Notes on keeping the SSD clean (more free disk space)

I have one of the fastest SSD drives, but unfortunately didn't have the heart to buy the 240Gb, but the 120GB version. Now, 120GB is definitely enough, but this is my primary machine, and I'm doing several different kinds of things on it, so I need space for all the projects.

How do I keep it clean:


First I run automatic tools like CleanMyMac (free):

It definitely will find stuff that you missed.

Disk Inventory X

This is another type of program - it says how much disk is used by any folder, so it's easy to find the bigger users of space:

With it I found the /private/var/vm/sleepimage file (8gb) - keeps the data when the laptop goes to sleep. I can safely use the 8gb space until my laptop goes to sleep.

It is free.


Same as the former, but all is textual.

Windows XP

I have a Windows XP vm. Keeping it clean is not easy. I use Free Disk Analyzer. It works similarly to OmniDiskSweeper and Disk Inventory X:

System Volume Information

Last time I saved 2.79 GB from this folder. My Computer -> Preferences -> System Restore (there's a slider in XP).

Compacting VirtualBox (.vdi) VMs

VirtualBox is great, because it it's free, but it has many quirks - not that good integration on copy/paste, files, shortcuts and so on. The biggest issue is that compacting the image is weirdly done

  • Defragment the VMs drive (this step is always important regardless of the virtualization software)
  • Zero out the free space. Now this is unnecessary with VMWare and Parallels. It is done with sdelete - a free windows software by SysInternals (you remember these guys? Mark Russinovich?).
    • command is "sdelete -c -z c:\"
  • Compacting the virtual disk (.vdi) is done with this command (the command comes with VirtualBox) (case-sensitive):
    • "VBoxManage modifyhd /fullpath/to/windowsdisk.vdi --compact"

Other concerns

  • I always delete the Windows update files - today I saved 500mb.
  • No swap file for windows - too slow. Few gigs.
  • Now I have no swap for OS X too (500mb).
  • 7GB from compacting the VM
  • Moved some stuff to the Time Machine (20GB)
  • Deleted a lot of temp files and swap files (20 GB)
So now I have a lot more free space. I have spent only an hour for it. Next time it will just take a few minutes.
Wow, the 240GB Vertex 3 now costs as much as I paid for the 120GB less than a year ago. Crap.

Time machine is not perfect! A mobile backup solution for OS X

There's this rule that drives fail and stuff must be backed up.

My main operating system is Apple's OS X. OS X has a backup infrastructure called Time Machine. Time Machine is a way to do a version control on the whole file system. In layman's terms: if you delete a file, you will have a version saved. Or if you mess up a document, you can recover an old version from the Time Machine. This is how the interface looks:

Also if you mess up the OS by installing something stupid, you can recover the whole OS to a state that was for example 1 hour ago. A week ago I had to test this option, because by accident I destroyed some virtual network interfaces and was too lazy to try to fix them manually. This requires an installation cd and then the whole hdd is restored. 120 gb in 50 minutes. I thought it could figure out what to reverse and do it faster without an installation cd, but I guess this is how stuff works. It worked perfectly however.

I have a Time Machine router from Apple. It's a router with a hdd inside it. Backup/restore happens via wi-fi. It works perfectly.

Note: when restoring the whole hdd to an old state, you should link the laptop and the router with a cable. This cuts the restore time in half (10 mb/s on wi-fi, 20 mb/s with cable).

Drawbacks: when a drive fails, I need an installation cd, new hdd, screwdrivers to change the drive and a lot of time for the restore operation (1 hour in my case). This solution is not mobile. The router is big, so I can't take it with me on the road.

Why would I want to have a mobile backup solution?

Well, I have an SSD drive. They tend to fail quite often and without warning. What would happen if I have work abroad and need a laptop and drive that sould not fail, or at least have a backup option? Should I bring a spare hdd, screwdriver, installation cd and the bulky router?

The mobile backup solution

No, there's a better option. Use a drive-cloning software that clones the whole SSD to an external HDD via usb for example. If the SSD fails, I don't even have to change the drives. OS X can boot from the USB drive easily, so I don't need a screwdriver. No downtime, no 1 hour restoration. Just reboot and the new drive kicks in. Well, it's not going to be as fast as the SSD:

I have a 120gb SSD with a 750 gb HDD for a mobile backup. The backup is 120gb, 200gb if I want some history of the most changed files (yes, the software can even do versioning and incremental backup). What should I do with the rest? Split the drive and have some extra space. Now I have a mobile backup with enough space to bring a ton of music or TED hd lectures.

The two softwares I know that can do that are Carbon Copy Cloner (ccc) and SuperDuper! (yes, the exclamation mark is part of the name). CCC is free, that's what I use. Easy to setup. I did all in an hour. I even rebooted to see whether the backup drive would work. It worked like a charm. It copies with around ~30mb/s.

I have not tested SuperDuper!, but it has great reviews, especially the support, they say, is awesome.

How do you run windows when your primary OS is not Windows (need help)

My laptop is a Macbook. It runs Mac OS X. While the OS is awesome, it's not the most popular one. This would mean that there's software that is only made for Windows. And it's software that is custom, specific and generally cannot be changed for another software [running on OS X].

There is however one piece of software which even though it runs on OS X, I want on Windows. And that is Microsoft Office. MS Office for Mac OS X sucks. The ribbon interface is so ugly on Mac, the menus so different. And it deleted one of my presentations (while presenting it !!!). Don't even get me started on OpenOffice, iWork and all the copycats. When everyone around you is using MS Office, you have to use it too. Period.

So we agreed that I need Windows

The most common thing to do is get a virtual machine. I was using VMWare Fusion with one Windows XP and one Windows 7 installation for quite a while. The problem is the HDD. It just can't keep up with both machines (the host and the virtual). While stopping the swapping in the virtual machine can help, it doesn't fix the problem. And I have the fastest plate hdd available - 7200 rpm, a lot of cache. Also getting a lot of RAM also helps considerably - I have 4GB but the issue with the HDD remains.

I went to the competition

People said that VirtualBox and Parallels would do the job better. I tried VirtualBox for a day. Importing failed due to hardware inconsistencies and even while loading it just made the host os unresponsive. So I guess the competition doesn't do the thing better. What next?

What about remoting?

Using a dedicated machine that stays somewhere and logging on it only when needing windows could do the job. This means I have to buy an extra machine. Remoting would mean that I would need net constantly. And Remote Desktop for Mac is pretty bad. I could always switch to TeamViewer (also available for my phone), but it is not the best either. Also copying stuff while using my phone's 3G is not viable if the stuff is in the hundreds of megabytes scale.

What about SSD?

While the classic HDDs are good for working on serial pieces of data, SSDs shouldn't have the problem working in parallel with 2 streams of data. I have a friend who bought 50GB OCZ drive and he says his machine now went supersonic (a lot faster). The drive was like 130 euros. I can't work with 50GB. 128GB could maybe do the job but it's going to be tough. And buying a bigger one would be very expensive. Also I haven't asked how does this drive behave with a VM. It's important to do so.

And no I would NOT install Windows

...or get a Windows laptop. No way. No BootCamp either.

Conclusion: I need help

This problem would be relevant for everyone using any OS that is not Windows. So, people-not-using-windows, PLEASE HELP ME decide what to do.