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Mac's hard drive fills up before my eyes - GBs disappear in minutes

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

I've had a recurring problem with my MacBook Pro (late 2008 model, 10.8.3). I'll get a 'your hard drive is almost full' message and then, if left unchecked, a 'your hard drive is full' alert. And sure enough, when I open a Finder window I can watch as my space just trickles away to nothing. I used to have 20GB free on my drive - now it hovers at 11 or so and then just disappears.

Restart restores the space back to 11GB or so but after a few minutes it starts disappearing again. I've run the full gamut of Onyx utilities - SMART is fine, daily/weekly scripts, permissions repair. I've even reinstalled OS X from the recovery partition (it fixed a weird time machine problem that was hanging with huge backups, but not this).

This is a very frustrating bug and I need some fresh eyes on it. Any ideas what's going on and how to stop it. Feels like a runaway log or cache file but I can't work out what is triggering it. It's like playing Majora's Mask with my laptop - every half an hour I need to save everything and restart or my computer just freezes from lack of memory. Ugh. So please, help?

post #2 of 21
Feels like a runaway log or cache file but I can't work out what is triggering it.

 

Sounds exactly like what it is.

 

Grab GrandPerspective to see if it's a specific file growing out of control and also take a look at your Activity Monitor to see if there's a process eating up all of your RAM.

Originally Posted by asdasd

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Originally Posted by asdasd

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post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the fast reply. I have made various attempts with Grand Perspective and its similar ilk to drill down what's filling it up. Biggest space suck is Users - Music, Pics and the like though there's 15GB of Application Support, predominantly from Opera Mail caches. There's 10GB of Library/Application Support though again that's mostly GarageBand and Logic. There's 7GB in private/var/vm in sleep image. Other than that, nothing stands out.

 

I have contrasted the 'normal' capacity with the system grinding to a halt capacity with little luck. Comparisons before and after with OmniDiskSweeper showed that the sizes are exactly the same for all the big ones. Users, Apps, Library, private, System, usr - all exactly what they were at 10GB free and 3GB free but 7GB has disappeared into the ether. I tried investigating with Grand Perspective's heat map tool but the only things that had altered recently were var/vm's sleepimage.

 

My capacity jumps around - up from 700MB back up to 9.72GB. Time Machine was running at the time - does that suck space during backups? Spotlight tried to index for a while, which was weird. Maybe it's indexing the time machine drive?

 

Then it starts dropping again, down to 3.3GB free. Spotlight finished indexing - perhaps coincidence, perhaps not. Time Machine resumed with a larger backup, 300MB up from 70MB, but that seems innocuous.  It then hit 500MB, and bounced up to 7GB. Time Machine finished cleaning up. Still trickling away again though even when it's not backing up or preparing, and even when fully deactivated. As we speak it hit 1GB, rebounded to 9.2GB and is now decreasing again. :S

 

Any more thoughts?

post #4 of 21
Originally Posted by nshady View Post

Time Machine was running at the time - does that suck space during backups? Spotlight tried to index for a while, which was weird. Maybe it's indexing the time machine drive?

 

There are local backups that can be made, but I don't believe those happen (or, at least, should be happening) when the system registers a Time Machine drive connected. Check About This Mac/More Info/Storage for that; you'll see the Backups section has more than Zero KB in it if that's happening. 

 

 

Anything stand out in Activity Monitor?

Originally Posted by asdasd

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Originally Posted by asdasd

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post #5 of 21
Originally Posted by nshady View Post

Time Machine was running at the time - does that suck space during backups? Spotlight tried to index for a while, which was weird. Maybe it's indexing the time machine drive?

 

There are local backups that can be made, but I don't believe those happen (or, at least, should be happening) when the system registers a Time Machine drive connected. Check About This Mac/More Info/Storage for that; you'll see the Backups section has more than Zero KB in it if that's happening. 

 

 

Anything stand out in Activity Monitor?

Originally Posted by asdasd

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Originally Posted by asdasd

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post #6 of 21

Another thing to check is your email. Seriously. I have a gmail account and from time to time it goes nuts downloading everything from my 'all mail' like 20 times. 

 

Also I'm fairly sure that Safari has developed another memory leak. I suspect its eating up chunks of my hard drive for VM purposes. 

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for following up. No local backups listed - zero KB.

 

kernel_task is spending ~18-20% CPU and 80 threads, though only 334MB RAM which seems normal from what I can tell. mds is chugging away with ~4-9% CPU too but it has 1.23GB of real memory. Spotlight's status bar when you click the magnifying glass doesn't say it's indexing anything and seems to be searching okay, so is this unusual?

 

 

EDIT: Holy balls, mds is using 29GB of virtual memory. That can't be normal, right? On reboot, it's at 12.13GB and has ever growing real memory too. I added my whole HD to spotlight privacy to stop it indexing and bang, right back down to 117MB of virtual and 0% CPU. I'll give it a few minutes, maybe a restart, repair permissions, and then will remove it so that it indexes afresh. See if that does anything.

 

Oh shit, just noticed finder capacity is up at 28GB!! Are you seriously telling me that Spotlight stole 27GB of real disk space for virtual memory!?


Edited by nshady - 3/18/13 at 9:46pm
post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by nshady View Post

Oh shit, just noticed finder capacity is up at 28GB!! Are you seriously telling me that Spotlight stole 27GB of real disk space for virtual memory!?

Ignore the virtual memory column in Activity Monitor, it's not using that space. It could just be your sleep image, which you can disable. You can check your hibernate mode in the terminal with:

pmset -g

The hibernatemode is best being at 0 but even at 0, OS X will take it on itself to write out the sleep image. If you follow the suggestion here, that will stop it writing the image:

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4492672?start=0&tstart=0

The sleep image isn't that important and if you have an SSD, it'll save wear on the drive as it's not writing out GBs of data all the time.
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply. I had busy few days so I'm sorry I couldn't get back to debugging this situation until now.

 

I put my whole disk in the Spotlight privacy and regained all my space back up to 27GB. Somewhere else it was advised that I try resetting my ACLs, which I did, but once I reenabled Spotlight indexing on my drive the issue returned and while indexing the space dropped down to 8GB or lower. On reboot, I got back up to 10.5GB though that is now dropping. mds persists at 5-12% CPU and 12.5GB of virtual memory which seems unusual.

 

I would prefer not to disable sleepimage because of my aforementioned time machine problems - there were periods where it was trying to copy 7GB backups for no reason and so it would go a good week or more before I could get it to complete a real backup to the Time Capsule. Having a local backup just feels safer.

 

Any thoughts on the Spotlight situation?

post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by nshady View Post

I put my whole disk in the Spotlight privacy and regained all my space back up to 27GB. Somewhere else it was advised that I try resetting my ACLs, which I did, but once I reenabled Spotlight indexing on my drive the issue returned and while indexing the space dropped down to 8GB or lower. On reboot, I got back up to 10.5GB though that is now dropping. mds persists at 5-12% CPU and 12.5GB of virtual memory which seems unusual.

Check what folders are using the space once this happens using either the above app or Diskwave (turn on invisible files):

http://diskwave.barthe.ph

If it's the Spotlight index that's wasting space, it'll be one of the folders in the root directory.
Quote:
Originally Posted by nshady View Post

I would prefer not to disable sleepimage because of my aforementioned time machine problems - there were periods where it was trying to copy 7GB backups for no reason and so it would go a good week or more before I could get it to complete a real backup to the Time Capsule. Having a local backup just feels safer.

The sleepimage isn't a local backup. It's a suspended state of your RAM so that the machine doesn't have to keep your RAM powered while sleeping, while you are using your machine, it's of no use. Every time you put your laptop to sleep, it dumps the RAM contents into the file and powers down the RAM, when it wakes up, it copies the data back into RAM. If your hibernate mode is 0 and your sleepimage disabled, it just keeps the RAM powered during sleep, which will only affect standby time. The size of the sleepimage reflects the amount of RAM you have.
post #11 of 21

I do not have an answer, but I was transfering some files and I seen the exact same thing several times. I lost all 17 gb of free HD and 8 gb of ram in less then 10 minutes I had to do a hard shut down it happened a few times. Now the external drive is not mounting on the desktop, I had to use Carbon Copy twice to save and transfer the files. 2TB.

I have am going to do a virus scan, all I can think of.

post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by chuckbh1 View Post

I have am going to do a virus scan, all I can think of.

Instead of wrecking your computer with anti-virus software, why not use GrandPerspective?

Originally Posted by asdasd

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Originally Posted by asdasd

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post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 

Still haven't found an answer. :/

 

It's something to do with mds running amok. Even after I have disabled Spotlight indexing my entire HD, whenever Time Machine launches for a backup, mds does too. I've caught it stealing 30GB virtual memory and nearly 3GB of real memory. Drives everything to a crawl. Tried everything. No luck. Just riding it out until new Haswell rMPB comes out I think.

post #14 of 21

I would say that it is a virus, but if you have a virtual machine running - i.e. something with Windows or Linux running - it could be increasing the size of the file. But I don't think that is the case, it has different symptoms.

post #15 of 21
Can you post the output for top;

top -n 1 -b > top-output.txt or ps auxwww > ps-output.txt

then cat the file, cat top-output.txt, cat ps-output.txt
thanks
When I looked up "Ninjas" in Thesaurus.com, it said "Ninja's can't be found" Well played Ninjas, well played.
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When I looked up "Ninjas" in Thesaurus.com, it said "Ninja's can't be found" Well played Ninjas, well played.
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post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

Another thing to check is your email. Seriously. I have a gmail account and from time to time it goes nuts downloading everything from my 'all mail' like 20 times. 

Also I'm fairly sure that Safari has developed another memory leak. I suspect its eating up chunks of my hard drive for VM purposes. 

I've had the same two issues. Especially the gmail. I had to stop using it on my computer at one point it was so bad. Could only check it on my iPad.
post #17 of 21

I am having the same problem, using MacBook Pro from early 2011, w OS X 10.7.5. Almost all of the discussion is Greek to me, but 39GB freed up temporarily when I deleted the folder for iPhoto that uploads photos from iPhone. But then problem crept back up. Shut down gives me respite, but the decay of available space on HD goes down progressively. 

Has anyone gotten to the bottom of this?

post #18 of 21

While its not related...I had a similar or almost similar problem with my iphone 5...  In the space of a month it downloaded 60+ gigs, with tethering turned off, and i know i wasn't downloading any apps, all downloading was done via wifi...  but the phone however reported that i had done 67 gigs via cellular.      Next month?   69 gig!!!!    Naturally, my provider swapped the phone out for me and didn't bill me for the data.   Still was damn weird.

post #19 of 21

I have the same issue. I opened up Mail and deleted the Gmail account in there. My available capacity instantly jumped from 0 to 12GB. The Disk Analyzer had shows 256GB of Other. Now it shows a more typical usage breakout. Thanks guys!

post #20 of 21

charlituna,

 

Thanks! Yes, it is gmail. How did you solve the problem?

I have the same problem, the gmail account has three folders - all mail, important, sent mail. I actually deleted all the sent mail this after and it is "growing" back - it is download or maybe also making copies of the emails. It is driving me nuts!

Can we just delete the gmail account? will mail still work if we delete the gmail account in there? 

 

Thanks

post #21 of 21

Hi!


I am experiencing somewhat similar problems with my macbookpro as described by nshady.
I am very interested in knowing if anything has surfaced on this matter, because it seems to be hard to find good info about this? Maybe some other threads discussing the same issue?

Now I have just purchased a new harddrive and am about to do a clean install of everything, hoping that will help, but maybe from what I have understood by reading this thread, this is not the answer. The only thing new I will try is to (obvoustly) remove 5-year old dust off the logic board when installing the new disc :/ 

 

Well - here goes nothing then - 

/ KJ

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