Slimming your hard drive

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Reader Bruce Bigenho is concerned about the amount of free space left on his new MacBook’s hard drive. He writes:

Hard drive space is always at a premium with laptops. I just a got a MacBook and out of the box, almost a third of the hard drive space is already taken up by the installed system and default set of apps. So every bit of useless stuff I can toss would help. I noticed that the Printer folder within the Library took up almost 4 gigs. As I understand it, this folder contains printer profiles—mostly of drivers (Ricoh, Sharp, Toshiba, etc) that I’ll never use. (Besides, printers usually come with their own driver install disc.) Is it safe to toss the contents of the Printer folder without causing operational harm to the system?

A few things here:

1. Yes, it’s safe to toss the printer drivers for printers you’ll never likely use. Navigate to /Library/Printers and throw out the family folder for printers you won’t need—Brother, Lexmark, Oce, and Sharp, for example.

2. Even though printers ship with their own drivers on an install disc, it’s not a bad idea to let OS X have a crack at it first as its drivers may be more up to date (you have no idea how long that disc may have been sitting in the box and that box on the shelf). And, in some cases, an OS X driver isn’t included on the disc, whereas OS X has one. With that in mind, you might wish to hang on to a couple of these family folders if you think you might one day purchase a particular brand of printer.

3. Don’t stop at printers. You can also remove unneeded language resources with J. Schrier and I. Stein’s free Monolingual.

4. Keep going! I’ve found The Omni Group’s $15 OmniDiskSweeper a useful tool for zeroing in on the files and packages that suck up huge amounts of hard drive space. (Alternatively, you can create a smart folder that looks for files over a certain size—say a gigabyte—and then hunt down and delete those that you don’t want.) In your specific case it’s unlikely that you have a forgotten gigabytes-rich iDVD or iMovie project floating around on your hard drive. But those who have had their Macs for awhile may. I just tooled around my startup drive and managed to delete half a dozen gigabytes of data by tossing just such unwanted files.

Update: Macworld’s resident Gemologist, Dan Frakes, pipes in with a link to his April 19, 2006 Mac Gems weblog “Byte Breakdown,” in which he covers not only OmniDiskSweeper, but a couple of other utilities that he likes better. Check it out for his take on ID-Design’s free WhatSize and the just-as-free GrandPerspective.

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