Hopefully, you have never gotten a message on your computer telling you that your scratch disk is full and you need to delete some files. If you do get this message it will bring your productivity to a halt. You won’t be able to burn a CD, you might not be able to save a project, and a slew of other things can happen.
What is this thing called a scratch disk? In most cases it is just your hard drive. When you run a program temporary files need to be stored someplace in order for everything to run properly . If you are burning a CD the contents of that CD or DVD need to be stored someplace while the burn takes place. All of this storage is done on your hard drive. Even if you have 1 or 2 gigabytes of space left while you aren’t doing anything, these last few gigabytes can be quickly eaten up by opening several files at once in Photoshop, for example.
So what do you do if you get this message? Well, there are several things to try.
1. Close any unneeded applications and documents and try to save what you are working on.
2. Go to the Finder menu and choose Empty Trash. Sending something to the trash does not delete it from your hard drive. You have to empty the trash on a regular basis. Those items can be wasting valuable drive space.
3. Check your “Podcasts” folder for old and undeleted podcasts. (see Macspiration 93)
4. My next step would be to go through my Applications folder looking for anything I never use. There might be applications that came installed with your computer that you have never even opened. Drag these applications to the trash (make sure you empty it!).
5. In addition to the Applications folder, go through your Documents folder. Look for anything you might be able to trash (and empty) in there.
6. Hopefully, by now you have cleared enough drive space for a temporary reprieve. If so, skip to step 7. If not go to step 6.
7. This next step will only work if you have enough space clear to burn a CD. If you do, burn any old documents to a CD or DVD. Make sure the burn was a success, and then delete and empty those documents you just put on a CD/DVD.
8. It is probably a good idea to invest in an external hard drive. They come in two varieties: USB and Firewire. I like Firewire. These drive also come in all sorts of storage sizes. I suggest getting a storage size that is at least the size of your computer’s hard drive. Better yet, get one that is double that size (if possible). Basically, get what you can afford, but try to get something that leaves room to grow.
You can find external hard drives all over the place. Best Buy, Circuit City, Amazon.com. I like Other World Computing.
Wherever you go, make sure the drive is Mac compatible. Most drive are these days.
Once you have your drive connect it to your computer and turn it on. It should show up on your Desktop. Many drives will be ready to go right out of the box. Some will have factory installed stuff on the drive.
To clear our this factory installed stuff you want to format the drive. To do this open Disk Utility located in the Utilities folder and follow these steps from Disk Utility’s Help menu:
1. If you want to erase an external disk, connect the disk to your computer.
2. In Disk Utility, select the disk or volume in the list on the left.
3. Click Erase.
4. Choose a format from the Volume Format pop-up menu. Usually you will choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
5. Type a name for the disk or volume.
6. If you’re erasing a disk and plan to use the disk with Mac OS 9, select the checkbox to install the Mac OS 9 drivers.
You do not need to install the Mac OS 9 drivers to use the disk with the Classic environment.
7. If you want to erase the entire contents of the disk by writing zeros, click Security Options, then select the option you want and click OK.
8. Click Erase.
Once erased you can now drag and drop documents from your Hard Drive to the external one.
Whatever you copy to the new drive, delete it from the old drive. I’ve said it over and over again, make sure you empty the trash!
From now on save all documents to your external drive, instead of your computer’s hard drive. If the external ever fills up, you can always buy another, and another, and another…..You get the point.
Once all of that is complete, you should have plenty of space on your “Scratch Disk” to get back to work.
External drives are also great for backing up your computer’s hard drive, but that is another article.
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