10 Replies Latest reply: Apr 27, 2008 10:48 AM by MacHead27
VDonkers Level 1 Level 1
So, I get this error message saying "your startup disk is full: you need to make disk space available by deleting files" (or something along those lines). I went through my files, saved about 10 gigs of stuff to my external HD, then deleted it from my mac HD.

I keep getting this message, even after clearing up several gigs of space. When I boot up my computer, I have about 448mb of space on my HD, but it seems to disappear within a few minutes, even without any activity on my part.



eMac, Mac OS X (10.3.x)
  • JMVP Level 6 Level 6
    A Unix-based OS such as OS X requires hard drive space for log and cache files; this can take anywhere from 64MB to 2GB depending on how much RAM you have, how long since the cron maintenance tasks last ran, whether anyting is causing large write operations to the various logs, and so on. As a rule of thumb, you don't want an OS X Mac to drop below about 5GB free space, minimum; a oft-cited ballpark of keeping 10 to 15% of the hard drive free allows for user-created data and allows some safety margin.

    If a Unix computer fully runs out of space, the computer can fail to start normally. You'd then face starting in single-user mode (hold the command and s keys down at startup), which puts you in a Unix command line interface. It's possible to use Unix commands to navigate around and search for unnecessary files to delete, but doing so if definitely non-trivial.

    While written for Tiger, Francine: A Miscellany of Mystifying Tiger Problems has some useful tips you can try.

    If you moved several GB to the Trash and tried to empty the Trash while the Mac's hard drive was nearly full, that effort may have unintentionally corrupted the disk directory. Boot from your OS X Install disc to launch Disk Utility from the Installer menu, and run Repair Disk on the hard drive (see Using Disk Utility and fsck). If repairs are reported, repeat Repair Disk until no problems are found. If DU is unable to repair the drive, DiskWarrior can often make directory repairs that DU cannot.
  • markpowell Level 1 Level 1
    I have a similar problem to the one described here. My daughter was loading some music into my iTunes and said she couldn't load any more as the hard disk was full. Since then my eMac keeps giving hard disk full messages (76 GB out of 80GB hard drive).
    When I have checked the actual folder and file sizes using cross checks from the Finder and Get info on each folder, the system tells me I have used 54 GB (i.e still circa 22GB I could be using which I can't account for).
    Also, I started to back up my eMac onto my LaCie external drive to check what was on the Hard Drive and the initial calculation of size said 54 GB. I have also run the disk utility which did some minor repairs and now tells me the HD is fine.
    So, I don't know what to try next as I'm convinced the HD only has 54 GB of content and yet the computer seems to think the HD is full with 76 GB and is preventing me from loading more iTunes CDs etc. Any thoughts?
    Mark Powell
  • cosmichobo Level 3 Level 3

    The first obvious question... did you empty the trash? Trashcan icon in the dock should appear empty - no have any scraps of paper in it.

  • Neville Mayfield Level 4 Level 4
    Note that there is storage that doesn't show up as part of the folder summaries as I understand.

    Secondly an 80 GB drive is not able to contain 80GB of files. My 160 GB drive has a capacity of 149GB when 'empty'. This is a function of how the capacities are calculated.

    Savings can be achieved in the applications by doing cmd-I for each application. This works best in applications where the application uses more than 10MB of drive space. In the info window select language and delete those languages you don't use. You may only gain 1-2 GB overall. OS upgrades will probably re-install some of these languages unless you do a Custom instal and deselect languages you don't use.

    This may help a little.

  • Allan Jones Level 7 Level 7
    Mark, Welcome to Apple Discussions!

    Try running the OSX periodic maintenance scripts. That can sometimes clean out invisible temp files that decide to take up residence. See this article for instructions:


    The scripts are supposed to run automatically. However, they are set to run in the wee hours of the morning local time, and the computer has to be on and not sleeping at the appointed time. Not very realistic for most users. The article shows how to run the scripts manually.

    I see that you "mined up" a post that's been inactive since January. Some people don't revisit such old threads even when new content is shown as available. Never be afraid to start your own thread. You will get faster and more targeted responses. Trying to post help on one thread for several different people gets awkward at best.

    This is a friendly place--we're glad you found it.

  • Totally Tom Level 1 Level 1
    I have a similar problem, I'm trying to save a Word 2004 document on my Mac, its a 350kb file and yet its giving me a silly error saying Free space up on HD or save on another Drive, I have 35GB free...

    Any help?
  • Ellen Grist Level 1 Level 1
    I am having the same problem as Tom. When trying to save a Word 2004 text document I get an error message saying the disk is full trying to write to the HD. I know this is not the case as the machine is still new. It suggests closing down all other applications or saving to another disk. Unfortunately with no other programs running, I get the same message when trying to write to an external USB drive. The document won't appear to save anywhere. Is there anything I can do to avoid losing it or to avoid this problem reoccurring?

  • Neville Mayfield Level 4 Level 4
    Ellen, a first step would be to try a memory stick for saving your document. Once saved you can then relax - sort of!

    I must repeat the usual maintenance steps to follow: repair permissions using Disk Utility. Many updates/installations leave incorrect permissions which need to be fixed for the Mac to function best.

    If you have used Software Update to apply system or security updates from the state the Mac came in, eg 10.5.2 update, download the latest combo update from Apple/Support/Downloads and apply that followed again by a permissions repair. Many of us have noted some problems being fixed this way.

    Ellen, I assume you have transferred settings and 3rd-party applications, eg Office 2004, using Migration Assistant. If so, you have possibly transferred logs & caches & who knows what from your previous Mac to take up more space than you expected. If I'm correct you may need to purge all unnecessary stuff to create more space.

    You can check available space when you use Disk Utility. It may confirm the 'full' status.

    A further possibility is that Word is corrupted and may require a re-instal.

  • d r s Level 1 Level 1
    I'm getting the same error from Word 2008 after I loaded a 2004 *.doc file. After I modified it, I started getting these errors that it couldn't store the autorecovery file, and it refused to store the changes with errors like:

    "The disk is full trying to write to "System". Free some space on this drive, or save the document to another disk.

    The disk has 50GB free as reported by "df -h".

    A colleague sent me this (1.1MB) file to review so either this file is somehow locked to to prevent it being modified & saved (and this is the clumsy error that results) or this is a bug in Office... I note, googling around, that a similar bug existed with Office 2004...
  • MacHead27 Level 1 Level 1
    Hello JMVP... having read your very knowledgeable reply regarding disk full error, I am hopeful you can offer me a little advice as well.

    My G4 has apparently ran completely out of disk space and gave me a major 'must shut-down' error. At this time it will not restart - goes through the initial gray startup screen (with the flash-like wheel loading), then my monitor goes black and the power light flashes in rhythm. I fear I may need to start in single-user mode as you suggested in your reply.

    Could I also restart from the boot disk? If so, is there a key command to open the drive bay while the initial screen is loading?

    Any help is greatly appreciated - thank you.