Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What You See in the Finder Should Always Be Correct

John Gruber (tweet):

I know from talking to Arment privately that about 30 seconds after he took the screenshot, the Inspector updated to show the actual folder size. But that’s still very wrong. The Finder should never show inaccurate information regarding the state of the file system. Never.

This is the sort of problem in recent versions of MacOS that clearly isn’t getting enough attention within Apple. John Moltz and I discussed this on yesterday’s episode of my podcast, and Moltz mentioned a similar problem I’ve seen too: you put some large files in the Trash, then empty the Trash, and the available space shown in Finder windows (View → Show Status Bar) doesn’t change at all for an indeterminate amount of time.

Remember how Windows had a Refresh command, but Macs didn’t need one?

The free space issue dates to at least High Sierra. And, starting with Mojave, I’ve been having all sorts of problems with Finder showing stale information: incorrect metadata, continuing to show files that were already deleted, and failing to show new files. Sometimes I can click on a file or folder to refresh the display. Other times, it gets stuck showing hours-old filesystem state, and I reboot.

Jeff Johnson:

Unpopular opinion: APFS is a disaster on the Mac

1) Almost impossible to get accurate free space on a disk
2) Super fast HFS FSCatalogSearch file system search is gone
3) Bizarre long delays in moving files to the Trash

I think “disaster” is going too far, and there have been benefits. But it’s true that some basic stuff just doesn’t work as well since the switch to APFS.

Maxwell Swadling:

Free space is my big missing feature. You can’t copy a file to an APFS partition that is bigger than true free space but smaller than available space. I have to use an external drive to work with final cut / large videos

Tom Harrington:

When my Mac tells me I can’t download a new Xcode because there isn’t enough room, but then Finder says there’s like 10x more space than I need, something is not working right.

John Gruber:

Someone said that going to System Information: Storage Management triggers something that updates available free space everywhere, including Finder and Disk Utility. I’ll try that the next time I think the numbers are wrong, but of course this should happen automatically.


Update (2020-02-28): Adam Maxwell:

I regularly take a screenshot and can’t find it on my Desktop, but it shows up in Finder’s list or column view. I never associated it with AFPS, but it’s definitely a recent problem for me (on High Sierra). In the old days I’d have filed a bug report. Now? Work around.

Kyle Howells:

The latest issue: trying to put a 4GB file on my iPad.

iOS: Error: Not enough free space.
Ok how much space is free?
iOS: 451/512GB free
Me: ?!?!???
Tries via an app & network share. App: Error not enough space

So my device really is full, but REALLY doesn’t want to show me.

I plugged into a Windows PC running iTunes desktop app, open it and.... photos is using all the space, but because it theoretically could purge it if needed doesn’t count as used. Except that is if you actually try and use that ‘free’ space.


A week or so ago my Mac did the same thing.

I was downloading some large files and started getting ‘free space low’ warnings. Looked at Finder, and 60-ish GB free, nothing to worry about.

Then more warnings and finally new file creation failed with ‘no space available’.

Update (2020-03-27): Gus Mueller:

Kind of getting tired of having to reboot my mac after emptying the trash, in order to see my disk space come back. At least HFS mostly got that part right.

Tom Harrington:

It leads to weird and confusing states. Like, Finder says I have plenty of space but un-xipping Xcode fails due to lack of space. There’s a lot of purgeable data, but it doesn’t get purged. If it were purged, there’d be plenty available.

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Every time a new Xcode version comes out, the App Store won't let me download it, even with 15 or 20 GB free.

I developed a routine:
1. delete existing Xcode app
2. delete most things from ~/Library/Developer/Xcode for good measure
3. empty trash (no change in free disk shown)
4. `tmutil listlocalsnapshots /`
5. `tmutil deletelocalsnapshots […]` (repeat as necessary for all local snapshots)
6. reboot
7. try install again

>Remember how Windows had a Refresh command, but Macs didn’t need one?

Recent versions of Windows have been pretty good about this, too. Stuff that used to be wonky (have a Save File dialog open and an Explorer window, and move things around in the Explorer window that should affect what you see int he Save File dialog) now work reliably and immediately. Meanwhile, on the Mac, I've developed the habit of Cmd-Arrow-Up, Cmd-Arrow-Down to try to get the Finder to update the current view even after trivial changes like unzipping a file, where the unzipped file just refuses to appear.

It's even worse on spinning drives. Open a folder in Finder. See an blank white space. Decide if (a) this means there is nothing in the folder or (b) there is something in the folder, which is -- despite the absence of any progress bar, spinner, or other indicator -- being catalogued and will be shown after some indeterminate amount of time.

APFS more or less bricked my 2012 iMac with a half-full 1TB HDD. It's maddening. It offers no user-facing features over and above what one would have with Time Machine (especially since integrity protection was dropped). Yet constant pauses, judders and system-freezes arise any time an app touches the hard disk and this is now my daily experience; and for nothing.

“Almost impossible to get accurate free space on a disk”

This is not 1991. Nearest GB is good enough.

“Super fast … file system search is gone”

That’s a big black mark. No way should searching a local file system be slower or less capable than Googling the web. The whole point of fast powerful deep search is to save users the endless pedanticism of manually filing everything. Otherwise we are back at 1991.

“Bizarre long delays in moving files to the Trash”

Given APFS’s copy-on-write behavior, this would’ve been the right time to consolidate the outstanding mess that is file versioning/Time Machine and eliminate .Trash altogether. Delete should delete. If you want to recover a deleted file go back in its timeline. Nice simple unambiguous semantics.

Moving files to Trash is both dumb and obsolete. It breaks the semantic relationship between the file and its filing location (for those who do manually file everything), and it doesn’t do anything that Time Machine’s doesn’t do infinitely better (e.g. multiple Undo).

The Trashcan is not even consistent in its own behavior; e.g. try trashing a file that’s on a remote share: that does delete it immediately. It’s a worthless 1980s appendix on file system’s lower intestine that should’ve been surgically removed a decade ago. Not least as that would’ve pushed the lazy sods to make TM’s crappy toy GUI a whole lot better to use.

Alas, when it comes to software Apple seems to have reverted to its Sculley/1990s ways, where everyone just slaps their own crap on top and no-one makes the effort to extract a focused cohesive polished product out of the mess, probably because no-one is responsible for doing so since Jobs left.


This is basic, basic stuff. It isn’t even getting to the challenges of high-level high-reliability non-deterministic distributed document management of the modern [i]Cloud storage era. If Apple can’t even do bread and butter right, it’s no surpise their jam tastes rubbish too.

@has: "This is not 1991. Nearest GB is good enough."

I'd say that's not precise enough, but that's beside the point. The trouble is it's often nowhere near accurate to the nearest GB. Or even the nearest 10 GB.

>Nearest GB is good enough

Maybe for your boot disk, but not for stuff like SD cards, USB memory sticks, or network shares.


Re: the Refresh command in Explorer: lately on one of my Windows 10 devices, it'll develop a habit of *never* updating the file list unless I manually Refresh. Sometimes a reboot fixes it, sometimes not. The issue kinda just comes and goes. There are some things I like about Explorer but, as with Finder, sometimes it just messes up the basics.

As mentioned, nearest GB would even be nice! These calculations are off by tens of gigabytes, at least.

[…] other wish for WWDC is a noticeable focus on quality: fewer bugs, less waiting, better fit and finish, and no catastrophes when upgrading. The tick-tock cycle of […]

[…] other wish for WWDC is a noticeable focus on quality: fewer bugs, less waiting, better fit and finish, and no catastrophes when upgrading. The tick-tock cycle of […]

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