How to use the terminal to find out where your disk space is going and how to clean it up
My nephew asked me (again) how to clean up disk space on his mac. He tells me that he deletes files and empties the trash but nothing happens. Clearly he’s either:
- Speaking through one of many different personalities that he posesses, none of which know what the other is doing
There are a number of pages out there that will tell you how to reclaim disk space but the best tools to do this are good ol’ unix tools that have been around for decades. Incidentally, Disk Inventory X is also a great tool for visualizing what your disk usage looks like so you should download it, run it, and see what you’ve got. But here, I’m going to show you what I do.
First, you’ll need a command line shell, so go to the
Finder and launch
Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal. From there you’ll want to do this:
# Change to your home directory > cd ~ # Find out how much disk you have available > df . Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on /dev/disk1 487350400 458293832 28800568 95% / # You can see that I have, essentially, a 500GB disk on my mac and I'm using nearly all of it. # If I want to know where it's going, I would first find out how much is being used in my # home directory. # This might take a while to run so be patient > du -sh 354G . # 354 GB. Well, that's a lot. Now let's break that down: > du -sk * | sort -n 0 Public 4 molex.parts.txt 8 Desktop 8 song.txt 20 bin 240 scratch 1228 Applications 6292 Pictures 1385960 Macheist 1561260 code 2864748 Dropbox 2955184 Documents 11738324 Downloads 12477984 Library 19843364 Movies 29010916 Videos - March 22nd 2009 43003148 Music 48296516 AudioData 195036888 Guitar
That’s the most important command. You run
du in in summary mode, where all of the numbers are in kilobytes and then you sort them numerically, where the larger numbers go to the bottom. I do a lot of work with my guitar and I have a lot of data associated with it so it’s the biggest by far. Let’s take the
Music directory and see what’s in there:
# Head into the Music diredtory and rerun the du command there > cd Music > du -sk * | sort -n 716 Audio Music Apps 42968676 iTunes # Not much of value in that, so let's look in the iTunes directory > cd iTunes > du -sk * | sort -n 4 sentinel 16 iTunes Library Extras.itdb 32 iTunes Library Genius.itdb 940 iTunes Library.itl 1944 Previous iTunes Libraries 212240 Album Artwork 42753492 iTunes Media # Keep going > cd iTunes\ Media > du -sk * | sort -n 0 Automatically Add to iTunes.localized 0 Downloads 7256 Voice Memos 3331504 Audiobooks 39414720 Music # Let's look in Music. But I'm only going to be interested in the top 2 > cd Music > du -sk * | sort -n | tail -2 1728208 Pat Metheny 1844824 Dave Matthews Band
Dave an Pat! I love Dave and Pat’s just ridiculously good… Well, I’m not going to delete them but it was fun to look. If I wanted to wipe out Dave then I could go to iTunes and delete him, but there’s no way I doing that.
There you go. That’s how to see what you’ve got per folder, but don’t forget about Disk Inventory X because it does, essentially, the same thing but graphically and more fun, if you’re afraid of the command line.