Detail from Alice in the Matrix

The Mysterious Disappearance of Drive Space

Folders that collect things you didn’t know you wanted

I’ve been MIA here for awhile, partly because of family obligations and work, but mostly because of an issue for which I only recently got help. I’ve been battling the disappearance of my system drive storage on my old Mac Pro for some time now. At first I thought I’d simply allowed too much non-essential stuff to get on the drive. I cleared it out and moved anything I could. But my drive kept being eaten by files the OS called “Other.” Not photos, movies, or apps. “Other,” whatever that is.  I wasn’t gaining much space back by moving everything I could find off the drive, either. Free space continued to decline. I was getting a bit frantic and my computer wasn’t running very well anymore.

“Other” had to be in either my User Library or my System Library. I searched through my User Library files more than once looking for the culprit. I clicked on folder after folder, and pressed Cmd-I (Info) to have the OS calculate the size of the folder. I worried that my drive might be going bad and it was actually misreporting what space what being used.  I spent a lot of time attempting to be organized and fully backed up in the event of a catastrophic failure.

Nothing was working, but not long ago, I performed another Get Info on the Adobe folder inside the Library’s Application Folder. The OS calculated some 100+ GBs, not nearly enough in the entire folder to account for the loss, but by sheer chance I left that panel open while I focused on other folders. They, too, weren’t large enough to account for the disappearing storage space.

Suddenly something happened I had never seen before. The Info panel for the Adobe folder updated its file size—and there was the culprit. Somewhere in that folder I had lost ~300 GBs. The Mac usually says “Calculating. . . “ until it reaches the final size for a folder, but in this case, it gave me a size, then continued calculating.

Inside that folder I still couldn’t find what was taking up space. I opened folder after folder, checking the size if I found a lot of files in it. I finally sought help from Adobe experts. I knew it was something in there, but a lot of folders I opened had nothing in them, and the ones that did have a lot of files didn’t amount to much. The experts suggested I check the Media Cache Files folder inside the Common folder.

But it had nothing in it! Oh, wait. . . wait for it. . . wait for it. . . It had so much inside it that it took my computer some time to display that it had any files. It turns out that if you own the full Collection, which includes Premiere Pro and After Effects,  the Media Cache Files folder comes with it. Any video you download to play later, from any source, is cached at its full size in that folder, and it isn’t deleted when you later delete the video you watched.

Adobe is just trying to be helpful. Adobe assumes that you want the video cached in full to speed up playback, so it obliges whether or not you ever use an Adobe application to play your videos. Unfortunately, since I wasn’t using Premiere Pro or After Effects in any significant way, I was completely unaware of that folder’s existence and had several years’ worth of videos piling up in the cache. The videos themselves had already been deleted from the drive they were stored on, so I never suspected the culprit.

If you don’t have the full collection of Adobe software, you should be spared the consequences of also owning this particular folder. There are probably other cache folders from your OS or other applications that may also be building up a very large cache—Bridge comes readily to mind, although I’ve never seen it get that big, and Lightroom Backups will also eventually add up. From time to time, you should check on your cache folders.

But if you do subscribe to the entire Creative Cloud, or use the full Creative Suite,  even if you don’t use the video applications themselves, I suggest you check on the folder to see if it’s threatening to bury you in cached files.

On Windows, the path is C:\Users\insert your Windows name here\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Common\Media Cache Files

On the Mac, the path is (user) Library\Application Support\Adobe\Common\Media Cache Files

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to once again enjoying my computer as a creative outlet, rather than feeling I’m trapped inside the Matrix.

Alice in the Matrix composite image
Alice in the Matrix. Credits for assets include Marta Van Eck with Surrealice from Mischief Circus, and brushes by lordandre and peristrophe—both at Deviant Art. Topaz Texture Effects were also used in the destruction of the original.

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