single compressed file called an archive.  For this example, I will demonstrate on a single file, but keep in mind that this will work on a folder containing multiple files as well.

Original image size

Original image size

I’ve downloaded a video tutorial file and placed it on my desktop.  By secondary clicking on the file, then choosing Get Info, you see this file is 72.6 MB in size.

Compress the file
Compress the file

Now, secondary click that same file, but this time I will choose Compress “TogglingV2.mp4”.  You will note a second file has appeared.  This is a .zip, or compressed, version of that file.  By checking the size of this compressed file, you will see a small, but noticeable size reduction.  The more files you compress, the more space you will free up!

The compressed file is smaller
The compressed file is smaller

There are several better third party compression tools out there. I would encourage you to learn more about compression to help minimize the size of all the large files you keep on your hard drive.


Get a Time Capsule. They’re Amazing!

Time Capsules are neither the cheapest routers or Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices on the market, but they provide more than their cost in value.  Here are just a few reasons I opted for a Time Capsule over attempting my own router and NAS combo:

The 802.11ac frequency provides the fastest available wifi bandwidth.  When it comes to internet speeds, the faster, the better.

The Airport Utility available on both OSX and iOS devices makes Time Capsule setup dead simple.  Anyone who has fiddled with the user interface software in other routers will attest to just how horrible it can be.

Two (or three) Terabytes of storage is nothing to laugh at.  And by enabling Back to My Mac on the Time Capsule, I can easily access any file I store on the Time Capsule from any internet connection.  This means the only files I need to keep on my MacBook’s hard drive are ones that I need offline.

Airport Utility
Airport Utility

To enable Back to My Mac on your Time Capsule, launch the Airport Utility program, then click on the image of your Time Capsule.  Under the Back to My Mac panel, click the + button, then enter your AppleID credentials.

Add Back to My Mac
Add Back to My Mac

Once enabled, your Time Capsule will appear in the sidebar of your finder regardless of whether you are home or away.  As long as you have internet, it will be there.

Finding your Time Capsule
Finding your Time Capsule

Use Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is using a 3rd party server space to securely store files.  Much like with the aforementioned Time Capsule, using a service like Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, or iCloud can significantly help toward maximizing your storage space.  Sign up for one or all of these free services and start offloading files to their computers, thereby freeing up space on yours.  As long as you have internet access, you'll have access to your files.

If you use or store a lot of Pages, Numbers, or Keynote files, I would recommend using iCloud as their default save location.  It is built right in to OSX.

The best part is that you can access any of those documents without your computer!  You can access, edit, and save them from your iPhone, iPad, or even a borrowed PC via the web browser.

iCloud.com

iCloud.com

To access the docs bring up a web browser and go to www.icloud.com.  Log in with your AppleID credentials, then choose the type of file you would like to access.  Any files you have saved to the cloud will be listed there.

Pages on iCloud
Pages on iCloud

Double click on the document and you will be brought to a fresh browser screen with a user interface remarkably similar to the native application.

Demo Page document on iCloud
Demo Page document on iCloud

Conclusion

Nowadays files seem to be getting larger and larger, leaving us, as end users, scrambling to find ways to better manage our storage.  Using just one or two of the techniques above will help you keep a clean hard drive with more available space.  Enjoy!

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