What is this "Other" in the storage tab? What is eating my space

theSeb

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 10, 2010
6,963
83
Poole, England


49 GB? What is eating up my precious hard drive space?


This question is asked on a daily basis in the Hardware subforums. The usual explanation is that it's the time machine local backups.

This isn't completely true. You'll have "Other" even if time machine is completely disabled.

Other is everything else that does not fit into the categories that are shown in the graphics.

So, it can be stuff like your word files, your powerpoint files, the OSX system files and so forth. In some cases the local snapshots can form part of this because everything needs to be stored somewhere.

All that graphic does is tries to categorize files based on the spotlight index, my hard drive contents and the operating system's understanding of what files fall into what category. So photos will be files that are png, jpeg, gif and so forth.

The screenshot above is the drive on my MBA and my time machine is disabled. Just to double check I also disabled the local backups separately in Terminal.

Code:
sudo tmutil disablelocal

Open up your Terminal (Applications --> Utilities) or type Terminal into the spotlight window in the top right (or cmd + space if you don't feel like clicking all the way over there on the search icon)

Type in the commands as shown in the screenshot below



This is the contents of your home folder, including the hidden directories. You'll see that I have quite a lot of stuff in the Music folder but I have no music on this computer. Yet the graphic shows that I have 789 MB of Audio.

Why is that? It's because somewhere on my hard drive I do have audio files and the program that displays the graphic found them. They are not music files. They are audio files from applications and the system audio files that make the beeps and gongs when I do things like empty the trash. The Music folder is where your iTunes media folder is by default. I have a couple of movies and series in there, hence why it's that size.

You'll note that there is another big folder called Library. This is where various things get stored that pertain to the user logged in. For example, if you use iMail, this is where your mail is. It's also where your application settings are and many other things that are beyond the scope of this discussion.

Now follow the steps in the next screenshot.



This is the root of your volume and you see folders like System, Private and Library. I am simplifying a lot, but you can think of those folders as where your operating system is. The Library folder has a similar job to the Library folder in your user folder discussed above, except this is now more generic stuff for ALL users, not just for you. There are things like system fonts in there and even sounds for Garageband. All of this stuff takes space. To follow this example back onto the topic: system fonts will be in the "Other" category.

So what's that big Users folder? That's where all of the home directories for the users on this computer are. That's where my home directory is, which has MY movies, documents and so forth are.


You can check it out if you want



type in
Code:
cd Users/<username>
or
Code:
cd Users
cd <username>
cd = change directory
cd .. goes back a level - if I am at Users/sebastianp then cd .. will take me back to Users/

ls - lists the contents of the directory. This is basically what you see in Finder, except that I've added the a and l flags which allow me to see the hidden files and folders and also shows the info in particular format. Try ls without the flags.

Don't be afraid of your computer people. It's how you will learn. Take a back up and don't be afraid to see what makes it tick and tock.

You can also explore your computer's hidden directories and files in Finder by typing this in the command line:

Code:
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
killall Finder
to disable it again

Code:
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE
killall Finder
Now, if you set up Finder as per this post, then you can explore your hard drive quite easily
http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1300195

And one last tip for Finder. If you want to see the total size that a bunch of files and directories take up then highlight then or multi select them using cmd and then push cmd + alt + I and you will have one info screen for everything you have selected. Depending on how many files/directories you have selected, it may immediately calculate the total size or you may need to click "Calculate"

If you've done all of this and the figures you are seeing do not make sense, then run Disk Utility and Verify Disk.
 
Last edited:

thundersteele

macrumors 68030
Oct 19, 2011
2,984
7
Switzerland
This question is asked on a daily basis in the Hardware subforums. The usual explanation is that it's the time machine local backups.

This isn't completely true. You'll have "Other" even if time machine is completely disabled.
It's not only "not completely true", it's completely wrong. Time machine local backups are listed as "backups" and therefore are not part of "other." At least that's what the time machine website says.

Thanks for this very informative post. I'm familiar with the "du" command, however I find tools like DiscInventoryX more useful to quickly identify large files and folders.
 

theSeb

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 10, 2010
6,963
83
Poole, England
It's not only "not completely true", it's completely wrong. Time machine local backups are listed as "backups" and therefore are not part of "other." At least that's what the time machine website says.
I know about the backups bit, but I am not 100% sure if all of the space eaten by the local backups is indeed in the backups category due to the contradictory posts on the subject that I've seen on the forum. I suppose I could enable TM and the local backups and start doing some testing when I have some free time.

Thanks for this very informative post. I'm familiar with the "du" command, however I find tools like DiscInventoryX more useful to quickly identify large files and folders.
We all have our ways of doing things :)
 

thundersteele

macrumors 68030
Oct 19, 2011
2,984
7
Switzerland
I know about the backups bit, but I am not 100% sure if all of the space eaten by the local backups is indeed in the backups category due to the contradictory posts on the subject that I've seen on the forum. I suppose I could enable TM and the local backups and start doing some testing when I have some free time.


We all have our ways of doing things :)
Ok, so your way turns out to be better... I just tried to verify the size of the backups, and DiscInventoryX failed of course... they are stored in /.MobileBackups which the program doesn't see (or has no access to).
"du" correctly tells me that the directory has 1.9 GB of content, which seems to agree with the 1.87 GB that "About This Mac" reports. Although, to be precise, du says there are 2037 million bytes, while "About This Mac" only acknowledges the existence of 1870 million bytes. That's about a 10% difference, which might end up in "other."

A du on .Mobilebackups with depth 2 reveals the backups with time stamps:

Code:
$ sudo du -h -d2 .MobileBackups/
1.4G	.MobileBackups//Computer/2011-12-27-182037
131M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2011-12-28-221756
 11M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2011-12-30-012429
126M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2011-12-31-025031
 70M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-01-033350
 16M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-02-035345
3.7M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-02-165454
3.8M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-02-175554
2.8M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-02-185653
3.0M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-02-195736
3.4M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-02-220003
2.0M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-02-220636
4.4M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-02-221735
4.3M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-02-230636
3.3M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-02-235341
3.1M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-000804
 11M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-001638
3.3M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-005827
3.2M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-011509
5.8M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-012455
3.9M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-021508
3.5M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-031508
 12M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-100308
4.1M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-102649
5.1M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-113818
3.4M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-122559
2.1M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-132558
 10M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-142558
3.9M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-152558
2.4M	.MobileBackups//Computer/2012-01-03-162658
1.9G	.MobileBackups//Computer
1.9G	.MobileBackups/
The big file seems to be the weekly snapshot. My last external backup was before christmas. All local backups before that point are gone. The changes between the last external backup and december 27th are stored in the weekly snapshot. There is a 24 hour history with hourly snapshots, then 7 days with daily snapshots.

Once I connect the external backup (on thursday probably) my expectation is that the big weekly snapshot will be deleted. I'll let you know.


Bottom line: The unix way of doing things is most accurate ;)
 

theSeb

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 10, 2010
6,963
83
Poole, England
Nice work and good findings.

Whilst we're on the topic of HD space and backups... if you're backing up your iDevice to your computer then your backups will be found at:

/Users/<username>/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup

Even if you switch off backups to your computer and start using iCloud to back up, the files normally remain. I am currently wasting 2.3 GBs of space in there.

----------

And another point: Versions.

Hopefully by now most users will know what it does and it can be quite handy since it's basically another time machine like feature that runs entirely on your local storage independently of your time machine.

If you're working with large documents, making changes and saving with the likes of Pages, Keynote and Numbers, your versions folder can grow quite large.

I wonder if anyone knows the algorithm for when Lion decides to start freeing up the space taken by versions?

The folder itself where versions of your documents are stored is /.DocumentRevisions-V100
 

robgendreau

macrumors 68040
Jul 13, 2008
3,331
243
Good info.

And note that versions stored as a result of auto-saving and such in the applications that use it are really just the deltas, like in TM. In other words, it isn't a folder full of saved-as type documents, but a database of changes to that document, keeping the size down.

And I have no idea how long stuff is kept there or under what rules; it came up in a discussion of security because some employers don't want versions stored on a mobile computer, for example. But you seem to have little control over this, other than not using an application that uses that feature.

Rob
 

theSeb

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 10, 2010
6,963
83
Poole, England
Good info.

And note that versions stored as a result of auto-saving and such in the applications that use it are really just the deltas, like in TM. In other words, it isn't a folder full of saved-as type documents, but a database of changes to that document, keeping the size down.

And I have no idea how long stuff is kept there or under what rules; it came up in a discussion of security because some employers don't want versions stored on a mobile computer, for example. But you seem to have little control over this, other than not using an application that uses that feature.

Rob
I've just checked myself and Versions stores the entire files, not just deltas. You can access them yourself if you go into the directory and then chmod the permissions on the file. I've confirmed this with reviews of Lion on the tech sites as well like anandtech.
 

thundersteele

macrumors 68030
Oct 19, 2011
2,984
7
Switzerland
Just a little update: The big december 27 file in my backups folder vanished last night. So the local backups really get deleted after 7 days. Note that I did not perform an external backup in the meantime.

@davidlv

In Lion, you click on :apple:, select "About This Mac", click on "More Info" and then on "Storage."

In previous versions, I think disc utility shows something like that, I'm not sure.
 

bdodds1985

macrumors 6502a
Jul 18, 2011
867
0
Tartarus
great post. as a new user i asked this question as well. then i downloaded OmniDiskSweeper and realized that it wasnt just local snapshots. but still i dont use time machine automatically and i disabled local snapshots.
 

theSeb

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 10, 2010
6,963
83
Poole, England
great post. as a new user i asked this question as well. then i downloaded OmniDiskSweeper and realized that it wasnt just local snapshots. but still i dont use time machine automatically and i disabled local snapshots.
Thanks. I got bored of trying to answer this question and it comes up nearly every day. I don't understand why Apple thinks the metaphor of a directory structure with files and folders is too complex for users.
 

george-brooks

macrumors 6502a
Oct 31, 2011
732
16
Brooklyn, NY
Interesting, when I use your terminal comands, it shows that I have over 200GB of pictures, whereas in about this mac, it only shows about 50GB of pix and 250GB of "other." I have a fairly large aperture library (100+GB) and my iPhoto library is probably about 50GB, so maybe the Aperture library is included in "other" as well?
 

RyanMacm

macrumors member
Feb 15, 2012
77
0
Wow, i have been searching and searching why there's that "other" storage on the bar status of MacBooks no wi've foun amy answers, :)
 

throAU

macrumors 603
Feb 13, 2012
5,484
2,535
Perth, Western Australia
no point turning time machine local backups off.

if you run out of space, they will be reclaimed by the OS automatically.

if you don't need the space, having the option to restore files you screw up or accidentally corrupt/delete is a good thing.

when you plug into your time machine storage (or it becomes available over the network) these local backups are rolled up to your backup location.
 

RyanMacm

macrumors member
Feb 15, 2012
77
0
i accidentally placed this "sudo tmutil disable local" onto my terminal. how do i fix it? how do i know what my password is for what they are asking? i' tried every password it doesn't work? how do i fix it? :confused:
 

mariacangiano

macrumors newbie
Oct 13, 2012
2
0
my terminal does not accept the command...sudo tmutil disablelocal

Hi, I have the problem of too much space taken from the hard drive memory by other..and I try to apply the command sudo tmutil disablelocal
but after writing it on..the computer asks me for the pasword but is stuck
and does not let me write it on...
I have too much space taken by other...
and inside when I look through what size there are lik 5G taken by
a file called private!!!!
what is this???? need helppppp

thanks

----------

Hi, when I check my hard disk with what size
there are 5G taken by a file called private
Any ideas what can it be?
also I am trying to introduce in terminal the command
sudo tmutil disablelocal
and after write it in the computer ask me for the passoword
but does not let me write it in the terminal

really desperate with this..thanks!!!