As more of our digital lives are transferred from our computers to the cloud, many have claimed that there is a declining need for local storage. As netbooks gained in popularity, manufacturers found that consumers were willing to sacrifice gigabytes for portability. As high performance ultra-portables like the MacBook Air have shown, high performance Solid-State Drives are ready for consumers and have begun to slowly replace the once ubiquitous Hard-Disk Drives in consumer machines.
However, we still love to pack our computers with music, movies, photos, and other space-hogging files. Unless mobile carriers suddenly reverse the current trend of limiting data consumption, cell phone subscribers will not be able to comfortably stream all the content to their mobile devices that they would like. That means that smartphones will need to continue to carry enough on-board storage for average users to conveniently pack enough entertainment until the next time they plug their phone into their computer. The same principle holds true for our desktops and laptops: While the idea of streaming all of your content from the cloud seems quite appealing, it isn’t feasible for many people. Until ISPs stop limiting bandwidth and the cost of renting space in the cloud for huge media libraries and miscellaneous documents becomes cheaper, most users will have to rely on local storage.
So for now, most of us are stuck with our computer’s hard drive as the sole repository of all those documents, songs, movies, photos and cat videos that we refuse to delete. Like a garage that manages to inexplicably accumulate more and more clutter, our hard drives are running out of places to put new things. We could go and upgrade to a bigger drive, but that can be a time-consuming endeavor, (and an expensive one, if you start looking into the larger drives out there).
Luckily, there are apps like DriveSlim that can, with the wave of a magic wand, clean up that messy garage of a hard drive and give you back valuable space. I’ve been using it for a week and it has reclaimed plenty of room on my MacBook Pro’s drive.
Design & Interface
Installation can be completed quickly and seamlessly through the Mac App Store. After opening the program for the first time, it will quickly look at your drive and find available volumes. I have my 500 GB drive divided into the main 450 GB Mac section and a 50 GB Windows section. The app unsurprisingly could not do anything with the Windows partition but let me select my main partition.
The layout of the main window is clean and logical. The top area gives some basic information about the drive you have selected, and the main area contains checkboxes to let you customize the scan that you are about to do. These options include:
- Large files
- Duplicate files
- Unused localizations (files in other languages that you don’t use)
- Universal binaries (files that are no longer supported by modern Intel-based Macs
- Cache/Temp Files
While some of these options have defaults set, such as the ‘large files’ selection being defined as any file that is at least 10 MB and not accessed in the last 30 days, these can all be changed by the user via an options page.
The bar at the left of the window also allows you to select a specific folder rather than an entire drive.
After you select the options you want, it’s time to do your initial scan. The program will give you a simple animated graphic of a bunch of 0′s and 1′s as it checks out your drive. A nice aspect of the scanning process is how it shows files in real-time that are being added to the list of possible matches. The name of the file jumps out of the 0′s and 1′s and drops into the side bar, where a running count is kept under each appropriate section.
At the time that I ran it, I was using about 140 GB of space. I got up from my desk expecting it to take a while to look at everything, but it was done in under 15 minutes. I would assume that your performance will vary, but I was surprised to see this done so quickly on my machine, which has a relatively-slow 5,400 RPM drive in it.
The search did a great job of scouring my drive for things that I clearly don’t have any use for. For example, I use the Sparrow mail client on my machine, which is synced with my Gmail account. I use IMAP syncing, so all those messages and attachments in my email account with Google are also on my computer. As I scanned the list of files that DriveSlim wanted to work on, I found something called “What tolerance looks like.” I was curious to see what that actually was, and the app makes it easy to do so. In addition to showing the file path, there is a magnifying glass next to each item which will expose the file in Finder and let you open it. I discovered that this just another video clip that some extended family member sent me years ago of some dog trying to play with a disinterested cat. I didn’t care about it when it was sent to me, and DriveSlim correctly guessed that I’m not really interested in letting it loiter on my drive now. There are other examples of junk that it found (literally thousands), all of which I was more than happy to see get compressed.
Now that we have our search results, it’s time to decide what we want to archive. This is, perhaps, the biggest problem with software such as DriveSlim. It found 2,700 items, and going through each one to decide what should get archived would be huge irritation. You can, of course, just click the ‘select all’ button at the top of the list, but this can lead to some serious issues, which the app is quick to warn you about.
The app found almost 25 GBs of data that it wanted to archive, but I ultimately only felt comfortable giving it permission to work with half of that. Some of the files are things like iPhone-app backups which I don’t use daily but wouldn’t want to go back to the archived folder each time I wanted to access them. Additionally, there is always the risk that you could create some errors with some applications that now can’t find important files.
Once you decide what you want to archive, the app lets you create a disk image anywhere you’d like, (I chose the default Documents folder). I didn’t run into any issues after it was done archiving the selected items, but I would highly recommend that you make sure you have a good backup via either Time Machine or some other backup solution before proceeding.
Comparison to Similar Apps
I already use two different pieces of Mac software for dealing with hard drive bloat. The first is CleanMyMac, which I have been using for a couple of years. CleanMyMac is more limited in its scope, in that it focuses on finding trash like unnecessary developer files, but also finds some of the same things as DriveSlim (like dispensable language files and caches). While CleanMyMac doesn’t let you archive certain files the way that DriveSlim does, it does have other tools that make it more well-rounded, including automatically performing full uninstalls when you drag an application to the trash, cleaning-up USB drives, and monitoring the trash to let you know when you should go ahead and erase it.
Another similar app I use is called Clusters. Clusters monitors whatever folders you designate, and automatically compresses anything in it. I use it on folders with lots of big files, and like that it all works without having to actually do anything.
My biggest disappointment with DriveSlim, as well as CleanMyMac and Clusters, is a lack of support for networked drives. (Update: DriveSlim is compatible with networked drives.) I only use up about 140 GB’s of room on my laptop because I have two separate 2 TB drives hooked into my router with tens of thousands of songs, movies, photos, and other documents. I would love to be able to clean up and compress those with an app like DriveSlim, but so far, I haven’t come across any solutions.
CleanMyMac and Clusters are both pretty solid apps, but DriveSlim does it all in a single app. A lifetime-use license for CleanMyMac will cost you $29.99 and Clusters another $12.99, while DriveSlim sets you back just $19.99. Fiscal savings aside, I like my current CleanMyMac & Clusters solution more than DriveSlim. I trust CleanMyMac more to leave important files alone that may break a certain application, and I like how Clusters will compress files while leaving them in place, (rather than placing them in a separate disk image somewhere).
DriveSlim certainly does what it advertises: It will quickly find bulky, duplicate, and extraneous items on your Mac’s hard drive, then allow you to delete or archive them. For the price you pay, it does all of these things very, very well. However, the process of ensuring that what it finds in the scanning process is indeed what you want to get rid of can be tedious, knowing that you probably don’t want to get rid of all of it. I had over 2000 items that were found, and that is probably on the low end of what many users will discover.
I would recommend this software to you if you are interested in freeing up lots of space on your hard drive and have the time to go through item by item to decide what needs to be deleted/archived. For anyone looking for a more automated but less robust approach, I would recommend Clean My Mac, (and Clusters, if you are looking to compress certain files as well).