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Slim Down Your Mac


Some things never seem to change. As hard drive capacities increase, so does the size of the files we keep on them. I remember buying a 2GB SCSI drive for my dad’s PowerMac G3/233 and thinking “Wow, he’s never going to fill this up!”

Of course, it never seems to work out that way. Hard drive use always seems to increase in proportion to the capacity. Even our beloved OS X is not immune to this theory - a standard install of 10.5 Leopard weighs in at about 11.75GB. In these days of 1TB hard drives, this really doesn’t seem like much, but to the stock 250GB drive that came in the 2006 iMacs, this is a considerably larger portion.

OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard promises to cut back on the bloat, but that’s still quite some time away, and the jury is still out on which systems will be supported. At this point, the best we can do is try and get rid of some of the stuff that’s not really needed and move other files, giving our System a little more room to breathe.

Fortunately, I have a few tips and tricks to do just that.

Side Note:

Of course, the easiest way to eliminate additional languages and printer descriptions is to do so when installing a brand new OS. If you’ve just bought a new Mac with the OS already installed, I’m afraid all that stuff is already in there, so you’ll need to reinstall from the restore discs if you want to get rid of these extra files

  1. Begin the install as you normally would

  2. When you get to the “Install Summary” screen, click on the “Customize” button in the lower left corner.

  3. Simply make sure the boxes for all the items you don’t need are unchecked.

  4. Click “done” and continue with the installation.

Once completed, your default OS X installation will be considerably smaller than it originally would have been.

Printer Drivers.

A default installation of Leopard contains over three gigabytes of printer drivers - just over 25% of the total size of the system. Odds are, you’re not going to need all, or even most of them.

The printer drivers can be found in your_hard_drive/Library/Printers. There’s a ton of them in there. By carefully going through and removing the files for printers you don’t have, you can weed out the vast majority of these files, reclaiming a sizable chunk of hard drive space.


Do you have all these printers? Didn't think so.

 

Different language localizations.

In addition to a bunch of printer drivers you’ll likely never use, Leopard also includes approximately 2GB worth of languages that you probably don’t need either. Most people like to use their computer in their primary language, with the occasional user wanting/needing to use one other language. There’s a lot of space being taken up here that could be put to better use.

As these languages (and supporting files) are generally hidden deep within System resources, a utility program is generally recommended.

When I last covered this topic about a year and a half ago, the tool to use in this situation was Monolingual. Basically, you run the program, select which languages you want to get rid of, then click the "remove" button. It's pretty simple really.


majQa'! We have managed to remove Klingon from the installed languages! buy' ngop!

Though the developer’s site doesn’t mention Leopard explicitly, I tried it under 10.5, and it appeared to function fairly well, with no ill effects. However, it is highly recommended poking through their support forums to avoid any potential problems.

iTunes Library.

This is a biggie. On my PowerBook, the iTunes Library takes up about 25GB of space - an inordinately large amount for a 100GB drive! If you’ve got a decent-sized collection of music, odds are that your iTunes Library is taking a lot of space, as well.

Unfortunately, there’s really little you can do to make the library smaller, save for deleting files and/or re-encoding at lower quality. Neither is a really “acceptable” solution, as I tend to listen to my music through headphones during the day, so I'd notice any degradation of quality. I know a lot of people feel the same way.

So while reducing the actual files is pretty much out of the question, what you can do is put your music on an external hard drive.

Fortunately, the process for this is actually pretty simple.

  1. Copy ~/Music/iTunes/ to another hard drive.
  2. Launch iTunes holding down the Option key.
  3. When prompted, click the “Choose Library…” button.
  4. Navigate to the folder you just copied over and select the “iTunes Library” file.
  5. Double check that all your files seem to play correctly.
  6. Delete ~/Music/iTunes/

While you have not “saved” any space in this process, you have moved the files to a larger, different drive. This is beneficial in two ways. First, you now have considerably more room to expand your music collection. Second the space that was being used by your iTunes library on your main hard drive is now freed up for use by the System, other applications' files, and the like.

Clear out the bulk, without all the digging and searching.

To really root out some of the harder-to-identify files, an easy-to-use utility can be found as part of a popular hard drive maintenance. tool you may have seen in use at an Apple Genius Bar.

When Prosoft Engineering released Drive Genius 2, the latest revision of their award-winning drive utility, along with the popular maintenance. and optimization tools (including one of the few full defragmentation utilities available for Mac OS X) that Drive Genius is known for, this latest version also included a suite of utilities designed to get rid of the bloat on your hard drive, using the same simple interface.

Dubbed “DriveSlim™,” these utilities can:

  • Remove Duplicate Files
    Drive Genius 2 scans your drive, looking for identical files. Select the ones you don’t want to keep, and they are removed.
  • Find and remove unnecessarily large files
    Drive Genius 2 will scan your drive and bring up all the files that fit your chosen criteria (size, last accessed, file type, etc.), so you can choose which ones to remove.
  • Remove unused language files
    Just like Monolingual (see above), Drive Genius 2 can get rid of those language localizations you never use.
  • Remove unused code from “Universal” applications
    Just as applications can contain information for multiple languages, Universal apps contain code for both Intel- and PowerPC-based systems. Got an Intel Mac? It’s not likely that you will be running those exact copies on a PPC Mac again, so why not do away with it and save the space?
  • Create a backup of the removed data
    Rather than simply deleting these files forever, you can choose the option of backing up the files you've marked for deletion. That way, if you ever need those files back, you have them safely stored away on CD, DVD or another hard drive.

Installation is simply a drag-and-drop. The fist time you open Drive Genius 2, you'll be asked for the serial number. In the retail version, this is located within the packaging itself.

After entering the serial number, you'll get to the main screen. From here, you can select which component you want. In this case, you want the DriveSlim™ feature. You can either choose the icon from the main screen (it looks like a hard drive with a measuring tape around it) or select it from the drop-down menu on the right. This will bring you to the main DriveSlim™ screen.

The first thing you will want to do is choose either a volume or a folder to check. You can select volumes from the list on the left, or a particular folder by clicking the “Choose a Folder...” button. In this example, the main hard drive has been chosen.

In the lower half of the right side of this window are the types of files DriveSlim™ can look for; you can pick and choose which ones will be sought out.

  • Large Files – Searches out files larger than a particular size, that haven't been accessed in a while. You can, of course, customize both the size and age of the files you want to look for.
  • Duplicate Files – gets rid of multiple versions of files, and has the option of replacing them with aliases.
  • Unused Localizations – gets rid of resources in your applications for languages you don't use.
  • Universal Binaries – Removes the unneeded code from “Universal” applications.
  • Cache/Temporary Items – Sometimes an application will create a “temporary” file for use, but - for whatever reason - it doesn't get erased when the program is finished. This option clears out these “temporary” files if they have not been accessed in the user-defined length of time.

You can adjust the parameters of each search by clicking the "Change Options..." button on the lower left. The options themselves are pretty self-explanatory.

When you're ready to begin scouring the drive for files, simply click the "Search" button located in the lower right corner, and Drive Genius will begin searching for files that fit the parameters you set before. This process can take quite a while, as the program scours the entire drive for files that fit all the criteria. For example, on a 2.8 GHz iMac with a half-full hard drive, it took about an hour and a half to scan. Your results may vary, though, depending mostly on the number of files on your drive.

Fortunately, you can continue working on other things while the program runs in the background, though doing disk-intensive tasks (such as video editing or browsing through large libraries of photos) is not recommended. Email, Web browsing, word processing and other general tasks will run just fine, though, so you won't have to worry about losing too much time to system maintenance.

 

Tip:

If you don't know EXACTLY what the file is or what it does, don't delete it!

You'll be saving yourself a headache later.

Even though DriveSlim™ has an option to archive the files you choose to delete, it doesn't offer an easy way of restoring the file to where it was originally.

Many popular applications rely on small, infrequently-used files, which can show up in the file list. Deleting these files can result in the application not working properly, or even at all. Adobe applications are notorious for this, requiring a full reinstall to work again.

Once the search completes, you will need to go through all the files found and check the ones you want to get rid of. This can be a time-consuming process, as DriveSlim™ will likely find hundreds, if not thousands of files that are taking up space on your drive.

However, to avoid problems with various applications, going through the list and picking out only the ones that are safe to delete is the smartest way to go (see tip at right). After you've chosen the files you want to remove, you may then click the "Slim Drive" (or "Slim Folder" if you only chose a folder) button in the lower right corner.

A warning screen will come up warning you that you are about to remove the listed files. Go through the list again, making sure there's nothing you want to keep listed. If it is, you can remove it from the list by simply clicking on the item, then clicking the red button that appears to the right. At this point, you can also choose to make an archive of the files to be removed - just in case. Checking the box Archive files to disk image will prompt you for a new location to save the disk image. By default, all selected files are archived into a compressed disk image in your Documents folder. This feature sets up the files to be easily saved onto a CD, DVD or external drive for your backup.

Once you're sure that only the files you want to remove are selected, click the "Slim Drive" (or "Slim Folder" if you only chose a folder) button, and the listed files will be deleted.

 

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After the first time you use DriveSlim™ on a drive, subsequent passes won't garner as large of space savings, which would make its $100 street price a little pricey for something you'd only use once a year or so. Fortunately, DriveSlim™ is only a small part of the larger Drive Genius 2 package, which has over a dozen different drive maintenance. tools in one package. We won't go too deeply into the other functions of Drive Genius, as they aren't very germane to this particular article, but as a package, Drive Genius 2 is well worth the price.

 

More room to breathe.

Now that you have opened up a little space on your main hard drive, you should notice a slight improvement in overall performance. Of course, the real benefit is that now you have more room for your files, pictures, music and everything else you keep on your Mac!