Inside macOS Sierra: Apple's Optimized Storage and management features

Posted:
in macOS
Apple's new storage management features on macOS Sierra could potentially save users with lots of data some drive space, but what it does, how it does it, and how to configure it isn't well known -- AppleInsider explains.









In pre-Sierra days, users were stuck with manually determining what was useful, and what wasn't. Files tended to stack up, and become demands on storage with some not accessed for years or months, sitting idle with no place to put them.



While the speed boosts that a SSD bring cannot be denied, the per-gigabyte price on SSDs is higher than that of spinning disks so users are now constrained to storage capacities that feel like they're from 2010. A few features in Sierra aim to help users identify what needs to be kept local, and what can be offloaded with little or no user impact.



The key to Apple's features is the concept of purgeable space -- a term spotted in a few locations in Sierra. But, what is it, and what's selected by the OS as expendable at a moment's notice?

What is purgeable space?



Information on drives has been expanded in Sierra, with information available in various granularities across a few locations. A "get info" command on a drive still brings up the old familiar box, but with an addition of "purgeable space" listed.









Purgeable space is data on the drive that Sierra has determined is superfluous, and not necessary to be stored on the drive. Examples are files in the trash, videos that have already been watched, music downloaded from Apple Music (but not rips from CD), and other data synchronized with iCloud.



The same information can be found in the status bar, in the "About This Mac" storage tab, or from Siri.



What Sierra reports to the user as available space is no longer just empty, ready to be used areas of the drive. The number now includes actual free space as well as the purgeable space.









For example, in the "About this Mac" storage information above, Sierra is reporting 290.97 gigabytes of the SSD free, but 8 gigabytes of it will be freed should the need arise.

"But I don't want the OS to make decisions for me!"



You may have already made the choice for Sierra to do so -- but that's fixable. During the initial setup process, users are presented with a dialog box, asking them if they want to store files in iCloud, keeping only recently opened files locally.



The controls for these settings are easily invokable by clicking on the "Manage" button in the storage window seen above.



On the left, notorious storage hogs are listed, and the user can select from here what to keep and what to delete. On the right are overarching settings, allowing users to set rules, such as having the trash auto-empty after 30 days.









Over the last month, we've been pretty happy with how the feature has been implemented. As of yet, we haven't seen any issues with filing being moved or deleted without our permission -- but any time an OS is making decisions for the user about data, things can go wrong.



We do recommend that for most users, that Sierra be allowed to manage purgeable space -- as long as there's a backup regimen in place.

Don't get too full...



Every version of macOS has needed some amount of free space on the drive to ensure smooth operation. The number has changed over the years, and getting Apple to admit to a specific number or percent has proven impossible.



Proper "sanitary data practices," for lack of a better term, is a good idea. Knowing generally where your files are without resorting to search functions is more efficient, and eases developing or implementing a sane backup protocol.



As with anything else computer-related AppleInsider recommends preventative maintenance, instead of trying to pick up the pieces after the fact. Keeping your drives trim and "sanitary" is one of those tasks that Apple is now helping with, but should be undertaken and understood by the user.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    Yes I need to store all of my few terabytes of my files in iCloud. How do I share space with other clouds like Adobe CC and Microsoft Azure? No idea? I mean I like sharing between devices and even with NSA when cloud vendor decides I should and hands over my data to be frisked by anyone who orders. After all in North Korea people live in appartments with glass doors so neigbors see each other and nobody does some activity against current leader. Cloud could help with this in terms of cyberspace. Hell, Apple can even reconvert your own artistic creations and decide about lower quality for you by default. It is world of great services provided to anyone, but some people forget it is only supposed to be convennience and not default for many reasons.
    ivanh
  • Reply 2 of 25
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Where is the "inside" part of this Inside macOS article? I clicked on the headline expecting to see an article with a bit of technical info into how it works or how to best work with it. Not just a "turn it on and let Sierra manage your files." How about at least listing out the iCloud storage prices or a screen shot of a Finder window showing how to tell if a file is local or iCloud only. And I can think of a lot of "what if" questions that anyone wanting to have a bit more comfort about what's happening with their data would want to know. For instance, what happens if I later reduce my iCloud storage and there is more data than can fit back on my drive. What happens to copies of the purged files that are in my Time Machine or other backup?
    bdkennedy1002baconstangjony0watto_cobraurahara
  • Reply 3 of 25
    bill42bill42 Posts: 129member
    Being that cloud storage syncing has messed up my iTunes library and my photo library several times in the past, this technology terrifies me.
    No thanks!!!
    damn_its_hot
  • Reply 4 of 25
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,968member
    I can't quite put it into words, but I don't care for how Apple has implemented Desktop and Documents folder storage on iCloud.
    damn_its_hot
  • Reply 5 of 25
    What about security and privacy? Since Apple has access to iCloud backups of iPhones, does that now mean that Apple (and the extended arm of the government, possibly without warrant or with a blanket Yahoo scraper) can now access my Documents and Desktop folders?
  • Reply 6 of 25
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,968member
    What about security and privacy? Since Apple has access to iCloud backups of iPhones, does that now mean that Apple (and the extended arm of the government, possibly without warrant or with a blanket Yahoo scraper) can now access my Documents and Desktop folders?
    If they can get a warrant to access your iCloud account or hack into your iCloud account, then anything stored on it would be accessible to them. If you're worried about your cloud data storage that you're not backing up anything to iCloud—and possibly using a program like Little Snitch on your Mac to keep your Mac from talking to Apple's servers—then I wouldn't use this new option designed for users with multiple Macs, which will probably grow into a more feature filled design that links to your iDevices.

    Personally, I have a very secure iCloud account from my end and nothing incriminating in my data, so I tend to like most of the conveniences offered by iCloud.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 25
    Personally, I have a very secure iCloud account from my end and nothing incriminating in my data, so I tend to like most of the conveniences offered by iCloud.
    I don't believe in "secure" anymore. My son had his iPhone stolen and apparently the thieves managed to open it with his TouchID and then changed his iCloud password. As a security feature when you changed the iCloud password, an email is sent to a trusted device, like your iPhone. But since they had his iPhone, they could read the email, agree to that request, and continue with the takeover. Dual factor authentication would not fix that problem. TouchID is convenient, but I'm sure typing in a password could be observed by eagle-eyed thieves as well.
  • Reply 8 of 25
    It doesn't work in my case. My photo library is on an external disk but Sierra insists on including it as part of the home drive.  It shows I have 80 gb free of a 120 gb ssd but graphically it shows an 85 gb library on the same disk!  Needs more work before I'll trust it to manage stuff
  • Reply 9 of 25
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,968member
    I don't believe in "secure" anymore.
    I did qualify my comment. "Secure from my end" means I've taken every reasonable action to protect my own interests. I'm not the slowest of the herd so my chances are extermely low. More likely would be a targeted attack, at which point getting their hands on a physical device woudld be ideal.

    My son had his iPhone stolen and apparently the thieves managed to open it with his TouchID and then changed his iCloud password.
    What you're describing is not a cloud attack.

    As a security feature when you changed the iCloud password, an email is sent to a trusted device, like your iPhone. But since they had his iPhone, they could read the email, agree to that request, and continue with the takeover. 
    I brought up a flaw with an Apple Genius when I had my iPhone replaced this past Summer. I have 2FA enabled, but when I put in my iCloud username and password for setup it sent the 2FA request to the iPhone which then auto-verified itself. I would at least like the option to use an alternate device to approve an iPhone.

    As for an email being sent, I'm not sure what you mean. They do send an email, but it's to let you know that it happened.

    Dual factor authentication would not fix that problem. 
    You're right, 2FA doesn't resolve issues when the hackers have access to 2 or more factors for authentication, like a physical device.

    TouchID is convenient, but I'm sure typing in a password could be observed by eagle-eyed thieves as well.

    Touch is convenient, and shouldn't be used never be looked upon as the primary security feature. That's certainly not the case with Apple as it's the passcode that is required if you restart the device, fail to use the device in a given time period, or have too many incorrect Touch ID attempts in a row. A PIN is not a good solution. It's very easy to type in a complex but short string of letters that increase your security exponentially. 6-digit PIN is only 1 million combinations, but a 4-letter string of characters is over 1 billion. Since you don't put your passcode in often, and since you can type it in quickly and with relative privacy, you should be secure if you're considering your surrounding when it comes to your security.

    edited October 2016
  • Reply 10 of 25
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,603member
    Soli said:
    What about security and privacy? Since Apple has access to iCloud backups of iPhones, does that now mean that Apple (and the extended arm of the government, possibly without warrant or with a blanket Yahoo scraper) can now access my Documents and Desktop folders?
    If they can get a warrant to access your iCloud account or hack into your iCloud account, then anything stored on it would be accessible to them. If you're worried about your cloud data storage that you're not backing up anything to iCloud—and possibly using a program like Little Snitch on your Mac to keep your Mac from talking to Apple's servers—then I wouldn't use this new option designed for users with multiple Macs, which will probably grow into a more feature filled design that links to your iDevices.

    Personally, I have a very secure iCloud account from my end and nothing incriminating in my data, so I tend to like most of the conveniences offered by iCloud.
    I am concerned with privacy and security in a very general sense. There is no doubt that we are living in an Orwellian present and it is worrisome, but nonetheless as a 'benign' citizen I am enjoying what I perceive as the benefits of the shared documents folder and desktop. As I operate more than one Mac from different locations I already had my own version of this but Apple's implementation is more streamlined. I am curious though, what do you mean by a very secure iCloud account? Do you just mean that you use two step verification and 'difficult' password? or is there something more?
  • Reply 11 of 25
    This has to be the most disgusting, pathetic feature of all time. It is only a clunky necessity because Apple is doing with Macs what they did with iOS devices, until people said enough is enough. 128 GB of base storage? Greedy pigs.
  • Reply 12 of 25
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,968member
    paxman said:
    I am curious though, what do you mean by a very secure iCloud account? Do you just mean that you use two step verification and 'difficult' password? or is there something more?
    • Extremely strong password becaue it's an internet-facing account that hold so much personal data
    • Password unique to that account
    • 2FA
    • Notifcations of access attempts (if that's possible to set up. I forget)
    • Answers to personal questinons and birthday purposely inaccurate (in other words, the questions are a key to the get the correct answer generated randomly)
  • Reply 13 of 25
    tyler82tyler82 Posts: 868member
    Anybody that is stupid enough to store sensitive files in the cloud deserves anything that's coming to them.
    asdasd
  • Reply 14 of 25
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,366member
    I tried and subsequently abandoned this. It's a nice write up by AI, but the feature is not ready for prime time.

    Thanks to Time Machine, I've kept my decades long streak of never losing important data to a mac alive. I did, however, lose data and files that I intentionally did not back up because they were not important.

    I also secretly suspect the feature is part of Apple's business strategy to sell more cloud storage. With terrabyte drives available for very cheap, it seems building it into an OS, it offers people an opportunity to buy something purported to be better.
    Soli
  • Reply 15 of 25
    Jason Snell, formerly of Macworld, wrote an article regarding his experience with this utterly stupid and dangerous feature.  He was working on a Logic Pro project.  Here is the captured section from his article:

    "Here’s what happened: I was editing a podcast in Apple’s Logic Pro X, and my project was stored on the Desktop. All of a sudden, the voice of one of my podcast panelists simply vanished from the mix. I quit and re-launched Logic, only to be told that the file in question was missing. Sure enough, a visit to Finder revealed that Sierra had “optimized” my storage and removed that file from my local drive. I’ll grant you, the file was a couple of weeks old, and very large as most audio files are. But I was also actively using it within a Logic project. Apparently that didn’t count for anything?  So that’s bad. That’s enough for me to turn off that feature and never use it again—or at the very least, never keep my project files on the Desktop or in the Documents folder."

    I don't want any of my files in the cloud, so I disable iCloud Drive.  That appears to be the only way to prevent macOS Sierra from performing this scary task of deleting random files from your Desktop and Documents folders.  iTunes also has a scary preference, buried on the last tab, under Advanced.  "Automatically delete watched movies and TV Shows".  What the hell Apple?   What files will macOS Sierra delete?  Only store purchased files, or any file that you have ripped from DVD in your iTunes library?  My digital media files are stored on a NAS, set up as a RAID 1 for automatic redundant backup.  Would I dare trust macOS Sierra and iTunes to ignore those files since they are on a separate drive, or does macOS Sierra and iTunes see those files simply because they are accessible in the iTunes library and start randomly deleting them directly off the NAS because it wants to delete any media file that I watch?  Sorry, that is way too scary and there is no way I would turn that feature on.  
  • Reply 16 of 25
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,789member
    eightzero said:
    Thanks to Time Machine, I've kept my decades long streak of never losing important data to a mac alive. I did, however, lose data and files that I intentionally did not back up because they were not important.

    Time Machine is great and I've been using it since it was released, but it is just a convenience not really a security feature. If you leave your backup in the same general vicinity as your Mac, then a physical disaster like fire or flood could wipe them both out. I like TM, but I make a physical back up every week and take it to another location. From my office I take it home and from home to the office.
  • Reply 17 of 25
    DON"T DO IT.   When I upgraded to Sierra on my iMac I made the mistake of invoking this feature and it proceeded to move hundreds of gigabytes of data to my iCloud account.  When I tried to stop it it announced that it was going to delete ALL of my local data and that only data in iCloud would be available to me.  It took me six days of hell with a senior Apple tech to get this all straightened out - all the while the tech kept saying that it wasn't supposed to work like this (for some reason there was no local storage link on my hard drive).  I fortunately have Time Capsule, but because of the lag time (six days of work) I had to download all of the data from the cloud back to my computer to get everything restored.  As in similar "sync" situations, such as with iTunes and Photo, there is a long lag time before any new commands are implemented because the sync process has to finish first.  In the end I don't believe that I ever recaptured all of my free hard disk space (it appears that I last about 100 Gb somewhere in the process and I can't seem to get it back).

    If Apple had simply NOT automatically deleted all of the Documents folder files (which for me included my 90Gb Outlook file), most of my problems wouldn't have been so intense.  I suspect that Apple will be revising this in a future OS X update.  
  • Reply 18 of 25
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,968member
    emoeller said:
    If Apple had simply NOT automatically deleted all of the Documents folder files (which for me included my 90Gb Outlook file), most of my problems wouldn't have been so intense.  I suspect that Apple will be revising this in a future OS X update.  
    Or, do what Dropbox does, and remove but keep the file for certain duration so, if, say, deleted from Mac's Dropbpx folder, and then restored via the Dropbox website, it syncs with your localized Dropbox account after only a couple seconds to move the file and verify the sync.
  • Reply 19 of 25
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,510member
    MacBAir said:
    This has to be the most disgusting, pathetic feature of all time. It is only a clunky necessity because Apple is doing with Macs what they did with iOS devices, until people said enough is enough. 128 GB of base storage? Greedy pigs.
    Greedy pigs, is it? I see where you're headed here on this site, and I've seen it before. 

    Only a sleazy troll uses language like this. You're marked.
    watto_cobrabadmonkwilliamlondonurahara
  • Reply 20 of 25
    MacBAir said:
    This has to be the most disgusting, pathetic feature of all time. It is only a clunky necessity because Apple is doing with Macs what they did with iOS devices, until people said enough is enough. 128 GB of base storage? Greedy pigs.


    Give it a rest man. Enough.

    I'm surprised you haven't mentioned TN Panels.

    williamlondon
Sign In or Register to comment.