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Sierra Storage Management

Apple's macOS 10.12 helps you remove unwanted files.

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SSD is the shizzle. No doubt about that. Any issues with VM, or with Safari losing its ish, switch to SSD and your woes can be gone.

But SSD comes at a price, and currently you're not going to get terabyte SSD so easily. Enter macOS Sierra's storage manager.

Go to your Apple menu, select 'About This Mac' at the top, and click the third tab ('Storage') on the window that pops up. You'll then see a button on the far right that says 'Manage...' - the ellipsis means that another window will open. So click the button to open the new window.


Here's what you'll see. Four ways to manage storage.

  1. Store in iCloud. Great option if you don't mind getting hacked and seeing your own laundry hanging in a public place. Remember that although Apple were the last to join the infamous PRISM club, they're likely still a member, unless both Apple and the NSA can prove otherwise.
  2. Optimize Storage. Yeah let's remove our iTunes downloads. Good idea.
  3. Empty Trash Automatically. Genius. How come nobody else thought of this?
  4. Reduce Clutter. Ah. Now we might be onto something. Let's go deeper down this hole!

Reduce Clutter

The writing's not literally on the wall - no, it's in the left margin.

Applications have nothing to give, Documents may have a bit, the unused Garage Band consumes 2.01 GB right out of the factory, Mail does away with 488 KB in the same way, there's absolute zero in .Trash, and hands off the System's 37.72 GB (which somehow made it your way on a 5 GB download - isn't that nice).


Documents it is then.

Large Files

Sierra's storage manager says there are no 'large files' (whatever that means).

Downloads indeed has a lot of cruft, but that'll be dealt with anyway.

File Browser

Sort of hard to say what 'File Browser' is, but it's not finding the gold - mostly leading the way down dark alleyways.

And after a reboot because this new system's pasteboards suddenly all quit at once, and despite an uptime of over 25 minutes, Sierra's storage manager still hasn't figured out again how much storage System uses. A trivial matter soon fixed in 10.12.1?

So where is the disk storage being wasted? Is any disk storage truly being 'wasted'?

That's a matter of opinion of course. But nevertheless... But to find this, you'd have to go where few Macs have gone before.

Whoa! 1.34 GB (gigabytes) in /var/db? What's that all about?

Well, 73 MB of that is the binary base of a diagnostic system you might not have known you have (and evidently can't turn off). But it's unobtrusive, right?

Then there's the text version of the above, gets updated all the time, almost twice the size. Unobtrusive.

Then there's your icon caches... You did know your system needed icon caches, right?


Stop right there, because this is sort of funny. Way way back, 20+ years ago, Microsoft had an 'OS' called 'Windows 94' that got renamed at the last minute to 'Windows 95'. You'll never guess why. And they had a new 'file manager' called 'Explorer' (not THAT Explorer - another one, the original one). And this 'Explorer' didn't run through the file system - it ran through something called the 'shell namespace'. And it was an abomination.

Developer CDs (yes CDs, not DVDs) had the source code to a skeletal 'Explorer'. And it was even slower. The reason this code - this code that one might call original 'Explorer' code - was so slow? The Windows Registry. That's where the locations to the icons could be found. And navigating the Registry to only get a path to an icon - that was way too expensive.

Enter the ShellIconCache. Without that file, Windows would have been even slower. Some might say 'unusable'.

Back to the present: what do we have on disk today in macOS Sierra that warrants an icon cache of 75 megabytes? And where's the SVG format? Our systems are vector-based, aren't they?

Add It Up

Anyway. Add up the above and you're looking at 1,418,300,407 bytes of disk space. And that's only scratching the surface. Of the iceberg, so to speak. Not to mix metaphors.

Cleaning begins at home.

Homework Assignment

Your own ~/Library (yes the one Apple now try to keep hidden from you) can have over 9,000 files, using over 5 GB (gigabytes) of precious SSD storage. Try to see what's taking up all the space.

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