It has happened to all of us. We attempt to download the latest song, movie or document only to find out that there is no room left on our drive. Where did all that space go? You then spend a few minutes to try to free up enough space so you can complete the data transfer. How do you find out what is taking up all of your space? Often, there are some large temporary files or media files that you no longer need to keep around. How do you find them?
Sometimes, emptying the Recycle Bin or the Trash on your system will be enough to free the space you need. I tend to leave things in there “just in case” and only empty it when space becomes an issue. It is often a very fast and easy way to recover some small percentage of the available space on the disk.
Fortunately, there are tools on each of the main computer platforms that will help you find the large files and folders on your disk. They are KDirStat for Linux, WinDirStat for Windows and Disk Inventory X for the Mac. Historically, KDirStat was developed first, but it doesn’t look to have been maintained after the switch to KDE4. I was going to build it from source, but some of the required source files have been renamed (kde-config -> kde4-config) and the build problems snowball from there. It is not available as a direct install for the Ubuntu distribution any longer. The tool was later cloned to produce Windows and Mac versions.
The concept behind these applications is to represent the information returned by the old UNIX command ‘du’. This command reports disk usage information. Here is a sample of what the command line utility displays to the user:
Each of these applications provide a graphical representation of the files that are stored on your computer. They represent folders on your disk that can contain other files and folders. The layout of the display is very similar between the Windows and Mac versions of the tool.
The applications are interactive to some degree. If you select an entry, like I have below (root.dsk), it identifies in the graphical representation just exactly how that file relates to the others on the disk by size. Similarly, if you select an item from the graphical representation, it will identify what file and file type it is.
Note that the graphical representation is not to scale, but it does allow you to easily identify larger files and folders relative to the others on your disk. Once you have identified files or directories that you no longer need, you can easily free up that space by removing the items. Don’t forget to empty the Recycle Bin or Trash to finally free your space. Be very careful and only empty the container when you are certain that you no longer need the files. You should not count on the possibility of being able to recover the removed files at any point in the future.