Lack of storage on Mac issue

I’ve noticed recently that my Mac mini is rapidly running out of drive space. Looking at the info for storage, I see a very large section says “iOS apps”. But something about that isn’t making sense. First of all, my iTunes is set to an external drive. Second, when I’ve searched for an iOS file (.ipa), it finds them on an external drive or the backup of that external drive. Not my main Mac drive.

Another thing I considered is a Mac program I have called imaging. It will keep backups of your iOS stuff so, since that includes app, I was suspicious. I checked prefs for where it stored stuff and it had a path on my main drive. So I changed it to an external drive with lists of space and save all the apps again there. Then I went looking in the old storage location that I had changed from. But no files were found. And the drive is just as full as ever!

Any ideas?

Well, that’s odd. After no notable change for quite awhile, it now shows I have about 85 more GB free. The iOS section is smaller than before, but still about 108 gb! I rebooted just now, in case that does anything (so far it hasn’t).

Also a correction - it says iOS Files, not specifically apps. But that’s still a lot and no idea where they are.

More oddness. Got a popup when I woke up my mac saying there wasn’t enough room forr full-resolution photos and videos that are in the cloud to fit on my Mac! But I have over 70 GB showing as available!

I don’t really want to have these photos and videos optimized to save space. I like everything like that instantly available in full quality.

I could do that I did with iTunes - move the photo library to one of my external disks, but that still wouldn’t explain why there isn’t room when it looks like their is!

Just keeps getting weirder. Using the “about this Mac” option, it says I have 101 GB of storage on my internal drive free.

If I click the Macintosh HD icon and tap the space bar, it says it only has 58 GB free (out of 499.96). That a substantial difference for the same drive!

I also have an external drive partition that I use SuperDuper to back up the main drive every night.It is set to be bootable and, theoretically, should be the same as the internal drive.

If I click it’s icon and space bar, it says it is 600 GB (pretty much exactly 100 GB more than the drive it is backing up. And it says it has 234.53 GB free. Well, if I subtract the 100 GB of additional size, that still leaves 134.53 free if it was the exact same size.

In short, for the same drive, I have “free” space of 58, or 101 GB free and the bootable backup of that drive, it it was the same size, would have 134.4 GB free. I figure there are some things that don’t matter that SuperDuper doesn’t copy over, but that’s a pretty big difference and doesn’t explain the discrepancy for the two reports on the internal drive.

Not an answer for you, but check out Space Gremlin Pro which graphically analyzes space on your hard drive and lets you dig down through folders and files etc. If I recall correctly the “Pro” version or mode is either no extra charge or a minimal extra charge, but you have to go through some sort of rigamarole explained in the documentation to enable that mode.

I may check that app, though it may ultimately just give me yet another number for free space! And at this point I’m also leery about adding another app when the system is being weird.

I did follow some instructions for moving the photos library to the same external drive that has itunes on it. I just got back home and it should have finished the copy about an hour ago - and it does seem to be done, but when I used the option to change the library I wanted to use, I got a pop-up saying some stuff was not “complete” - that I needed to click an option to delete the incomplete items, set it as my default library, so it would then copy them from iCloud. It wasn’t clear as to whether, if I just waited longer, it would complete them without being my default library but I can wait a bit longer and check this evening. At that point I guess even if I get that message, I’ll chose the delete incomplete items button, set it as the default, and see what happens. I won’t delete my original library until that is working and also until by daily backup routine copies the new library to it’s backup drive.

If nothing else, hopefully that will free up room for full quality versions connected to my Mac again.

But here’s another piece of the puzzle. I checked the size of my photo library file in the finder - about 112 GB. It is the same on my Mac as on the copy I just made. Yet under the “about this mac” storage description, it lists it as 61 GB. Don’t understand that either!

Just keeps getting weirder.

I now have my default photo library on the external drive and I think it is up to date. At least it had my newest stuff on it. The old photo library is still on my internal drive until I know I have a good backup of my new setup.

But there is some definite weirdness. First, when I look at storage under “about this mac”, it no longer shows photos even though they are there still, just not the default library. I thought maybe they were included in another section, but the other sections don’t seem big enough to hold those photos.

Even stranger, there was about 3 GB used by “other volumes in container”. Uh, I only have the main drive volume. It hasn’t been partitioned or anything. I do have some external drives (partitioned) though. But I wouldn’t think they would be described as “in” the main drive.

So, I go to disk utility and view all devices. Shows Container Disk1 holds “Macintosh HD”. And shows my external drives/partitions.

But the crazy thing is that for the Macintosh HD, it says 464.03 GB is used and only 31.99 GB is free! It also says “other volumnes” is using 3.94 GB. Maybe that last one is that hidden partition for recovery I’ve read about, but the other numbers make no sense at all.

The On My Mac free storage after various things I’ve done, says 178 gb free. And in disk utility, under the thermometer part that says only 31.99 gb are free, there is a listing that says 178 is “available”. What the heck difference is there between “free” and “available”???

Guess I’ll try rebooting - again - and see what happens, even though I did it earlier today.

UPDATE. Rebooting didn’t change anything, but I did see something I overlooked before. In disk utility, there it says there is 17 gb available, it also says 146 gb is “purgeable”. Which some basic math would seem to match up with the 30+ gb the thermometer says is all that is “free”.

Anyone who can explain that? Do I need to “purge” it? If so, how? Still researching it myself.

Seem the “purgeable” has to do with what the Mac COULD free up if you turn on optimization - which I do NOT have on. But this explanation doesn’t really explain why some places say I have 179 gb “free”. If optimization isn’t turn on, I assume then that space is NOT free - it only could be made to be free. Doesn’t seem like a logical description to me.

I did find that the iOS files were computer backups of my various iOS devices. I deleted one large one to free 24 gb. Gonna do a superduper backup of my new photos setup so I can delete the old one on my internal drive to free up more space.

dbk - sounds like some backup utilities run amok may be making spurious hidden files.


Well there’s your problem, right there Vern -

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TimeMachine. It does use space until you do the back-ups. It also slows down the machine until you do the back-ups.

I have been considering starting over, but I’d like to avoid that step! Guess, for now, I’ll wait and see if I get these lack of storage reports again now that I have opened up space by moving Photos.

One other odd thing. Using the “about this mac”, by looking at storage and clicking “Manage”, I could see the iOS backup files. One was particularly big for my present phone. I thought that maybe it was backed up when I had loaded up movies for a trip (I remove most when I get back). So I did a new backup to the computer in iTunes. When I went back to that storage managing, the file was smaller (30+ instead of 50+ gb). But the date on it was still 2019 even though I had just done a fresh backup. All the backup dates were for 2019.

I don’t understand that. Time Machine is constantly making backups. Last one was just 5 minutes ago and, of course, it is on a separate drive. So I really don’t know what you are referring to!

BTW, I still hope, at some point, to get at least a 2 TB external SSD, ideally with a thunderbolt connection. I figure with that I always would have a pretty speedy temporary replacement if my internal drive has issues. And I could partition it into two parts. One a bit over 500 GB to serve as a bootable backup for my internal drive and the rest to hold movies and photos.

But from what I’ve seen so far, prices are still pretty high, especially if you do the thunderbolt connection instead of usb-C.

Been using this one with a mini on usbc and it works great.

Was 269, now it’s 299. Amazon’s choice.

Thunderbolt is not worth the extra cost here imho. Usbc is pretty fast on its own.

Putting the old spinning disks on ice for deep backup will also quiet your rf environment.

2TB in a thunderbolt drive is $700-800 = more than twice the cost for questionable utility.

You’ve already got 0.5TB inside the mini on PCIe, so your os files will load as fast as thunderbolt.

Moreover, unless they have a huge ram cache, speed will ultimately be limited by flash spec. Most 2TB ssd drives use less expensive flash, which is slower and will be the limiting spec.

Well, for now it wouldn’t really reduce my spinning external drives because a 2 TB SSD just isn’t going to replace 4 and 5 TB drives!

Actually, I just looked at the present memory usage of my iTunes folder and Photos folder and they use more memory than I thought. Presently about 950 GB. The 2 TB drive would take about 500 to back up the internal drive so that means, of the 1.5 TB left, I’ll already be filling up two thirds of it! I do buy movies from time to time so it could fill up the rest in a shorter time than I’d like. Of course, I could keep the itunes stuff on the spinning drive. Or wait for prices to drop so a 3 or 4 TB SSD is affordable.

It’s hard for me to know if the speed is okay because I’ve never had a high speed external drive. I do know, on my iMac, using USB-A, one time I had to boot from the external drive because the main drive had gotten corrupted. So I did that and then ran superduper to copy from the external drive to the main drive. Then I could boot from the main drive again. But it took a LONG time to boot up with usb-A (not sure what versyon it was, but certainly nothing less than 3.

Any comparison of how bootup times would compare? I’ve never seen any data on these things.

??? There is something in a small section internally that hold some of the OS, even if booting from an external drive?


Finding more odd things. I’ve been cleaning up some stuff by putting some miscellaneous files on an external drive. So the storage listing says 311 GB free.

But even stranger results in Disk Utility.

If I select the “Apple SSD” at the top of the listing, it only gives the size of the drive (basically 500 GB).

Going down to the next level beneath that which says “Container disk1”, it shows 4 things I had not noticed before in the thermometer graph:

VM = 3.22 GB
Mac HD = 473 GB
2 Not mounted = 717.7 MB (no idea what that is)
Free = Only 23 GB! That’s less than I saw before in the next item before I moved things off the internal drive!

Under that section it says the volume count is 4. Don’t know here that comes from. And it repeats that only 23 GB is free (477 used). On the upper right corner, where there is a box saying “499.96 GB”, right under it is says “shared by 4 volumes”.

Then we have the third level which says “Mac HD”. It’s thermometer graph has almost 4 gb on “other volumns”. Again, don’t know what that refers to. And it also says only 23 GB free.

Below that graph there is a section that says 311 GB available, but 288 of that is “purgeable”. Still makes no sense to me.

Biggest questions are what the heck is the deal with “4 volumes”! I believe there is a hidden recovery volume but that doesn’t account for 4.

The other is how much free memory I really since the numbers are not making any sense. Inconsistent and actually, on most, going down after I took stuff off the drive! Only the “storage” info went the way I would expect.

APFS Shares space/free space so the reported free space is not always clear.
See Free Space there are other articles, They have spoken several times on ATP, but I find its better to read an article. look for APFS and free space.

Does iPad Pro / iOS work with portable external USB drives like this?

  • Can you transfer files back and forth via the files app?
  • Via third party app like FileBrowserGo
  • Does the iPad power the drive via USB-C connection and if not what else do you need to carry?

I read through it and thought maybe it was snapshots. Well, I guess it could be, but using the terminal command from the article, none of the Time Machine snapshots were older than 1 day. It also didn’t say how big the snapshots were - info that would have been pretty useful! There are 21 of them at the moment. I’ve had the automatic backup turned off for awhile now (not sure the exact time). There was a small increase in free space so maybe each hour it clears out the oldest one, but not making more since it is turned off? Have to check that tomorrow.

Don’t know much about snapshots anyway - just another thing to research.

I did find that they are saved hourly and, after 24 hours and also keep a snapshot of the last Time Machine backup which apparently is kept as long as you have space available.