Visualizing Drive Space

May 10, 2007 at 10:15 am 14 comments

When you find yourself asking the question, “where did all my hard disk space go?!” do you scour each directory to find those big, space-consuming files? Treemapping software eliminates that tedious need. These programs don’t just display your files and folders in a directory structure like you would see in Windows Explorer, Nautilus, or <insert file browser here>, instead they give you a graphical representation of what the contents of your hard disk looks like. Having moved to Linux, I found myself missing Space Monger. After a short search through the net here is a quick list of treemapping software worthy of mention:

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Space Monger (Windows, Commercial; older version still freeware,website)

But of course, how can I not review Space Monger first. Space Monger maps your drive into rectangles–the bigger the file/folder, the bigger the block. Subfolders are displayed as smaller blocks inside its parent block. Space Monger displays blocks with different colors, depending on their hierarchical level (i.e. folders directly under c:\ are displayed with the same color), and you can also change the color theme. To explore a block, double clicking on it zooms in on its contents. Unlike other ‘mappers, Space Monger displays the file/folder name on the larger blocks, so blocks are immediately recognizable.

Filelight (Linux, Open-Source, website)

The first Linux treemapper I tried, and my favorite. Instead of displaying the contents as rectangles, Filelight displays it as hierarchical pie charts. I was reluctant at first, having used Space Monger for so long. But once I started using it, my opinion quickly changed. Hovering your mouse over a particular piece of the pie displays call outs over the main sub-pies, making you look like an extremely cool, Hollywood-esque techie. Filelight only displays files and folders when you point your mouse over it, but it displays information like number of files, size, as well as the percentage of the pie. Clicking on a piece zooms in and displays that particular piece as a whole pie. Color schemes can be changed as well. Overall, Filelight is fast, cool, and very easy to use.

JDiskReport (Windows, Mac, Java, Free, website)JDiskReport gives the user several useful tools for disk usage analysis, including the pie chart like in Filelight and distribution graphs. It runs in Java, and is very responsive. Unlike in Filelight, JDiskReport does show the file/folder name with the pie chart as well as a directory tree at the left side of its window. Although not as visually sophisticated as Filelight, JDiskReport boasts a very complete set of tools that will feel right at home with any system administrator.

DiskView (Windows, 15-day trial, website)

DiskView features complete integration with Windows Explorer. You can display data either with a pie-chart or bar chart. Similar to Filelight and JDiskReport, DiskView offers a slightly higher level of visual sophistication; even the Windows system directories have a different pie pattern. Alongside the graph, some other useful information about your drives and folders are displayed as well, including disk health reported by SMART. This is arguably one of the best programs I’ve seen. It’s only drawbacks are–it’s as sluggish as Windows Exploer and it’s not free, and that makes all the difference.

File System Visualizer (Linux, Open-Source, website)

File System Visualizer is unique in that it displays your data in 3D. It offers two views: the MapV View, which represents file/folders as equally tall blocks, with an area proportional to their size; and TreeV View, that displays data with the same footprint, but proportional height.

OverDisk (Windows, Freeware, website)

OverDisk’s pie chart looks and feels like Filelight. Files/folders are not displayed, only the piece that you point to. And it’s also a bit hard to visually comprehend. Alongside the pie-chart, a directory tree is displayed on the left side of its window. OverDisk is still in alpha and according to the site, it’s gonna take a while before it gets updated.

Treemap (Windows, Free for non-commercial use, website)

Treemap is complete program that not only lets you view directories, but also other assets. At startup, you are prompted to open one of several built-in treemap data files. You can also choose to map a directory, which displays hierarchical output similar to Space Monger. Treemap’s built-in data files includes such data like “causes of death” and “NBA statistics” to name a few, which are also displayed in hierarchical fashion. Treemap also offers plenty of complex options, though this application may be overkill for most system administrators.

Baobab (Linux, Open-Source, website)
WinDirStat (Windows, Open-Source, website)
GDMap (Linux, Open-Source, website)
Treesize (Linux, Open-Source, website)
SequoiaView (Linux, Open-Source, website)

I grouped these programs because of their similarities, and I wouldn’t recommend any of these programs. Baobab’s initial screen is a size-ordered listing of your subdirectories, with horizontal bars as well as the numerical percentage displayed beside it. From here you can open up Baobab’s graphical map for a particular folder. All of their graphical map view is like Space Monger, only much less intuitive and much less comprehensible. In Baobab, you can’t click on a block to expand it, nor does it display sub-folders inside their parent blocks. Instead, you select depths of recursion. Treesize offers no pie chart or treemaps. It just lists your directories by a bar graph.


Discovery (Win/Linux/Mac, Freeware, website) Displays other types of hierarchies, not just treemaps. This is a complex program that offers more than just space analysis.

Panopticode (Win/Linux, Freeware, website) A treemapping program whose purpose is not for mapping disk usage, but to make code metrics “so widely understood, valuable, and simple that their use becomes ubiquitous, thus raising the quality of software across the industry.”

Folder Size (Win, Freeware, website) A simple program to allow you to view the folder size in Windows Explorer. A note, though, that this doesn’t work with Vista. Here’s why it doesn’t, and why the next version probably will be for Linux.


Entry filed under: Tech Stuff.

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14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Marco  |  July 3, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Thank you very much for this article.

    In particular I found very useful GDMap and Baobab (which was already installed in my Ubuntu desktop).

  • 2. punongbisyonaryo  |  July 3, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    I´m glad you found something useful in my blog, though they´re not my personal favorites. I never claim to be unbiased, so if you like it, I´m happy for you. If you have some time, though, I hope you can give Filelight a spin too.:) Cheers!

    Oh, by the way, don´t hesitate to share any cool stuff you might encounter, Linux Or Windows, or neither.:)

  • […] very complete review of the most nice and useful hard disk space […]

  • 4. advogy  |  January 16, 2008 at 1:36 am

    hmmmm…very interesting!
    Thanks google

  • 5. Watcher  |  February 18, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    What about Scanner, the freeware utility from Steffen Gerlach?

  • 6. punongbisyonaryo  |  February 21, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    I haven’t tried Scanner yet. From the screenshot it looks like Filelight. Maybe you can share with us your experience with Scanner.

  • 7. Mr Frosti  |  March 29, 2008 at 1:30 am

    Thanks a lot for this guide! This was a real lifesaver on our production machine. I chose the JDiskReport since there was no installation – just a Java file to run.

  • 8. lani78  |  August 16, 2008 at 3:47 am

    Very nice list you’ve put together here! I agree that Filelight was indeed very nice. To bad that it’s KDE as I’m using Gnome. So I’m using Baobab now, which also is nice and is included in Ubuntu 🙂

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