Hard Drive Filling Up Too Quickly


JohnF

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My wife has a Macbook Pro that we bought two years ago, it is running Lion. Just within the last two weeks it has started filling up hard drive space at a voracious pace. She is a graduate student and the only thing she is downloading are .pdf's of research papers, amounting to a hill of beans in hard drive space.

About two weeks ago she got an error message that her hard drive was full (250 GB drive). So she deleted a bunch of old files and freed up about 10 GB. Just a day later, it was full again.

So she asked me to look at it. I, again, deleted a bunch of old files I had stored on her computer as a backup, freeing up more than 26 GB. I also disabled the local snapshots feature on Time Machine through the terminal. Within a few days, the hard drive was full again.

I read online that Lion needs about 10-20% of its hard drive space free for regular operational needs, so my wife went through and identified a number of duplicate media files and old files that she did not want to keep and deleted them, equating to 16 GB. I also encouraged her to keep her external drive plugged in so Time Machine could do its thing more regularly, thinking maybe there was a problem with it storing backups locally--not a likely problem but I was grasping at straws at that point.

Last night, 6 GB were used up in the matter of a few hours, and again, all she was doing was downloading research papers. We checked what she had downloaded, and it amounted to less than 10 MB. I have noticed that the memory has tended to get used up when she is connected to the internet, but I can't be certain that is true in every instance.

In the last two weeks, we have deleted more than 50 GB from the computer, and more than 40 of it has been used up by some mysterious operation. I am at a total loss as to what to do to solve this problem.

Thinking she might have a virus, I did some searching and ran some checks for the Flashback virus, but all of my tests came back negative. I also went into Finder and sorted her files by size to see if there were any large files that looked suspicious. There were none. I also sorted her files by most recently modified, and nothing came up that would indicate tens of GBs worth of activity. It was all totally normal.

So, essentially, HELP! I would normally just take it into an Apple store and have them fix it, but my wife is a cultural anthropologist and we are overseas, in a third world country, for her field research. She needs the computer for her research, but there is no place to go to have it fixed. This is going to have to be a DIY project.
 
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