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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

MacFixIt Answers is a weekly feature in which we answer questions e-mailed in by our readers. We welcome alternative approaches and views from readers and encourage you to post your own suggestions in the comments.

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which we answer questions e-mailed in by our readers.

This week people wrote in with questions about apparent incorrect file size and disk usage calculations in the Finder, recreating a lost playlist after upgrading iTunes, whether Lion install media should be kept updated, and Mail messages appearing blank. We continually answer e-mail questions, and though we present answers here, we welcome alternative approaches and views from readers and encourage you to post your suggestions in the comments.

Question: File size and disk space calculations not adding up
MacFixIt reader Malcolm asks:

I recently upgraded to Lion. I'm using a MacBook Pro with a 500 GB drive.

Disk Utility thinks I have 390 GB of files. However, when I add up the data in all my directories (using the numbers from Get Info), including from the hard drive root, I come up with only 170 GB. In my final Snow Leopard days, I had only 210 GB of data.

TimeMachine agrees with Disk Utility. When I first tried to back up under Lion, TimeMachine claimed it needed a partition of at least 450 GB to back up my drive. When I finally provided a partition of that size, it used only 165GB of it.

Obviously something is amiss. Somehow it appears that Disk Utility and other programs have a false notion of how much data is on my hard drive. Can you suggest a way to clear this up? Thanks for any help you might be able to provide.

The folders you see at the root of your hard drive (System, Library, Users, and so on) are not the whole picture of what is on your hard drive. There are a number of hidden folders on the drive that can contain gigabytes of cache files, temporary files, and runtime files like swap (virtual memory) and sleep image files. In addition, the "get info" calculation only works for files that you have permission to access, so if you get info on the Users directory the calculation will not include files within other user accounts. As a result, another user can have extensive music, movie, and picture libraries without you directly being able to calculate their sizes. Time Machine is run under the root account, which does have access to all files on the disk, so it will back them all up.

To see all of the files on your hard drive, you can use a tool like DaisyDisk, GrandPerspective, or WhatSize to calculate the size of all files on the drive, and also see the files' relative sizes in a graphical representation.

Question: Recreating a lost Smart Playlist after upgrading iTunes
MacFixIt reader Stojan asks:

Upon upgrading from Lion 10.7.1 to 10.7.2 (and to iTunes 10.5) the Recently Added playlist in iTunes disappeared. This was the playlist that stored links to all files added to iTunes in last 15 days and I used it for syncing with iPhone and iPad, so I could always carry my most recent additions with me. How could I re-create it?

To create a similar playlist, choose "New Smart Playlist" in the File menu, and then edit the rules so the Date Added is in the last 15 days, and then you can apply other limits and behaviors. Then save the playlist and you should be able to use that to sync items to your iOS devices.

Question: The necessity of upgrading install media
MacFixIt reader Roger asks:

With the recent update to OSX to 10.7.2, is it necessary to update my OSX Lion Recovery Disk (USB drive) since I made it with OSX 10.7.1?

If this is a recovery disk that you made from the OS X installer then I would say you don't need to do this. The only benefit would be to create an updated installer that would not need to be updated after use. If you do use an installer of an older version of Lion, then after you reinstall all you need to do is run Software Update to get the system updated to the latest version. If you would prefer to avoid this step then you can create an updated recovery drive; however, you would have to do so by redownloading the full OS X installer from the App store (after it has been updated), instead of using updaters that Apple has made available, as these just update an existing installation.

Question: E-mail messages blank in Mail
MacFixIt reader Barry asks:

Hi. I am using Mail with OS 10.6.8. on a MacBook Pro. I recently tried to access some old mail in my Sent mailbox. The emails are all listed in the Sent box, but when I try to open anything that is more than 2 years old the content is gone and all that remains is a blank page. Are there date or size limits on mailbox contents?

There is no size limit, and Mail messages themselves should not be blanked like this. If anything they should be missing completely. Have you tried rebuilding your mailboxes? Click the Sent mailbox and select "rebuild" from the Mailboxes menu, and see if that helps.

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