Macbook Air rapidly changing free space available?

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I've been having problems with the free disk space on my Macbook Air recently. For a while it said it was at 30GB of free space left and then suddenly yesterday it started giving me alerts that I only had 600MB left and started shutting down all my programs until the whole computer froze. I was pretty alarmed because I quickly tried to delete things that might take up space but it seemed like the amount of free space was filling up faster than I could delete. Finally I forced my computer to shut down and when I turned it back on a second later it told me I now have 60GB of free space. Why is it so inconsistent? How can I find out my actual free disk space and prevent another "600MB left" incident from happening again? Thanks
 

pigoo3

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You wouldn't happen to have Time Machine turned on...and the backups being written to your computers internal HD?

- Nick
 
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You wouldn't happen to have Time Machine turned on...and the backups being written to your computers internal HD?

- Nick

It's turned on but it's not plugged in, if I try to open the program it just tells me "Your Time Machine backup disk can’t be found"
 

pigoo3

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It's turned on but it's not plugged in, if I try to open the program it just tells me "Your Time Machine backup disk can’t be found"

That's because you have it set up the correct way.:) By having the Time Machine backups being saved to an external HD. Since your external HD is not connected to your MBA...that's why you're getting that message.

My question above was to see if you were saving the TM backups to the MacBook Air's internal storage to see if that was the reason for the storage amount fluctuations. Since you have the TM backups going to an external HD...then my query/theory isn't the answer.

- Nick
 
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chas_m

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It sounds like you're not in the habit of actually QUITTING (not closing) programs you're not using. Get in the habit of using command-q when you're done with a program, and keeping just one program at a time open.

To find out what's using up the space, download a free program like Grand Perspective and use it to create a "map" of the drive -- the "biggest chunk" is probably what's eating your space, but I'll bet if you get in the habit of not leaving too many programs open, you'll see that error message a LOT less often.
 

Rod


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Exactly how much storage do you have, total? I ask because you say you had 30 Gb of free space. If say you had only 128 Gb total storage to start with (not uncommon for the MBA) and the recommended free space for your processor to work with is 20% ie 25.6 Gb then you were already hovering close to the minimum.
As to why that would change after deleting files and restarting, well my explanation is that initially you were short of storage, then you deleted/removed files, I assume you then emptied your trash.
The operating system then needs to index all the items on your HD before it recognises that it has more storage than before but initially it didn't have enough spare storage to register this. So in this case restarting was the key. This forces the OS to reindex the drive.
So if your storage is close to full don't trust the Get Info summary of spare storage until after a restart.
Get in the habit of using Command + Tab to show you what Apps are running every now and then, let go of Tab continue to hold Command key and while hovering your cursor over each app press Q. This is the quickest easiest way I know to find what apps are running and quite them without leaving the window you're in.
P.S. Go to About this mac under the Apple Menu and select the Storage tab. That will give you a linear graph of how much storage you have how much is free and what is using most of it. Please don't ask what "Other" is. Just kidding.
 
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Rod


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It sounds like you're not in the habit of actually QUITTING (not closing) programs you're not using. Get in the habit of using command-q when you're done with a program, and keeping just one program at a time open.

To find out what's using up the space, download a free program like Grand Perspective and use it to create a "map" of the drive -- the "biggest chunk" is probably what's eating your space, but I'll bet if you get in the habit of not leaving too many programs open, you'll see that error message a LOT less often.

Chas I have to challenge you on the above, closing an app window IS the same as quitting it unless you're talking about iOS. It you click the red button (with the X on it) on the top left of an active app window you are "exiting" the program i.e. quitting the app. Obviously not the same as minimising the window with the orange button.
 
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chas_m

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Chas I have to challenge you on the above, closing an app window IS the same as quitting it

Challenge me all you want, you're still wrong.

Example: close safari. Note that Safari is not quit, it's still active. Look in activity monitor. Note that it is still using CPU (miniscule) and RAM (probably quite a bit).

Now, quit Safari. NOW look in Activity Monitor. Note the difference.

It you click the red button (with the X on it) on the top left of an active app window you are "exiting" the program i.e. quitting the app.

This is true of some programs (like Disk Utility), but Apple is really inconsistent about it, but the default is you're incorrect. That's how Windows behaves, but its not how (by default) Mac apps are supposed to behave. Apple has compromised this in its efforts to lure switchers, but see the Safari example above.
 

Rod


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Sorry chas I stand corrected, probably because I use the Command + Q option most of the time myself or the Command + Tab method I mentioned. I tried your suggestion example above and I agree.
Sorry.
 

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It's turned on but it's not plugged in, if I try to open the program it just tells me "Your Time Machine backup disk can’t be found"

If Time Machine is turned on and your backup drive is not attached, then Time Machine is writing "ghost" backups to your hard drive and that is what is consuming the space. Time Machine calls that "local backups". You need to turn that off. Here's how:

1. Attache your Time Machine drive and make a full backup.

2. Launch Terminal from /Applications/Utilities and Enter the following command:

sudo tmutil disablelocal

Enter your admin password when requested. (It will be invisible) Exit terminal.

Reboot your MBA and check hard drive available space.
 

pigoo3

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If Time Machine is turned on and your backup drive is not attached, then Time Machine is writing "ghost" backups to your hard drive and that is what is consuming the space. Time Machine calls that "local backups". You need to turn that off.

Awesome Charlie. I was thinking that Time Machine might be playing a role in this situation.

- Nick
 
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okay, I'm not supposed to ask what "Other" is but I have a 500 GB hard drive quickly running out of space and my "Other" is 259.21 GB ... How do I find what "Other" contains so I can fix the problem?
 

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See chscag's post (#10) above - turn off the local backups and you may find most of the "Other" disappears.

Need to keep that command handy - because "everytime" you get a system update. Those local backups are re-enabled.

If you really want to see what all is taking up space on the drive, still have to recommend WhatSize as the premier app for this - it can be run in Admin mode vs User mode and will show you those local backups and other stuff some of the others won't.
 
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