Macintosh HD and You: Backups, Archives, Cleaning and More!

OmniDiskSweeper IconHard Drive space is one of the most important aspects of a computer. If you don’t have any free hard drive space, you really can’t do a whole lot on your computer, can you? No longer can you save files, burn disks, or download things. When you have hit rock-bottom in free GBs, you know it’s time to do some cleaning. To free up space on your hard drive, you must delete files or transfer them to another disk. This is basic stuff that most people do when it comes time to clean out your HD. This task can seem quite tedious without the right tools. Searching through all of your folder trees for files that you no longer have a need for can be unrealistic for some people with large hard drives. These next few tools can be used for sizing your hard drive, deleting files, and backing up files to external hard disks.

OmniDiskSweeper

The first step in cleaning out any hard drive is deleting the files that you don’t need anymore. The tool that I use when beginning to do this is OmniDiskSweeper from The Omni Group. OmniDiskSweeper is an application that will “sweep your hard drive and size each file, folder etc. Each folder is listed in order of size, so at a glance, you can see all of the files that are hogging up your space. Just yesterday I found a 25GB folder that I had completely forgotten about. Using OmniDiskSweeper’s ability to delete files right within the window, I was able to gain back quite a significant chunk of my space.

One of the great things about OmniDiskSweeper is how it not only “sweeps your internal hard drive, but it also can “sweep other removable disks. I was able to scan both of my USB keys, and my external HD. This could be very useful for those with multiple hard drives to keep track of, and many files.

OmniDiskSweeper is an invaluable tool for when you are cleaning out your hard drive (or other removable disks). OmniDiskSweeper will still function without a license, but if you would like to enable the “delete key I mentioned earlier, licenses are available for US$14.93.

OmniDiskSweeper Screenshot

OmniDiskSweeper is fine for those who want a list of files on their machine, but what do you do if you would rather see the files on your machine?

GrandPerspective

When I say “see your files,” I mean have a visual representation of what files are on your computer. A great application to do this is
GrandPerspective. GrandPerspective shows every file on your hard drive as a colored block. The bigger the block, the larger the file. Each group of blocks that are next to each other are a different color so you can tell which files belong to which group. Clicking on a block and clicking the “down button will let you zoom in so you can get a closer look. Unlike OmniDiskSweeper though, GrandPerspective can size any individual folder, whereas OmniDiskSweeper only sizes disks, and you must dig down to find the folder you need.

GrandPerspective is highly customizable, so you can change the display to a style that works for you. You can have GrandPerspective display the results colored by Top Folder, Name, Extension, Folder and more. There are also 11 different color palettes that you can choose from, such as “Warm Fall, and “Coffee Beans. With these options customized to how you understand them best, you can get the most out of what GrandPerspective has to offer.

GrandPerspective is great for people who would rather have visual representation of their hard drives, instead of just looking at a list of the files. The only downfall to GrandPerspective is that though there is an option to reveal the file in the Finder, you cannot delete files within the app itself. GrandPerspective is freeware and available from Sourceforge.

Grand Perspective Screenshot

Archiving

So once you have freed your hard drive of any files that you no longer need, the next step is to archive any files that you still want to keep, but are taking up space that could be used for other, more important files. OS X has the ability to archive (zip) files, though when I say archive, I mean archive them off of your computer.

One method for doing this is using DVDs. Using DVDs will work fine for small files that you won’t need to access too often, though anything over 4.7GB will not fit on most DVDs. If you think that you will want to add more files to this DVD later, there is a way right within Mac OS X to do this. Follow these steps right from Apple’s Support website:

1. In the Finder, create a folder for the session and drag the items you want to burn into the folder.
2. In Disk Utility, choose File > New > “Disk Image from Folder.“ Then select the folder you created in the dialog and click Open.
3. Type a name for the image, choose a disk format, and click Save.

Mac OS Extended allows burning the disc more than once. Formats such as ISO allow burning the disc only once.

4. When the disk image is complete, select it in the Disk Utility list and choose Images > Burn or click Burn in the toolbar.
5. Insert a blank CD in the optical drive.
6. Select the “Leave disc appendable“ checkbox. If you don’t see this option, click the triangle in the top-right corner.
7. Click Burn.

If this seems like too much trouble to go through just to burn more files to a DVD, there is an application that does this and more, called BurnAgain DVD from freeridecoding. Expect a full review of BurnAgain DVD in the coming weeks.

External Hard Drives

For a lot of people, DVDs just won’t cut it. If you have files that are larger than 4.7GB, and you need to access them more often than not, another viable option is an external hard drive. When buying an external hard drive though, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Connection

When buying an external hard drive, you should keep in mind what available connections it offers. The three main connections available now are USB 2.0, Firewire 400 and Firewire 800. All new Macs come equipped with USB 2.0 and Firewire 400 ports, while the MacBook Pros and Mac Pros support Firewire 800. Out of the three, Firewire 800 is the fastest, Firewire 400 comes in second, and USB 2.0 is the slowest. I recommend getting the fastest connection your computer offers, as it will pay off when transferring large files.

Size

The size is basically the most important part of the hard drive. It is the reason that you bought it in the first place! When choosing a size, always get a drive with more storage than you think you will need. That way, you know you will always have a cushion in case you need to archive more files than you thought you would. Having an external hard drive is an extreme convenience.

If I were to recommend any type of disk to back-up your files on, it would be an External Hard Drive. They have the greatest size, while still maintaining some form of portability.

This leads to the next step of our hard drive escapade, and that is a full blown backup. Everyone should have all of their files backed up, but the problem is that most people don’t (yes, I am looking at you). Having a full boot-able backup has saved my butt a few times, and has definitely saved a lot of my precious files from destruction. Boot-able means that I can boot from that drive on start-up, and run OS X from it.

Boot-able Backups

Backing-up just your important files is fine, but going that one step further and having a boot-able backup will pay off in the future. Setting up and updating either method can be very tedious, and that is where these next pieces of software come in.

Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner is an application that will clone your hard drive, file for file. That way you can have a full boot-able backup, for those times that something bad happens. You can choose the files that you do not want cloned by selecting those files in the list, and clicking “delete. Carbon Copy Cloner (or CCC for short) also supports scheduling, so you never have to worry about how recent your backup is.

Carbon Copy Cloner Screenshot

Carbon Copy Cloner was the first back-up program that I ever used, and I did experience a few problems/annoyances. I never could get the scheduling to work. I’m not sure if that is just me not setting it up right, but I could never get it to work. Next, since Carbon Copy Cloner clones your entire hard drive each time, backups can take quite a while to complete. Even with those things said, CCC saved me a couple of times, and is definitely a back-up solution worth looking at. Carbon Copy Cloner is donationware and available from Bombich Software.

SuperDuper!

SuperDuper! is a one of the more popular Mac backup assistants that I have come across. Letting you do things such as clone a full boot-able backup of your drive, and allowing scheduling, it is a very attractive solution. With SuperDuper’s Smart Updating, you can update that clone in no time at all! SuperDuper! also has a few great advanced features, such as “checkpointing your system with a Sandbox, and the ability to execute Shell scripts. SuperDuper! has many more features that makes it a prime candidate for a backup solution, so I recommend testing it out.

SuperDuper! Screenshot

At the moment, SuperDuper! may very well be the best backup solution for the Mac. There is a free-trial available, that will let you clone an unlimited amount of times. To unlock the rest of SuperDuper!‘s features, licenses are available for $27.95 from Shirt Pocket Software.

SmartBackup

SmartBackup is a little different than the last two apps that I have mentioned. Instead of cloning your entire hard drive, it just backs up the files that you choose. This way, the back-up takes much less time, and can fit on smaller disks, like an iPod or a USB Stick. It has features like Auto Pilot, which means that upon opening the application, it will begin to update your backup automatically. It can also archive deleted or changed files, and you can set-up presets.

If you do not feel you need a boot-able backup, or just need to back-up just certain files each night, SmartBackup would be of great help to you. Instead of having to back-up your entire hard drive, or all files that have been changed throughout your day, you can just choose certain ones, which is more convenient for some people. A license will run you ⚬15 ($20.02USD) and are available from freeridecoding.

SmartBackup Screenshot

Conclusion

So there you have it, from cleaning out your hard drive to backing up and maintaining those files that you have kept. Hopefully some of these tips and of pieces of software will help you, or make your life easier. This may not be the best way or best set of tools to use for back-ups, but just tips and tools I have used myself, and have come across on the Internet. Remember kids, practice safe computing. Use a backup.

I am curious to know, what are your steps/software that you use from cleaning to backing up? How have you found the software and methods I’ve listed above? Hit us up in the comments.

Comments

16 Responses to “Macintosh HD and You: Backups, Archives, Cleaning and More!”

  1. Scott Hoenig on June 11th, 2007 12:17 pm

    This is a very good article covering a lot of ground. GrandPerspective is a fantastic piece of software. I find new things to delete every time I run it, and it helped me free up space on an old iBook that only had a 15GB to begin with (now I have 10GB free space on it!) For backup, I plug in an external drive every once in a while, and just drag over my home folder and a few others to it. With Leopard and Time Machine I may develop a more rigorous backup routine. And there’s always the problem of having more to back up than will fit on your external drive…

  2. Jeremy on June 11th, 2007 12:38 pm

    I’ve tried to look at grandperspective before, but never downloaded it, but I’m gonna try it now. But what I didn’t see mentioned in the article (but was mentioned in the you might also be interested in” links) is whatsize, I love that program.

  3. Jeremy on June 11th, 2007 12:40 pm

    ahh, no way to edit my post, but thought I’d also state some obvious things I’m sure most of the other mac users know :P I also like monolingual and xslimmer to get rid of a lot of extra space too, I think I’ve saved a few gigs from my comp running both.

  4. newswede on June 11th, 2007 4:57 pm

    Forget OmniDiskSweeper….nothing too special there plus it costs $.
    WhatSize is a fantastic app that is updated, works quickly across any drives you may have connected and most importantly…has the delete key enabled!
    Fantastic.

    http://www.id-design.com/Software/WhatSize/

  5. Greg on June 11th, 2007 5:29 pm

    @newswede great find! I had totally forgotten that it had been reviewed on MacApper earlier: http://macapper.com/2007/04/28/whatsize-helping-nerds-overcompensate-since-1992/

  6. Miles Evans on June 11th, 2007 11:54 pm

    Very informative Greg! This inspired me to go out tomorrow to buy the Lacie 1TB firewire 800 drive I have had my eye on. What are some of you others using for external storage/archiving? With today’s cheap prices on GB’s it seems almost pointless to have to delete anything.

  7. Sorli on June 12th, 2007 1:11 am

    Great stuff and useful article!!!

    I’m in the process of replacing my hard drive and reconfiguring Bootcamp in the process and I used at least of the products you mentioned in solid detail.

    Excellent work!

    Brian…

  8. newswede on June 12th, 2007 7:10 am

    Glad you liked that Greg. I didn’t know it was reviewed before…I would have mentioned that. This article inspired me to use it last night, my only complaint (small one) is that it doesn’t let you select multiple files to delete in it’s finder window. Not a big deal but I wanted to trash about 10 movies and had to do it one by one.

    Keep the great articles coming! I’m telling all my buddies about the site!

  9. Create a Bootable, External Clone of your Mac | MacApper on September 18th, 2007 9:21 am

    [...] you can boot your Mac from the external copy without missing a beat. This is a project that we have written about in the past and one that I recommend you undertake. I don’t have a ton of new information to [...]

  10. The Great Mac OS X Freeware List | MacApper on January 10th, 2008 12:26 pm

    [...] an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly fashion. If you don’t like Time Machine give CCC a try. Our Review | [...]

  11. Ryan on October 19th, 2008 3:47 pm

    Um, disk inventory x… nuff said and free by the way.

  12. Added by a PAL to FAQ PAL on October 19th, 2008 6:43 pm

    Macintosh HD and You: Backups, Archives, Cleaning and More!…

    Searching through all of your folder trees for files that you no longer have a need for can be unrealistic for some people with large hard drives. These next few tools can be used for sizing your hard drive, deleting files, and backing up files to exte…

  13. Markus Zeller on May 4th, 2009 3:08 am

    I do fully agree to GrandPerspective. Even when I am thinking my drive is quite clean, I find something new to kill.

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  16. skyrim on December 27th, 2011 2:44 am

    This article is very useful. I have used my Mac for years and did not notice my disk is consuming by the useless files. This article helped me much. I also found another free cleanup software MacCleaning. It is free and effective.

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