Secret Treasures: SpaceSniffer (Windows)

If you work with computers long enough, you’re bound to create an arsenal of “secret treasures”; little programs that you may only use once a year – but are indispensable when you do need them.  Every time you use it, you think to yourself, “What would I do without this?” and you wonder whom else you know that might be able to make use of it.

Of course, you forget to share it; and another year goes by before you address it again.

My series of Secret Treasures will attempt to share with you some of the “toys” I hang on my Windows “bat utility belt” and see if I can help someone else out by unleashing a little known product into the masses.

Drive space.  Storage.  Strange times with hard drive storage space.  In the old days, we treasured storage space as if it were more precious than gold – because we had SO LITTLE OF IT.  Then, suddenly – hard drives were cheap.  People had a surplus; and nobody cared anymore about “wasting space”.  No need to clean up your drive; PLENTY OF ROOM.

Oddly enough – a natural disaster in Taiwan changed the face of drive pricing for several years and with that, the prices of hard drives sky rocketed.  Not just that, but drives were actually getting hard to find to even buy!  Poof; hard drive space was “golden” again.  Of course, eventually they dropped once the tragedy was recovered from …

If that wasn’t a good enough story; it doesn’t end there.  With 3TB drives cheap and easily available – drive space AGAIN became a coveted commodity; thanks to Solid State Drives (SSDs).  Non-mechanical “flash memory” hard drives with unreal access speeds but little tiny storage space people started to once again pay attention to cleaning their storage up after themselves.

Enter SpaceSniffer which promises to “Find lost space on your disks the easy way.”

I’d like to point out (before someone posts a comment on it) that “drive space analysis” tools are not new (as indicated, free space importance comes and goes with the tides) and you’re likely to find dozens if not hundreds of them available – both free and paid.  Heck, you might already have a great file manager package like Directory Opus that has built in “space” and “size” comparisons.

So why should we care about YAST (yet another space tool)?  Like with all software it comes down to three things:

  • Performance
  • Ease of Use
  • Price/Value

So what exactly does SpaceSniffer do?  As the tagline says – it helps you find “lost space” on your drive.  So what does THAT exactly mean?

As you know, over time – your hard drive (like any other storage medium – electronic or otherwise) tends to get cluttered.  Some stuff you need and want … others?  Not so much.  Identifying folders on  your computer that are LARGE in size can often lead you to a laundry list of files you forgot you put there, maybe some OTHER tool put there temporarily – who knows?  But the point is – over time, your drive fills with crap you eventually don’t need.

Some files – no matter how many of them you have – aren’t going to make a folder “bigger”.  Like 500 Word documents typically take up very little space.  Deleting half of them would do nothing in the “big picture” of things.

But, a single ISO … maybe a slideshow DVD you made 6 years ago or some Linux distro you tried … that might still be sitting in an undisclosed folder hogging an impressive 4GB of your precious space.  Video files get bigger and bigger as quality increases.  Maybe you didn’t realize that install of Lego Batman on your kid’s computer would suck down 3GB of space.  Regardless, finding hidden pockets of fat, space taking files is what SpaceSniffer is all about.

Our first list item was PERFORMANCE.  180GB drive with 40GB free took under one minute to fully scan and populate the interface.  Best of all, you don’t have to WAIT for results.  As the program scans, the UI responds – making scanning your drive not only useful – but almost hypnotic – as it sorts and reorganizes the UI to show you your space usage.  You don’t even have to wait for it to be done to start drilling into folders you immediately identify as “big”.  Subsequent scans are even faster – and – as a huge bonus – the UI updates in real time as changes happen to your computer!

She’s fast enough for you, old man.

Next up – ease of use.  Actually manipulating the UI is so easy – anyone can do it.  Find big box – double click.  Repeat until you find the big files.  Wow – that simple.  Power users aren’t left out; use the simple toolbar to toggle between “detail level” of each folder in the UI; see as much or as little as you like; perfect for “zoomed” views of folders as you dig in.  Know what you’re looking for?  Add wildcard filters like *.iso or *.mpg or *.vob and the view updates immediately, quickly.

Hovering over a box (representing a folder) gives you all sorts of useful information as well as giving you a nice fade effect – to help keep your eye trained on where you are in the UI.  Seems flashy and pointless, but oddly enough – it really helps and ups the production value just enough that you’ll remember it.

What about value?  Surely there is a formula out there (probably created by advertising agencies) that produces a number to represent value.  It is probably something like ((price / effectiveness) * usage) … or something like that.  For a lot of people, price (as long as it is reasonable) isn’t as important to the equation as effectiveness in performing the task at hand.  Will SpaceSniffer help you discover “lost space”?  Absolutely.  Unless you are super space anal (and I know some people who are), you WILL find lost space; guaranteed.  So – it is effective and easy to use.  How often will you use it?  Probably a couple times a year – depending on how hypnotic you find the UI (you might fire it up just to see it work); but more importantly – you will find yourself carrying the portable-app-friendly tool around with you; checking your friends and family computers … your work computer or laptop … or even your ever-growing-in-size flash drives or DVDs (SpaceSniffer isn’t just for hard drives).

What was that question?  You, the Mario mustached gentleman in the back?  Does it work over a network?

Oh yes.  You can use SpaceSniffer on mapped network drives as well.  Plus, you can feed it any path and use THAT as your starting point.  Neat, right?

The last part of value?  The cost.  For something you may use a few times a year (well, maybe more) – what is that worth to you cost-wise?  What is a fair price point for an application like this?

Don’t trouble yourself.  It is free.  No, really.  Free.  Not “free” as in “after you run it, you have to buy 80 smurfberries to check another drive at $2.99”.  Not “free” as in, “during the install, you have to watch closely so 50 toolbars don’t get installed”.  Not “free” as in, “Click this ad to run another drive”. Free.  NO INSTALL NEEDED.  Copy it to a flash drive – take it with you.  No, you open source freaks, not “free as in beer”; there is no source code available.  The author does accept donations, but you’ll never be NAGGED to do it in order to use the software.

In the end, SpaceSniffer does exactly what it promises – in a speedy, elegant way.  It costs nothing.  Doesn’t require an installer.  Runs on XP, Vista and Windows 7 (haven’t tried Windows 8 but I wager it works fine).  There is really nothing much else to say.

Grab your copy at the Official Website and be sure to post a comment and let everyone know what you thought of it.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

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