Analyze and Free Up Space on your iPhone/iPad with DaisyDisk (OS X)

Preface: This requires you to jailbreak your iOS device, to get root access. If have no desire to do this to your iPhone/iPad, read no further.

With the number of apps available in the Apple App Store (half a million and counting), I sometimes wonder why I didn’t go for the iPhone 4 with 32 GB instead of 16 GB, to hold them all. Add all the high resolution photos, videos, music, and you soon find yourself running low on space. iTunes gives you a general idea of where all the space is, but there isn’t much on detail.

iPhone Capacity Graph on iTunes

iPhone Capacity Graph on iTunes

In the above example, you can see that apps are taking up 5.1 GB. That’s nice to know, but wouldn’t it be really great to know which apps are hogging up the most space? Enter DaisyDisk. For those of you that don’t know, DaisyDisk is a fantastic OS X app that gives you a Apple-esque graphical representation of the data usage of your hard drive.



It’s completely interactive, allowing you drill down to different levels of detail. It really helped me when my MacBook Air’s 256 GB hard drive was running out of space. I was able to free up about 50 GB just by quickly seeing what folders held files that I just didn’t need anymore. Naturally, I thought this would be great as an app on the iPhone. Knowing that you would need root access to your iOS device to be able to see ALL the nooks and crannies, there was nothing in the App Store. Turning to the jailbreaking community held no solutions either (not directly, at least). Not giving up, I came up with a solution that worked and quickly freed up space on my iPhone 4, which was running critically low on space. The answer: If I could mount my iPhone onto my Mac with root access, DaisyDisk would then be able to scan it. Here’s how I did it.

First, you need to jailbreak your iOS device. The best resource to learn how is Redmond Pie. Then you need to go to the jailbreak app repository Cydia and install the following free apps:

  • OpenSSH, which gives you secure remote access between your Mac and iPhone/iPad
  • Netatalk, which allows your Mac and iPhone/iPad to use standard file using AppleTalk

Make sure both your Mac and iPhone/iPad are on the same wi-fi network. Open Finder and you should see that it shows up under the Shared area. If you don’t, I find that plugging your iPhone/iPad into your USB port helps.

Shared area in Finder

iPhone 4 in Finder

Click “Connect As…” and enter in root as the Name. The default root password is “alpine” (which you should change ASAP). Click “Connect”.

Click "Connect As..."

Click "Connect As..."

Log in as root

Log in as root

You will now see both a “home” and “root” folder for your iPhone/iPad.

Logged in as root

Phone 4 is now "mounted"

Open DaisyDisk. If you don’t see your iPhone/iPad, click on “Scan Folder…” and repeat the above Finder steps to mount it. Select root and click Open. DaisyDisk will begin scanning.

DaisyDisk scanning root folder

DaisyDisk scanning root folder

Don’t worry that DaisyDisk is only reporting a different storage capacity then what you really have. In the above screenshot, it’s reporting that my 16 GB iPhone 4 only has capacity of 1.2 GB. You will also have to be patient, as DaisyDisk is scanning using your network. After several minutes, you will be presenting with a graphical representation of where all your data lies.

My iPhone 4's Space Usage

My iPhone 4's Space Usage

Drilling down, I soon discovered that my DVICE App was hogging up 1.25 GB. This was crazy because DVICE is nothing more than a tech news app. It literally had 1.25 GB of gadget articles cached. I immediately deleted it. I also found other apps that were hogging up space to a lesser degree, which I also deleted. Pretty soon I went from 0.2 GB to 2.5 GB of free space.

No doubt that the next time I run low on space with my iPhone 4, I will be using this method to zap space hogging data. At least until Apple releases the iPhone 5 with 128 GB of space 🙂


2 thoughts on “Analyze and Free Up Space on your iPhone/iPad with DaisyDisk (OS X)

  1. A nice review, thanks! Let me note that there is another way of running DaisyDisk on an iOS device that doesn’t require jailbreaking it. There is a utility called PhoneDisk ($20, free trial) that connects the storage of a docked iOS device as a regular external disk to you Mac, and therefore it also appears in DaisyDisk as a scannable disk.

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