7 Advanced Tricks to Reclaim Disk Space for Pro Users of Mac OS

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Running out of disk space is never fun, and disk space is expensive for those of us with smaller SSD drives like the MacBook Air with a 64 GB or 128 GB drive. This one tricks are fairly advanced and thus aimed at the professional segment of SSD users who are familiar with modifying system functions and files via the command line with potentially risky commands such as ‘rm -rf’ and wildcards – if that doesn’t describe your skills then this is article is not for you and you should use it easily tips instead.

Some of these too tricks disable certain system features and may have side effects that would be considered unwanted for the average user, so make sure you understand this before using them on a particular Mac. When in doubt about a specific trick or command syntax, it’s safer to avoid it completely and rely on the more traditional methods offered here to reclaim disk space when things get tight on a Mac.

WAIT! Advanced users only! Serious. If you are a newcomer to OS X then this is not for you. A minor typo can result in file loss and damage to the core operating system files due to the destructive nature of the ‘sudo rm’ command. Do not use copy and paste and make sure you have set the exact path before running the command. Back up your Mac before you start. You have been warned, so proceed at your own risk.

1: Disable SafeSleep hibernation

Free space: 4GB – 16GBThis disables OS X’s native hibernation mode, known as SafeSleep. Essentially, hibernation dumps the contents of RAM to a sleep image file on the hard drive when a Mac enters sleep mode or drains its battery. That hibernation file is the same size as your total RAM, which means a Mac with 4 GB of RAM has a 4 GB hibernation file, 8 GB of RAM has an 8 GB file, etc. feature from that file will be created, leaving up system RAM. The downside to this is that if a Mac’s battery dies, you can’t immediately resume where it left off – in other words, keep Auto-Save enabled and save your documents when the battery is low.

  • Open Terminal and enter the following command:
  • sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0

  • Then go to / private / var / vm / to delete the existing sleep image file:
  • cd / private / var / vm /

  • Delete the sleepimage file with the following string:
  • sudo rm sleepimage

  • Still in / private / var / vm / we now need to prevent OS X from creating the file, so we’ll create a dummy and prevent write access to it:
  • touch sleepimage

  • Finally, let’s prevent access:
  • chmod 000 / private / var / vm / sleepimage

This prevents a sleep image from being created and sleep mode not working at all. This can lead to data loss if your battery is dead and you have not recently saved a file, so make sure to keep track of your important documents once the battery is low.

This can be reversed by deleting the new sleepimage file again and then restoring hibernation mode to “3”:

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 3; sudo rm / private / var / vm / sleepimage

This is an advanced one trick and should be treated accordingly.

2: Remove voice voices

Free space: 500 MB – 3 GB +Don’t use text-to-speech and don’t care about all the beautiful voices that come with OS X? You can reclaim a significant amount of disk space by throwing it away, the total space saved depends on the number of voices installed.

Keep in mind that text-to-speech will stop working altogether if you do this. It is also possible to delete all voices using the method above and then add a single manually if you prefer to keep some of the voting features in Mac OS X.

3: Delete all system logs in OS X

Free space: 100 MB-2 GBBuild log files up over time, but ultimately how much disk space they take up up depends on several things such as your individual computer usage, errors, what services are running and many other things. You will lose the contents of apps like Console because of this, but if you’re not interested in reading OS X log files for debugging and troubleshooting, it’s not really a loss:

sudo rm -rf / private / var / log / *

Log files will continue to be generated over time, so you can repeat this from time to time. You could technically prevent their creation by using the same chmod approach used to block sleepimage files, but that’s not recommended.

4: Delete QuickLook Caches

Free space: 100MB-300MBIn older versions of OS X, QuickLook generated quite a few cache files. What is that? Well, Quick Look is that fancy file viewing capability in OS X that is invoked by selecting a file in the Finder or an Open / Save dialog and pressing the Spacebar. Unsurprisingly, QuickLook relies on caching to behave quickly, and those cache files can be added up. Here is how to throw them away:

NOTE: IN NEW VERSIONS OF OS X THIS FOLDER IS NOT JUST QUICKLOOK CACHES, DO NOT REMOVE THIS FOLDER IN OS X 10.10, 10.11 OR NEWER.

sudo rm -rf / private / var / folders /

5: Remove Emacs

Free space: 60 MB +Not using emacs? Don’t even know what it is? You probably don’t need it then (it’s a command line text editor, for those unfamiliar). You’re not going to save GBs with this, but every MB helps on a small SSD:

sudo rm -rf / usr / share / emacs /

No more emacs, but don’t worry CLI users, you still have vi and nano.

6: Delete tmp files

Free space: 500 MB-5 GB/ private / var / tmp / is a system cache, and while it should clear itself after a reboot, this doesn’t always happen. And if you have 40 days of uptime and don’t reboot often, it won’t clear itself up either, so you can do it yourself. This can have unintended consequences, so it’s best to do this again after a restart, or when you close all open applications and no apps are open or running. You want to target the temporary files themselves starting with “TM” and not the entire directory, so the command would be:

cd / private / var / tmp /; rm -rf TM *

Again, this can have unintended consequences, so don’t do this while apps are running.

7: Delete the cache

Free space: 1GB-10GB +Caches can be anything from browsing history to temporary app metadata to app scratch discs. How large these user caches eventually become depends on which apps are running, how often the Mac restarts, and general user activity, so the size of these files can be very wide. However, it’s not just powerful user apps that can grow big, many streaming radio apps can create huge cache files that stick around forever. Like deleting tmp files, this is best done after a restart or after closing all open apps and thus nothing is active at the moment, otherwise unintended consequences may occur resulting in strange behavior for open apps .

cd ~ / Library / Caches /; rm -rf ~ / Library / Caches / *

A safer approach to this is available here, which uses the Finder to manually delete user caches, eliminating the risks of using rm -rf with a wildcard.

Thanks to Fernando Almeida for providing five of these tricks! I’ve got some great tips do you want to share with us and the world? Beat us up On Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or email, or leave a comment!

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