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Question: Disk Space Disappearing

I have a MacBook Pro as follows:

MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Early 2013)

2.7 GHz Intel Core i7

16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3

Intel HD Graphics 4000 1536 MB

I have 500GB of SSD and El Capitan just installed about one week ago. I have the latest update to 10.11.

User uploaded file

My storage looks like the above showing 95.34 GB free. But my disk space looks like this...

User uploaded file

Showing usage of 267.62 GB which should leave me with over 220 GB free.

My storage has been steadily reducing itself every day - several days ago I was at 180 GB free and today I'm at 95 GB free. None of the folders I have show any increase in storage. I have used Disk Wave to look more closely at my files and looked at invisible files but cannot find any that would account for this issue.

I have rebuilt my disk using disk utility first aid and Cocktail. All current versions. I have reset using the old ZAP PRAM routine.

Anyone have any insight into this issue?

MacBook Pro with Retina display, OS X El Capitan (10.11)

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Oct 20, 2015 2:04 AM in response to Sorcerer2006 In response to Sorcerer2006

Storage information from "About This Mac" is often not correct, because it depends on Spotlight, which is not very precise in this regard.

Open a new Finder window, right-click your Macintosh HD -> Get Info and look for "Available". That's just to make sure you have the right figures.

Oct 20, 2015 2:04 AM

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Oct 20, 2015 3:03 AM in response to Sorcerer2006 In response to Sorcerer2006

As you may know by now, there are several more top level folders than the four shown in your second screen shot. The normally invisible ones will account for some of the difference in the total of those four vs. the overall total.

Beyond that, folders that you do not have at least read privileges for will always show "zero bytes" regardless of the size of their contents. (You can see this in Finder for example in the subfolders of /private/var -- you will find several folders marked with a red "no entry" badge, each of which will indicate "zero bytes" in Finder & return "permission denied" if you try to get their sizes with a Terminal "ls" command.) The same is true for any other user accounts you might have in /Users/ -- only the folders you have read access for will show their actual size.

This doesn't have anything directly to do with Spotlight -- it is just a consequence of the file system's permissions restrictions. However, About this Mac > Storage, Disk Utility's used/available info, Finder's "Get Info" for the drive itself, etc. will show you accurate aggregate totals because they get that info from the part of the file system that keeps track of used & unused space without regard for what it contains. So the info shown in your first screen shot is accurate, regardless of what adding up folder totals tells you.

As for the shrinking file space issue, that is most likely the result of what is known as "local snapshots," a Time Machine related feature enabled by default on laptop Macs that stores backup "snapshots" of the state of your startup drive locally on the drive itself until the laptop can access an external Time Machine backup drive. That is nothing to be concerned about because even if you don't use an external TM backup drive the OS will automatically purge the space those snapshots use if that space is needed for permanent file storage, like for your document files.

Oct 20, 2015 3:03 AM

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Oct 20, 2015 9:19 AM in response to bigschwabbel In response to bigschwabbel

Thank you. The "available" number I provided above was obtained from two sources. (1) the finder window for the drive "Vision" and the Get Info screen and (2) the About This Mac "Storage" screen. They agree. My best estimate of what I am missing is around 100GB.

Oct 20, 2015 9:19 AM

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Oct 20, 2015 9:29 AM in response to R C-R In response to R C-R


thank you for your comments.

Time Machine - I'm using a network Time Capsule and that seems to be functioning. I don't see any indication that I might be backing up snapshots. I'm not terribly technical so I don't know where to look to verify that.

I am using a utility called DiskWave to show me all files and folders including invisible.

User uploaded file

You can see the four items at the bottom - as previously identified - the "System" seems to be inline with what I expected at 8.8GB, the Users seems correct for Movies (about 188GB) and then audio, photos, etc. Other seems to be something I cannot identify. It is growing and is larger this morning than it was last night.

User uploaded file

I don't see any invisible files that are large enough to be the missing 100GB. But as you said earlier perhaps these are files that will not allow me to see their size?

Reminder - this is El Capitan we're looking at.

Oct 20, 2015 9:29 AM

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Oct 20, 2015 12:14 PM in response to Sorcerer2006 In response to Sorcerer2006

I downloaded DiskWave & ran it on my iMac (also running El Capitan 10.11 in case you were wondering). Not surprisingly, it has the same inability to display the contents or size of folders that users do not have access to. For example, click on private > var & note that several of the folders in the last column have no size info & the small path indicator at the top of the DiskWave window shows these folders with the red "no access" badge.

This is the same thing you will see in Finder if you use its View > Go to folder (command + shift + G) menu option & enter /private/var in the text box -- folders with a red "no access" badge can't be opened nor can the size of their contents be determined.

You should also see that DiskWave's Used & Available numbers in the Devices section agree with those you get from Disk Utility, Finder's "Get Info" for the drive itself, etc.

As for how much of the missing disk space is being used by these inaccessible folders I cannot say for sure (because they are inaccessible!) but my guess is they are using that space.

Oct 20, 2015 12:14 PM

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Oct 20, 2015 1:29 PM in response to Sorcerer2006 In response to Sorcerer2006

You probably could be subscribed to Apple Music. That would create cache files in the cache of the user library.

In Finder menu => Select Go => Alt Library to select your user Library. Navigate to Caches folder. Open the folder. Navigate to By right clicking on that you will be able to get the info to obtain the size of the cache. Inside this folder is a SubscriptionPlayCache. It can grow quite substantially. You can delete the contents of but don't delete the folder. At the same time a iAd cookie will be deleted as well.

That might be happening to your Mac


Oct 20, 2015 1:29 PM

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Oct 20, 2015 2:11 PM in response to Leopardus In response to Leopardus

Thanks Leo

I don't have Apple Music so when I went into that folder I didn't find the folder at all.

Besides that, I would have seen the 100GB I am seeking if it had been in that folder. The 130GB which is now the size of my missing storage, is not visible via any of the USER or SYSTEM folders that I can see. if it were so easy as finding a folder that had 130GB and shouldn't, I could probably do that.

But if you look above, this 130GB is not hiding in plain sight.

Oct 20, 2015 2:11 PM

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Oct 20, 2015 2:28 PM in response to R C-R In response to R C-R


Thanks for the insight.

I did go to /private/var and looked around. some of the folders in that area are not locked and I looked at folder dated within the last week because that's when this started to happen. Many of those are not locked and I could look over their size and contents.

db - about 2GB and inside the biggest folder was systemstats - a process that runs and collects system status data for apple.It has a 1GB file "snapshots." I looked in Activity Monitor and that process is not moving the most data. Actually mds_stores is moving close to a GB - that's the process that serves Spotlight and indexes files.

vm - about 1GB and inside is a "sleep image" - I take it that's for Time Machine.

But still none of this helps me find 130GB (I'm now up to that figure missing) - these are all small potatoes compared to what I'm looking for.

But then of course there's your suggestion - that these files are hidden and cannot be detected - they're the folders with the red badge on them but these don't have current dates which makes me suspect they're not the ones.

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The entire VAR folder shows up as 3.99GB. Nothing else in the PRIVATE folder shows up with a current date and none have red badges.

Oct 20, 2015 2:28 PM

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Oct 20, 2015 2:30 PM in response to Sorcerer2006 In response to Sorcerer2006

I'm pretty sure that I've located a serious although fairly illusive issue with El Capitan. I wonder what is the best way to get Apple Support attention?

Oct 20, 2015 2:30 PM

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Oct 20, 2015 2:57 PM in response to Sorcerer2006 In response to Sorcerer2006

vm - about 1GB and inside is a "sleep image" - I take it that's for Time Machine.

No, the sleepimage file is a snapshot of the contents of memory (RAM), used with the 'safesleep' hibernate feature when a Mac has to kill power to RAM during sleep. If you are interested, the pmset man page has some info about that (but don't get your hopes up about disabling it -- the commands to do that don't seem to work with recent Mac models -- apparently it has something to do with autopoweroff & the "implementation of Lot 6 to the European Energy-related Products Directive").

You also should be seeing one or more 'swapfiles' in /private/var/vm/. These are where virtual memory (paged out chunks of RAM) are stored. They vary in size & number depending on the amount of RAM installed & how much data needs to be paged out.

Oct 20, 2015 2:57 PM

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Oct 20, 2015 3:03 PM in response to Sorcerer2006 In response to Sorcerer2006

Have you rebooted recently to clear out temporary cache and swap files? Also you can try to reindex the drive as described in this Apple document: Spotlight: How to re-index folders or volumes - Apple Support

User uploaded file

Oct 20, 2015 3:03 PM

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Oct 20, 2015 3:14 PM in response to Sorcerer2006 In response to Sorcerer2006

It is very unlikely that you have discovered a disk space use issue attributable to El Capitan itself. Much more likely is that an application has a memory leak & is generating large swap files (see my earlier post about that) or something else is writing to normally hidden locations on the drive.

It is also possible what you are seeing is normal -- there are many processes that use varying amounts of disk space as temporary storage & that can change very quickly.

Another possibility is file system corruption. To eliminate that the best thing to do (as I just recently discovered from a conversation with Applecare support) is to start up in Recovery mode (by holding down the option & R keys after the startup chime) & from the menu that appears select Disk Utility. Once it opens, select your hard drive from the list on the left & click the "First Aid" button. Running Disk Utility's First Aid from the Recovery partition can repair much more than running it from the normal startup drive.

Oct 20, 2015 3:14 PM

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Oct 20, 2015 3:20 PM in response to Old Toad In response to Old Toad

Another thought: if you have Time Machine enabled and don't have the external HD connected for the backups you'll get local snapshots created on the boot drive that can take up space. This website describes it: What are Local Snapshots.

Oct 20, 2015 3:20 PM

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Oct 20, 2015 3:31 PM in response to Old Toad In response to Old Toad

Old Toad

Thanks - yes, I have rebooted, done the ZAP PRAM procedures, and also rebooted on the internet so I could run disk utility and that was OK.

Also I have re-indexed the Spotlight several times.

Also I have a Time Capsule and it appears it has been online and backing up regularly via Time Machine.

Oct 20, 2015 3:31 PM

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Question: Disk Space Disappearing