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You are here: MacNN Forums > Software - Troubleshooting and Discussion > macOS > Sierra to Catalina - System Bloat - Paring System Files - Disk Usage

Sierra to Catalina - System Bloat - Paring System Files - Disk Usage
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kds-kds
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May 5, 2020, 03:16 AM
 
Hello,

My MacBook Air that was happily running Sierra died and so I bought a new one. It had Catalina (10.15.2) on it. The plan was to mirror my old SSD on it so I could get up and running and because I am not too keen on guinea-pig-dom. Unfortunately, the external SSD off which the mirror was being done failed so I decided to simply restore my data and prefs on Catalina.

Earlier jumps skipping a couple of major versions and transferring data and prefs of all kinds were not at all problematic but this one was. As I was getting done I noticed that disk space seemed to be a problem.

When I finally got finished I saw that I had very little disk space left (7’ish gigs) even though there's 16.37 GB with exactly the same user data on my old SSD that has Sierra (which SSD is in a loaner MacBook Air). And less than 24 hours after I was done the system showed me a warning that I had run out of disk space and sure enough there was only 3 GB left. I quickly exited several apps, most of which had a number of open windows and got back a few gigs.

It made me wonder if Catalina is using VM and disk-swapping efficiently and whether there are sizeable memory leaks.

Then I compared disk usage of Catalina on this new MacBook Air with my Sierra SSD and while Sierra's system uses only 6.06 GB full-stop, Catalina's bloated system uses 10.77 GB with a futher 10.2 GB used by 'Other' and that's why I have about 15 GB more on my Sierra SSD. On top of it Catalina wastes more space with useless and frivolous apps that tie you in with neo-Apple’s worldview, which apps possibley can't even be nuked(?)

Because of all the above:–

1. What is ‘Other’ that uses 10.2 GB and can it be recovered?

2. Can the System (/System) be pared down from its bloated 10.77 gigs?

3. Are TV.app, Podcasts, and stuff like that nukeable, if you su to root with a rm -fr ?
Thanks for any info.
     
reader50
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May 5, 2020, 03:46 AM
 
It sounds like you didn't get a MBA with enough storage for your needs. Rather than tidying, you might do better to get a low-profile USB flash drive. Move extra files over to it, and leave it plugged in.

2. Paring down /System is not worth it. It's not even mounted writable by default in Catalina.
3. You should be able to delete supplied applications you don't need.

1. Other is probably your personal files. But if in doubt, download OmniDiskSweeper. It provides a size-sorted list of contents on your drive. Look for abandoned files you do not need. note: enable the root user account, and run OmniDiskSweeper from there. Otherwise, it will miss folder contents your user account cannot see into.
     
kds-kds  (op)
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May 7, 2020, 03:09 PM
 
Thanks for the reply.
I am checking out OmniDiskSweeper but though I know it to be a useful software, I don't see how it will answer my questions. There's also command-line tools like du, df, etc. but the same applies to them.
That said, re "you didn't get a MBA with enough storage for your needs" I bought an MBA with exactly the same storage that my dead one had and my 'needs' did not change in the meantime. The only thing that changed was the O.S. (Sierra versus Catalina) so it's the O.S.
'Other' can't be my personal files because, as mentioned, I have my old SSD in another MBA and both O.S.'s show the same amount of disk usage under 'Documents,' etc. which identify personal files.
BTW, re leaving a flash-drive plugged in, for the longest time I've had a 1 TB external drive plugged in. It has rather large subdirs that I use only occasionally and that are sym-linked to my ~ so that they logically appear there. I also keep videos on that external drive. However, what I'm wanting to do is figure out this loss of 15 GB to Catalina (but not to Sierra) and how to recover it.
     
reader50
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May 7, 2020, 03:20 PM
 
On a low-profile USB flash drive, I was thinking of something like this. One that sticks out so little it could be left plugged in full-time. But I think you have USB-C ports, and I haven't seen a low-profile flash drive in USB-C yet.

OmniDiskSweeper is for finding largish files or folders that you were not aware of. Example: an abandoned cache file, that the OS installer forgot to delete. Those are often invisible, or in out-of-the-way folders. I've seen abandoned cache files take up a few gigs that should be free. A runaway log file can also grow huge.

Or one of your picture folders might take up 10x the space you thought it did, making it a candidate for moving to an external. ODS lets you find where your space has gone, so you can decide what to clear or move.
     
kds-kds  (op)
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May 7, 2020, 06:45 PM
 
Thanks for the reply.

Okay, I downloaded it and ran it because you insisted but it didn't tell me anything useful or anything I didn't know because my question wasn't/isn't "Where's my disk space gone?" It's more along the lines of, "What is Catalina doing to the SSD that Sierra didn't/doesn't."

Also, I ran it as both user and root and in each instance it gave results for a "100.8 GB" disk, thus 'not seeing' about 19 gigs.

Did some more digging. Both SSDs are 120 GB and each is in an MBA albeit of models that are two years apart.
The differences:–
The SSD with Sierra shows Used 103.41 GB with Purgeable less than a gig, and Free 15.76 GB.
The SSD with Catalina (new MBA) shows Used only 98.23 GB (because I nuked a good few files and apps) with Purgeable less than a half-gig, and Free 7.08 GB. The difference is 'Other Volumes' with 15.81 GB.
If this comprises System files and caches, well, it should be on the SSD with Sierra too but it's not. Indeed, all caches should be greater in size on the Sierra SSD because I purposely didn't copy a good many user caches over to the new Air's disk.

Also, this MBA with Catalina came with the SSD partitioned into 5 volumes, unlike the one with Sierra. Why?
Finally, /private/var on the old one is at 4.88 GB and the new one is at 4.91 GB so that's not the problem either.
     
Spheric Harlot
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May 8, 2020, 07:49 AM
 
I'm pretty sure Sierra has four partitions on the boot drive by default.

The partitioning scheme in Catalina adds one more. The new Apple File System allows for multiple volumes to resize dynamically as needed, which is what Catalina does: It has a system partition that is completely locked down for security reasons and includes the OS and all pre-installed software, and a user partition for all user-writable data. This makes sense and cannot be changed.

Reading through what you write, it seems that Catalina is apparently using 7.7 GB more space than Sierra. I wonder if this might be down to local Time Machine snapshots.
     
kds-kds  (op)
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May 8, 2020, 04:09 PM
 
Thanks for the reply.

I've gone into Disk Utility in the Sierra Air and it doesn't show anything about partitions or volumes at all. Even when you click 'Info.' It implies that there is only one volume.
(Yes, the file system changed after Sierra.) Though pdisk could list partitions and volumes, I have not used it and am not trying it now.

I do not use Time Machine at all so no TM snapshots.

Actually Catalina was/is using 14 GB more than Sierra. I freed up a good bit of space by nuking several large files and by keeping more disk space open by minimizing the number of open apps and windows, which I did not have to do on Sierra, as that allowed me to recover another 4 or so gigs. Perhaps Catalina is misusing the disk in the way its VM, caching, and swapping work?

I wonder if this would provide an answer: to open the exact same apps (browsers would be good) and same windows on both O.S., go to Activity Monitor, and compare the Memory, Purgeable Memory, and Compressed Memory numbers.
     
Spheric Harlot
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May 8, 2020, 04:44 PM
 
Sierra also had a recovery partition, so there’s at least two. If you’re only seeing one, you’re looking at the system partition, not the disk itself.
     
kds-kds  (op)
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May 10, 2020, 07:25 AM
 
Did a 'diskutil list' on Sierra and it shows three volumes under 'GUID partition scheme.' One is a recovery like you said and the other is 'EFI EFI.' But their sizes are negligible at 650 MB and 210 MB respectively.
     
Spheric Harlot
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May 10, 2020, 03:36 PM
 
As they are under Catalina.
     
Spheric Harlot
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May 10, 2020, 03:49 PM
 
Open Terminal and type „diskutil list“ to have disk utility show you a full list of volumes, logical and physical, and their sizes.
     
kds-kds  (op)
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May 11, 2020, 02:44 PM
 
Re do 'diskutil list,' that's exactly what I'd done, as I'd written, but on Sierra.

Re "As they are under Catalina," okay, so now I did the same thing on Catalina (which I should have done earlier) and they are not that way under Catalina. In addition to what's reported in Sierra, here's what's eaten by Catalina (but not by Sierra):
1: APFS Volume Macintosh HD 10.8 GB disk1s1
5: APFS Volume VM 4.3 GB disk1s5

I'd written "Actually Catalina was/is using 14 GB more than Sierra" and I think this accounts for it -- though it's not 14 GB but 15.
     
reader50
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May 11, 2020, 03:21 PM
 
I'm still on Mojave, which makes it hard to offer Catalina-specific advice.
#5 Mojave also splits out VM to a separate partition.
#1 is probably the System partition for Catalina.

What bothers me is that 15 GB in added partitions should be subtracted from the main volume. So yes, it will be 15 GB smaller. But it will also have 15 GB less usage, leaving the same amount of free space. Yes, the OS will have grown a bit. But not nearly that much.
     
kds-kds  (op)
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May 11, 2020, 03:38 PM
 
To make things clear, here are the respective diskutil list outputs:--

Sierra:
/dev/disk0 (internal, physical):
#: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER
0: GUID_partition_scheme *121.3 GB disk0
1: EFI EFI 209.7 MB disk0s1
2: Apple_CoreStorage Macintosh HD 120.5 GB disk0s2
3: Apple_Boot Recovery HD 650.0 MB disk0s3

Catalina:
/dev/disk0 (internal, physical):
#: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER
0: GUID_partition_scheme *121.3 GB disk0
1: EFI EFI 209.7 MB disk0s1
2: Apple_APFS Container disk1 121.1 GB disk0s2

/dev/disk1 (synthesized):
#: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER
0: APFS Container Scheme - +121.1 GB disk1
Physical Store disk0s2
1: APFS Volume Macintosh HD 10.8 GB disk1s1
2: APFS Volume Macintosh HD - Data 97.0 GB disk1s2
3: APFS Volume Preboot 81.3 MB disk1s3
4: APFS Volume Recovery 542.9 MB disk1s4
5: APFS Volume VM 4.3 GB disk1s5

It seems that sometime after Sierra -- possibly High Sierra in which APFS was introduced(?) -- [1] and [5] became reserved or 'walled off,' leaving that much less space for user data.
     
   
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