Maintaining Order on your Hard Disk and Tips for Organization

You have a nice, decent sized 20GB hard drive in your new iMac... but you notice that only 10GB is left! Yes, you did install a number of programs- but not 10GB worth. Or you may have an old Performa with a 1GB hard drive and find you only have 50MB left. What happened to all that space? Well, the truth is that you probably have many duplicate files on your hard drive. How many? It's hard to say, but there are a few common things to look for.

How many copies of SimpleText or TeachText do you need? Almost every application installs a copy to make sure that you can read the included "ReadMe" file. You probably don't even use the one copy of SimpleText that came installed on your computer! Use Find File or Sherlock to search for "SimpleText" and delete all but one copy.

You might also try emptying your E-mail box of old messages. Simply delete the individual E-mails within your E-mail client. They take up large amounts of space on your drive if you let them sit there for too long. If you use AOL, open the System Folder and delete "AOL

Backup Installer". That takes up about 10MB, and if you need to reinstall AOL, it's not that hard to find an installer CD-ROM. If you don't have one, just call them- they'd be glad to send you one (followed by another one next week, and another one, and another...)

May I ask, how many versions of ClarisWorks/AppleWorks do you have on your computer? Internet Explorer? Microsoft Office? Especially if your computer is older, you probably have multiple versions of the same program. A while back I was at a point where I had ClarisWorks 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 installed! I also had Internet Explorer 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0. Deleting older versions of these programs will free up a tremendous amount of space. Office 4.2.1 uses about 90MB of disk space, Office 98 uses about 120MB, Office 2001 uses about 175MB. Deleting both 4.2.1 and 98 will give you over 200MB of disk space back! I mean, how many copies of the same program do you really need?

It's always fun to download demo programs and public betas... but are you the type of person who keeps the installer around for what seems like forever and has never deleted the old versions of the program? Do yourself a favour; delete old demos and public betas... along with their installers. If you must keep the installers, burn them to a CD if you have a CD-RW drive, or create a special folder for them so you know where they are in case you do decide to delete them later.

MP3's also take up a lot of hard disk space. A single song can take from 3MB to 5MB... and if you have 100 of them... well that could be as much as 500MB used on your hard drive. When you find yourself not listening to a song anymore, delete it to save disk space. If you import one of your CD's onto your computer, you probably won't like all of the songs... so delete the ones you don't like.

How can you be sure you are getting everything that you want to delete, especially when deleting older versions of application software? Well, you might want to try a utility like FileBuddy, which enables you to search for specific types of files so it's easier to delete them, and create snapshots of your hard disk so that you can track changes that occur- and delete everything an application installs. You can get FileBuddy here.

Or you can do the same thing ("search and destroy" with Find File or Sherlock) manually- it takes a little longer, but it's also an option.

My favourite way to keep track of things is quite easy. It takes about 10 seconds, and allows you to track changes yourself. For example, you want to know what's in your Applications folder. Open the Applications folder, and simply press "command-a" (Select All), "command-c" (Copy), open SimpleText or TextEdit, and press "command-v" (Paste). You now have a list of everything in your Applications folder. You can save this file in your Applications folder as something like "Contents as of 29/Nov/2001" or whatever date it may be. That way, when you install a new application and want to know what you have installed recently, you can open up this file and compare it to what is currently in your Applications folder. This method also works well for making a catalogue of your music folder so that you can easily find out what artists' music you have on your computer.

I also advise the creation of folders for specific types of documents- for example, these are the folders I have in my "Adam's Documents" folder:

  • Things other people Want
  • Desktop pictures
  • Write Right
  • iTunes
  • Random stuff
  • Installers/Updates/Etc.
  • IBM Compatible Stuff
  • An Apple A Day
  • Adam's Web
  • Weird Computer items
  • Empty Folder
  • Electronics of Yesteryear
  • It's All About Me
  • Jenn's Folder
  • No Music, No Life
  • The Place for Low End Macs
  • Friends stuff

The titles describe something about what I have in the folder- although I decided to be a bit creative with some of the names (which made it somewhat fun for me).

Sorting through files on your hard drive can be quite a chore, but keeping it clean in the first place is most important. With a neatly organized hard drive, you have less of a chance for it to get corrupted or fragmented, and you have a better chance of finding the file you want (without using the Find File or Sherlock utility).