Recently, while doing a little “housekeeping” on my work Mac, I noticed that I had less than 10% of my drive available. While I do have a lot of large project files I work on from day to day, I was sure that my files shouldn’t have taken up anywhere near that much space.
So, in an effort to find out where the excess fat on my drive was, I turned to Grand Perspective, a free little utility that maps out your hard drive and gives you an overview of what is where and how much space it’s taking up.
Fortunately, I caught my problem early on into the process. In my case, the culprit was unusual but not unheard of.
On the root level of your drive, there is a hidden folder called Volumes (you can get there by hitting Command-Shift-G in the finder, then typing in “/Volumes” in the window or sheet that pops up). In this folder are aliases that point to the actual volumes mounted on your Mac.
Sometimes, when a drive is unmounted in an unusual manner (such as unplugging it without ejecting, then reattaching immediately), the alias to the drive is duplicated, showing up with a number after it. While you don’t see this on the desktop, it is still there. When you properly unmount the drive, the last alias created disappears, but that “original” alias remains. In and of itself, this isn’t much of a problem, a minor annoyance at best.
The problem is that the drive that was experiencing this “dual identity” was the drive I clone to. In my Volumes folder, I had four aliases of this drive. Unfortunately, when a drive isn’t available, a program will sometimes create a file or folder out of this alias and start to write to it as if it were its own volume.
That’s what happened to me. At least one—probably two—of the aliases had my backup written to it. As the Volumes folder is usually skipped by a clone, there weren’t any recursive backups, but it was enough to fill up my hard drive.
Fortunately, the solution was incredibly simple. All I had to do was unmount my clone drive, drag all the remaining aliases of that drive out of the Volumes folder and into the trash, and then empty the trash.
That got rid of over 1.4 million “extra” files – over 60% of my drive. That’s a lot of garbage.
The moral of this story is to keep an eye out on how much room is available on your drive. If it starts filling up faster than it should, you may want to check things out and make sure you don’t have a “hidden drive” on your computer.