Mac Musings

Spring Cleaning Your Mac's Hard Drive

Daniel Knight - 2005.03.15

It's amazing how much stuff accumulates when you've got room for it. You don't want to know how many Macs (working, non-working, and partial Macs) are sitting in the basement at home.

And then there's the six-year-old Pontiac Montana. Six years of driving with kids, taking vacations, going shopping, driving to church, hauling the boys' friends. It got a casual cleaning a couple of times a year, but today I'm trading in the 1999 Montana toward a 2002 Taurus - no more mini van! (I'm sure all you mini van moms and dads can identify.)

And yes, for the record, I'm also a low-end car owner. The Montana was my first and will probably be my only brand new car purchase. If the family business hadn't been sold, I probably would have looked at yet another five-year-old mini van, driven if for five years, and replaced that a year ago.

If you've been using Macs for a few years, you probably have no idea how much stuff is cluttering up your hard drive, as Giles Turnbull points out at MacDevCenter.

I still remember thinking the 10 GB drive in my PowerBook G4/400 was more than I'd ever need - but only until I migrated to OS X. Then it was time to move to 20 GB, and some day soon I'll be replacing that drive with a 40 GB one.

Part of that is because OS X is huge in comparison with OS 9. But a big part of it, as Turnbull notes, is programs and installers that accumulate and never get removed. So I decided to look at the 80 GB hard drive in my eMac to see how much unneeded stuff I could eliminate.

Classic Apps

My eMac is one of the newer models that will never boot into OS 9. I still use the Classic Mac OS within OS X, but there are a lot of Control Panels and Extensions that I disabled years ago and will never use again. Into the Trash.

And then there are the Classic programs that I'll never use because OS X has replacements: Acrobat Reader; Toast 4; PhotoDeluxe; AIM; Apple's CD, DVD, and Video Players; FAXstf; GraphicConverter PPC; iMovie; Interarchy 5; iTunes 2.0; Outlook Express 5.0.2; Grolier's Multimedia Encyclopedia; PaperPort; Photo stitch; POPmonitor 1.1.1; QuickTime; RealPlayer; SETI@home; StuffIt Standard 7.0; TextSoap 2.0; WebChecker 1.2.1; WebDesign 1.6; X-Launch 2.11; Norton SystemWorks; and more.

And some really ancient stuff:

  • PowerPrint for using my HP DeskJet with my Mac Plus.
  • Photoshop 4.0, which I still used two years ago, but now I have 5.5 as well as Photoshop Elements 3.0.

And some I'm saving just in case:

  • Claris Emailer, just because of all the archived messages.
  • ColorIt! 3.0, not sure why, but it's small.
  • Communicator and other vintage browsers for site testing.
  • FileMaker Pro 3.0 - I've never needed anything more in a database.
  • MacInTax '98, TaxCut '99, and TurboTax 2000 and 2001.
  • Microsoft Office 2001 and Word 5.1a. I haven't used them in years, but you never know....
  • Online Bible. Still waiting for an OS X version.

And the ones I still use:

  • Claris HomePage. Ancient, but it still works.
  • Mizer 1.3, a great little HTML compressor. Ancient, but it works.
  • QuicKeys - one of the most useful Mac utilities ever.

The System Folder

There's a lot in the OS 9 System Folder that I'll never enable - disabled fonts, extensions, control panels, control strip modules, startup items, and shutdown items. Lots of them.

If you have a Mac that can still boot into OS 9, you'll probably want to keep some of the files you've disables for Classic mode, but if you're running an OS X-only model, you can clear out a lot.

And don't forget the Preferences for all those programs you've trashed.

Of course, a lot more of this is going to stay on the PowerBook G4, the only Mac I currently use that can still boot into OS 9. But this is one of the eMacs....

Working Files

Well, I don't need copies of letterhead and business cards for my ex-wife's business on this computer. Into the Trash.

I'm sure there's a lot more - and most of these files exist on both eMacs and the PowerBook.


Wow, I've still got a copy of Bard's Tale on my hard drive - and it works just fine in Classic mode. I used to play this on my Mac Plus! Shanghai 2.0 still works, and I haven't yet found a nicer Mah Jong for OS X.

Euchre 5.4, a shareware program from 1999 that has pretty decent computerized opponents. (Nowadays I mostly play online.)

SimCity 2000. I haven't played that in ages, but it launches nicely. It's a great game, although I haven't taken much time to play it.

I guess I'm not trashing to many of my old games today....


It's amazing how many files end up in the Downloads folder - several versions of a utility, for instance. They just accumulate. And there are plenty of programs I've downloaded and trashed, but the installers are still here.,

Sort by name and start deleting. An old Firefox beta. DragonBurn 3 and 4 disk images - good-bye version 3. RapidWeaver, a webpage design program I didn't take to. It's history. GyazMail has been replaced by In the Trash. An old version of Sp@mX - gone.

On to OS X

My ex doesn't use this Mac, so I've disabled and removed her user account. I'll leave the boys on in case I ever have them at the apartment.

Into the Trash with SETI@home for OS X. Bye-bye Retrospect, a powerful backup program that's overkill now that SuperDuper is available. Quicken 2003? I'm using 2005. One more to delete.

Lots of more programs I'm going to have to launch to see if they're worth saving, but I've already cleared over 2 GB of space.

With SuperDuper, I guess I don't need Carbon Copy Cloner any longer.

And there's a great utility - Delocalizer. I'll run that and see how many new language localizations these OS X updates have added. If you're running tight on hard drive space and have never used Delocalizer, it's a great tool for removing non-English localizations and freeing up several hundred K of space. (You can leave as many localizations as you like.)

If you've been rotating and/or editing images in your iPhoto collection, you might not know that Apple leaves the original file behind. That can add up, and you can use iPhoto Diet to clear out unnecessary image files in your iPhoto library.

Anyhow, I think you get the idea. Odds are pretty good that you've got lots of files on your Mac's hard drive that you no longer need. (If in doubt, burn a backup to CD-R before deleting.)

I know I could do a lot more, but this was just a quick pass through the hard drive. I've got almost 30 GB out of 75 GB free. It's amazing how much stuff accumulates that you really don't need to keep.