An alias file takes up 1 MB?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by AABirdy, Apr 19, 2014.

  1. AABirdy macrumors newbie

    Jan 24, 2013
    Reading OS X Mountain Lion The Missing Manual I learn that an alias uses 52 bytes. On a disk it will need a sector, 4kb on my machine. But when I use Command-I on any of my aliases I am informed the file uses 1-2 MB. What's wrong here?
    I have a MacBook Pro running 10.8.5 and 8 MB of RAM. No hardware modifications. Thanks!
  2. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Totally normal. The alias includes the file "preview" so it is always larger than the original file. On Mavericks aliases of even small documents are 2.6MB each.

    See this thread.
  3. Gregg2 macrumors 603

    May 22, 2008
    Milwaukee, WI
    That's news to me! I thought an alias was always quite small, down in the low KB range.
  4. saberahul macrumors 68040

    Nov 6, 2008
    That's what I thought
  5. joeyhoer macrumors newbie

    Apr 20, 2014
    Richmond VA
    Alias vs. Symlink

    It is possible to create smaller links to files on your computer. Symbolic links, or symlinks, store the path of a file and are generally much smaller than an alias. It's important to note that a symbolic link may break if the source file is moved, or if the symlink is moved, depending upon how the link is configured.

    To create a symlink, you may use the terminal and type:
    ln -s $source_file $target_file; # Create a symbolic link
    stat -x $target_file; # Display information about the link
    readlink $target-file; # Display the destination of the link
    readlink $target-file | tr -d '\n' | wc -c; # Count the number of characters in the destination, excluding newlines
    If you were to run the above code, replacing the `$source_file` variable with a real file path, and the `$target_file` variable with the path of the link you wish to create, you might notice that the size of the link (as displayed by `stat`, and the number of characters in the destination path are identical. This serves to illustrate that symbolic links are little more than simple paths.

    An alias, on the other hand, creates a dynamic link which will remian valid even if the source file, or alias, is moved.

    One important concept to understand is, to quote Wikipedia, that "an alias is implemented as a file on the disk that must be interpreted by Mac API while links are implemented within the filesystem and are thus functional at any level of the OS." Thus, symlinks are generally transparent to the filesystem, while aliases work better with the GUI. Therefor, both file types have the distinct advantages, however aliases are probably better for the typical end user.
  6. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    You could try this:

    1. Click on the alias ONE time to select it.
    2. Type "command-i" for "get info"
    3. In the upper-left corner, click on the icon ONE time to select it
    4. Hit the delete key to delete the icon information
    5. Close the get info box.

    Now, again click on the alias ONE time in the finder, and repeat the Get Info command.

    Does the file size change for the better?
  7. AABirdy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 24, 2013
    I tried the steps below and the alias file size decreased from 2.6 to 1.7 MB.

    I like the idea of being able to have multiple aliases in multiple folders all point to one original file so that file updates are accessible from the multiple folders, but there is a huge memory price for that function. Is there a better way?

    Thanks to joeyhoer for the symlink alternative.

  8. Lone Deranger macrumors 68000

    Lone Deranger

    Apr 23, 2006
    Tokyo, Japan
    If you don't like using the Terminal constantly to make symlinks, you can use a pre-made OSX Service to help you do this, called 'SymbolicLinker', which can be downloaded from here:

    It comes in a '.dmg' file that contains a 'SymbolicLinker.service' file. Simply double click this file to install it. As a service, it will be accessible from the RMB-click menu in the Finder. So RMB-click on the folder or file you want to create a symbolic link out of and from the Contextual menu that pops up, select 'Make Symbolic Link'. Then just move the symlink where you need it.

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