Putting your HDD on an 80GB diet (Redux)

(This is a follow-up to my original piece from 16 January 2008–Putting your HDD on an 80GB diet).As I pointed out last month:80GB is not 80GB.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor on

(This is a follow-up to my original piece from 16 January 2008–Putting your HDD on an 80GB diet).

As I pointed out last month:

80GB is not 80GB. It actually formats down to a paltry 74.3GB. Add to that an 11.4GB full Leopard install and you’re down to around 63GB of effective free space.

The MacBook Air's tiny 80GB hard drive requires dramatic measures to fit the average user's data onto such a small platter. Here's my approach:

Before migrating to the MBA, I archived my Music, Pictures, Movies and Downloads folders to a portable USB hard drive. Then I made a backup of my Applications folder to the same external USB hard drive. I recommend making a second backup to another hard drive, but then again I tend to obsess about my backups).

If you use Apple's Migration Assistant to move your data to the MBA I recommend that you read MacBook Air Diary-Day 3: Migration assistance and following these tips: 1) use Ethernet, 2) just migrate "Library," not "Files and Folders" and not "Applications." Curiously, "Library" includes your Documents folder in addition to your Library folder (which contains the Application Support folders that allow you to run most of your applications).

Install your key productivity apps from CD or DVD over Remote Disk or the USB SuperDrive (which is much faster). These are the applications that have to "just work" or that have stringent copy protection and don't usually tolerate a drag copy to a new machine. For me these applications were Microsoft Office 2008 and Adobe Creative Suite 3. Surprisingly Aperture and iWork '08 tolerated a drag copy to the MacBook Air, presumably because I had already migrated my Library.

Resist the urge to install the "kitchen sink" standard installations of any software–remember space is precious. I customized my Office 2008 to install just Word and Excel, I don't need PowerPoint because I use Keynote and I don't need Entourage because I use Mail.app. I customized my Adobe CS3 install to only install Photoshop, InDesign and Acrobat Professional. Then I trashed Adobe Bridge, Device Central and Stock Photos which came along for the ride with my CS3 install, saving me another 600MB.

Make sure that you "customize" every piece of software that you install and uncheck options for bloatware like companion applications, extra fonts, languages and printer drivers.

The next thing to do is to install the excellent freeware program Disk Inventory X, which is a MacBook Air owner's best friend. In fact, send a donation to Tjark Derlien to encourage him to keep developing this amazing little piece of code.

Run Disk Inventory X click on the "Select Folder ..." button and choose Macintosh HD > Library > Application Support and decide if you really want 3GB of bloat that ships with Leopard:

  • iDVD > Themes (1.5GB)
  • GarageBand > Instrument Library (573MB)
  • GarageBand > Magic GarageBand (407MB)
  • GarageBand > GarageBand Demo Songs (404MB)
  • Adobe > Templates (131MB)

Trashing the items above saved me over 3GB which amounts to almost five percent of a formatted 80GB hard drive with OS X on it–which is nothing to sneeze at. Avoid the temptation to go nuts and trash everything (even though Adobe's camera RAW plug-in is 20MB!). Although I'm seriously thinking of ditching Alex.SpeechVoice which weighs in at a hefty 670MB.

Another good place to go looking is in Macintosh HD > Library > Printers. The default install is over 3.2GB. I trashed all but the three printers that I regularly print to and saved another 2.5GB.

Take a long hard look at your iTunes library too. If you subscribe to a lot of podcasts consider slimming down your Podcast > Settings... to:

  • When new episodes are available: Download the most recent one
  • Keep: Most recent episode

And once you've already watched the Macworld Expo 2008 keynote address you can probably better use that 891MB too.

I started brand new copies iTunes and Aperture because I can always load the larger databases from my external HDD if I need to. I'm putting a bare bones minimal amount of music (my 80s favorites, currently) into iTunes and starting from scratch with Aperture.

Now I just need to figure out a strategy to get a bare bones Parallels setup running with Windows. Suggestions? Post 'em in the TalkBack below.

What's your strategy for slimming down your data footprint?

Update: Jason Snell posted some excellent data thinning tips in his MacBook Air austerity program. I gained another gig or so by thinning out ~/Library/Caches.

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