DaisyDisk: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Keep Tabs on Your Drive's Data With Sunburst Graphs

DaisyDisk
Courtesy of Software Ambience

We first looked at DaisyDisk back in 2010, where it went on to win one of our Readers’ Choice Awards. That was quite a while ago, especially when talking about software, so we decided to run DaisyDisk through our review process once again, and see how well this handy app is holding up.

Pros

  • Very easy to use, especially compared to similar utilities.
  • Uses a sunburst graph to show how data is making use of a drive's available space.
  • Analyzes a drive quickly.
  • Files can usually be previewed (QuickLook) to check content.
  • Supports network drives.

Cons

  • Doesn't display important file attributes, such as date created or last used, directly in the app; you must use the Finder for this information.
  • File deletion is a multi-step process.
  • Doesn't retain scanned disk information, forcing you to rescan whenever you launch it.

DaisyDisk is a powerful tool for visualizing how your Mac’s storage is being used. Able to show you the contents of any drive connected to your Mac, DaisyDisk quickly builds a sunburst map of the data, showing folder hierarchy in an easy-to-understand, at-a-glance display.

This sunburst display allows you to quickly see where your major data hogs reside, and what they are. You may be surprised to learn how full your download folder can become, how fat your music library is, or how quickly those snapshots you took on your iPhone can build up into a huge picture library.

But it's not just your user data that's displayed in DaisyDisk; it's all of the files and folders that make up your Mac’s system and users. Dig down a little; you may be amazed at how big the system caches can become, or the Library folder, and all the items stored there to support the needs of the system and applications.

Installing DaisyDisk

DaisyDisk is a cinch to install; simply drag the app to the Applications folder. This is how I like to see application installations go; drag, drop, done. Should you decide the app doesn’t meet your needs, uninstalling it is just as simple. Quit DaisyDisk if it's running, and then drag the app to the trash.

Using DaisyDisk

DaisyDisk opens to the default Disk and Folders window, displaying all of the currently mounted drives; this includes most network drives, a nice feature of DaisyDisk.

Each disk is displayed with its desktop icon and the total size of the volume; there's also a small color-coded line graph that shows the amount of available free space. Green is used when there's more than enough free space to ensure no degradation in performance. Yellow means you may want to start paying attention to the amount of free space. Orange is a sign that you better address the space issue now. There may be other colors, such as red (run for it – it's going to blow), but I don't have any drives in that poor of a condition.

Scanning a Disk's Data

Next to the available space graph is a pair of buttons for scanning the disk, as well as available options, such as viewing disk info or showing it in the Finder.

Clicking the Scan button will start DaisyDisk compiling a map of the files and folders on the selected disk, and how they relate hierarchically to each other. Scanning can take a while, depending on disk size, but the scan time on a 1 TB hard drive was impressively fast, completing in around 15 minutes. I was impressed because I've seen similar utilities take multiple hours to complete the same process on the same size drive.

Once the scan is complete, DaisyDisk presents the data in the sunburst graph. When you move your mouse cursor over the graph, each section highlights and provides details about it, including size and folder or file name. You can select a graph section and drill down to see additional content.

Because each section is proportioned to the size of the data it contains, you can quickly find where your major data hogs are located. For instance, I was amazed to discover that Steam is using 66 GB of storage in the system's Application Support folder. Now I know where Steam keeps all of its game data.

Cleaning Up Unneeded Files

Deleting files in DaisyDisk is a two-step process. Select the files you wish to remove and move them to the Collector, a temporary storage spot within DaisyDisk (no files are actually moved on the selected drive). You can then delete all items in the Collector, or open the Collector to view each item, go to the item in the Finder to view additional data, or simply remove the item from the Collector. The Collector could just as easily have been named Trash, providing a better understanding of its function.

DaisyDisk isn't bloated with features just to make it appeal to a larger audience. It's not meant to serve as a duplicate file finder, although it will likely reveal a few duplicates as you look through the sunburst graph. It doesn’t flush system caches, nor does it pretend to be a cleaner that can suggest which files to delete, or a utility to improve the performance of your Mac. It can help you do all these things, but only manually, by your using the disk scans, finding files you don’t need, and then deleting them.

Its real strength is in how fast it can scan a disk and display gobs of data in a view that lets you easily understand how the data is related, and where the bulk of your data is located.

The only improvement I would like to see is a bit more integration with Finder information, so I could see creation and modification dates within DaisyDisk, without having to go to the Finder.

DaisyDisk is $9.99. A demo is available

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.

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