Disk Profiler X
By indoctrinating my mother in the Macintosh Way years ago, I saved myself a great deal of time on the phone doing software support. (I did find myself explaining to an uncle—himself an engineer—how a BIOS might refuse to boot a computer where installed RAM has voltage requirements which don’t match what the motherboard can provide.)
However, you can still reach odd Mac states which require e-mail troubleshooting. Last week, for example, my old iBook (which is now hers) refused to boot, complaining about a lack of disk space. We needed two tools to bring it back to life. First, we booted the iBook in “Firewire Target Disk Mode,” which is done by booting with the “t” key held down. This doesn’t bring up the operating system, but instead makes the computer, essentially, into an external hard disk which can be mounted by another machine. We plugged it in to her iMac, with the goal of freeing up enough disk space to allow it to boot on its own.
The utility which made this task easier is called Disk Inventory X. It presents the files on a disk (or inside a given subdirectory) in a format called “treemaps” which is easier for me to show than to describe. Here, for example, is the Disk Inventory X window for my HDD.
This makes it very easy to point out the big blocks which, once deleted, free up the most space for the least work. On the iBook, we found eight or ten iPod updaters (one is sufficient,) and a 650MB audio file left over from one of my mother’s adventures in ripping her vinyl records to MP3s. A few quick deletes, and the iBook would boot again: much easier than, say, going through one’s email looking for attachments.
What’s most striking about this image, to me, is how much disk space I have dedicated to music. (The blue chunk in the upper left is all AAC files, ripped from my CDs; the purple ones next to them are downloaded MP3s.
Since the left-side window shows folders ranked according to the size, and iTunes stores files in folders by artist, I can rank artists by how much disk space I have dedicated to them. It’s tempting to use that as a default “favorite artists of all time” list, but there are obvious problems with that: compare, for instance, The Church, with twenty-five years behind them and seventeen disks in my collection (and I’m missing several,) with someone like Sarah Harmer, whose third album is due for U.S. release in a few weeks, and Josh Ritter, only on his fourth. Clearly, all this is telling me is how much disk space they occupy.