Give Me My Space (Part I)

Give Me My Space

Freeing up space on your Apple devices


Part I - Your Computer


It's okay, you're allowed to cry. It's happened to all of us. That dreaded screen that you just saw for the first time..."Your startup disk is almost full."

Let's get one thing out of the way, no it is not a virus. I was stunned to find that many people believe that this is a virus. It is actually quite straightforward and honest. Your hard drive is full of stuff. Stuff can mean music, pictures, videos, documents, iPhone backups (yes, you'd be surprised how often this is the culprit), emails hosted on your computer, etc, etc. Many people disregard this message and move on with their day, which is understandable. It is, however, a dangerous move in the long-term.

When your computer boots, it has to load the boot.efi file, which helps the unit boot. This file is buried deep in your system, and it is designed so you can't find it or tamper with it. When the hard drive is completely full, there isn't enough room to load that boot.efi file. That is the reason that when your computer hard drive is full, you may hear the chime (also called the POST), and then the screen will stay black. It cannot load that one file.

So you have a completely full hard drive. Now what? Well, if your computer doesn't boot, you can always Safe boot. This is accomplished by holding the Shift key at startup. It will not load third-party kernel extensions (kext), as well as only certain graphics drivers, among other things. This should free up enough space for you to get inside to clear out a little unneeded data. 

Finding the mysterious data that is taking up space on your machine can be the toughest problem. We've all heard of the egregious "Other" category when you go to the  < About My Mac menu. This can and usually contains a plethora of random pieces of data. Some audio files are stored as "Other," some video files, and the worst one, iPhone backups.


iPhone backups? Really? Yup! Your iPhone backups are typically hidden deep within your User Library. To be exact: Users > myUser > Library (a hidden folder) > ApplicationSupport > MobileSync > Backup. That's a long way down the rabbit hole, but there they are. Don't worry about finding them yourself, we'll help.

I know going through a digging around your computer can be time consuming, especially if you haven't done it hundreds and hundreds of times. What you can do though, is download a program that helps inventory your machine. When it comes to these, I have two recommendations. One is free (YAY); the other is not (BOO). I have used both, and personally, I prefer the paid one, but the occasional user will be able to find a ton of value out of the free program.


The first program is called Disk Inventory X. It will scan your drive and give you a graphical representation of your files. This will allow you to see the largest files and the smallest. It is an extremely useful tool that does not even have to be installed. Once you download it, double click on the download, then click on the application. What this does is it allows you to scan your system with very little space available, since the download takes up so little space on your hard drive. This is a great product for people in a pinch.


The other option is Daisy Disk (it can also be found in the App Store). It has many similarities, but it has an amazing layout. It allows you to immediately delete files, which you cannot do in Disk Inventory X. You have to find the file in Disk Inventory X then remove it. With Daisy Disk, you simply drag and drop, and *poof* it's gone. 

Whether you go with Daisy Disk or Disk Inventory X, you can't go wrong. This will help free up the unnecessary space. This particularly applies to those who have hard drives under 128GB in size. I know 128GB sounds like a lot of space, but it really is not all that much. Once you add in the operating system (8GB), some photos, some music, documents, a couple apps, your emails, and your iPhone backups, you'll see that space dwindle very quickly.

Last but not least, every once in a while, empty your Trash. You'd be surprised how often people delete things, then wonder why the space isn't immediately available. First, delete the item. Empty the Trash. Restart.

If you have any questions, visit our Contact page. I also do House Calls, so if you are still having issues, don't hesitate to set up a house-call, and I will come and work on your machine personally. All of the rates are available over on the house-calls page.