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What's eating up your hard drive? These 5 utilities tell all

Michael Simon | Nov. 13, 2014
No matter how slimmed down you believe your Mac's hard drive to be there are likely large files consuming space you could use for better things. These tools ferret out those files.

Whether your Mac has an old-school spinner or high-capacity Fusion Drive, it could always stand to gain a little extra room. Even if you don't obsessively download full seasons of Breaking Bad, there are countless ways for your hard drive to get filled up with stuff you don't need anymore--much of it buried in deep, dark folders you never see.

From clearing caches to deleting old mail attachments and forgotten files, a little diligence can go a long way toward keeping that precious space clear. But if you don't have the time or patience to run maintenance scripts and root out browser caches, there are more than a few willing hands to help you out in the Mac App Store. A quick scan of the Utilities section will reveal an abundance of disk cleaners and inspectors that all promise to seek out the cruft that might be taking up necessary room and help you reclaim some of the space you've lost. Finding the right one for your needs can be arduous work, but to get you started, I took a look at five of them.

Disk App
Hard drive utilities come in all shapes and sizes, but Disk App ($1) might be the simplest one I've ever used. With a stripped-down interface that feels more like it belongs in the menu bar than the Dock (that's a compliment), the ultra-minimal app breaks your drive into a tidy pie chart that lets you quickly delete only your Mac's most innocuous files.

Each time you launch it, you'll be met with a circle showing exactly how much room you have available. It's surprisingly fast; press the center button and it'll scan your drive in mere seconds, assembling a snapshot of eight areas that are most likely to be eating up unnecessary space on your drive. The segments are evenly sized, so it'll take a moment to browse each one, but you can empty any or all of them after only a couple of clicks.

It's not nearly as comprehensive as some of the other apps I tested, but Disk App does an admirable job of quickly clearing out space, even sorting through your documents to find the largest ones, in case you want to shuffle them off to an external drive.

Disk Inspector
Even if your hard drive is packed with files that pre-date OS X, Disk Inspector ($8) will dutifully keep its eyes on all of them for you. With a highly visual interface, the app presents a graphical interpretation of everything stored on your hard drive, from photos and PDFs to preference files.

After clicking the play button, it'll take about a minute for Disk Inspector to do its thing, but as it works an animated radar scanner gradually reveals the contents of your drive. When it's finished you'll get a cool circular analysis of what's inside your Mac--or whatever drive you tell it to scan--but it's not just eye candy. Disk Inspector's presentation makes it easy to spot where the largest files are hiding.


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