In Windows you can easily find out how much disk space is left using Windows Explorer. The total disk space and how much space is free is displayed for each device connected to your machine. However, how do you do this on an Ubuntu machine?

We’ll show you a couple of programs available within Ubuntu that can tell you how much space you have left on your hard disk. Both programs are installed automatically when you installed Ubuntu on your machine, so you don’t have to install them. However, you will be installing one small program in this procedure, but it’s quick and easy to install.

NOTE: When we say to type something in this article and there are quotes around the text, DO NOT type the quotes, unless we specify otherwise.

The first program is System Monitor. To access this program, click the top button on the Unity bar.

Enter “system monitor” in the Search box. As you type, matching items display under Applications. When System Monitor displays, click the icon.

On the File Systems tab in System Monitor, you can see the Total space on your hard disk, the Available space, how much is Used, and the percentage of the disk that is used.

This information is useful, but what if you want more detailed information? The next tool we’ll discuss will provide a more detailed view of your hard disk.

Disk Usage Analyzer (previously called Baobab) also allows you to see how much space is used and the total space on your hard disk. To access this program, you can use the Search box on the Unity bar as well, searching for “Disk Usage Analyzer”. When it opens, you’ll see all Devices and locations on the initial screen. Clicking on a device or location will provide more detail about that item.

However, before we discuss the information available for a device or location, we want to point out the message you probably received, as shown below. This message displays because you opened Disk Usage Analyzer without root, or administrative, privileges. To get the most out of Disk Usage Analyzer, we’ll show you how to access it with root privileges. Click the X button in the upper-left corner of the window to close the program.

To run the program with root privileges, you need a small program called “gksu”. This program is similar to “sudo”, which we’ve used in other Ubuntu articles, as well as below, for temporarily gaining root access to install a program or perform a task. To install gksu, press Ctrl + Alt + T to open a Terminal window. Type the following at the prompt and press Enter.

sudo apt-get install gksu

Type your password at the prompt (your own password, not the root password) and press Enter.

The progress of the installation displays and then a message displays saying how much disk space will be used. When asked if you want to continue, type a “y” and press Enter.

When the installation is finished, type the following at the prompt and press Enter to open Disk Usage Analyzer.

gksu baobab

Enter your password (not the root password) in the dialog box that displays and click OK.

Once you get to the Devices and locations screen in Disk Usage Analyzer, click on the drive or device for which you want more information. The following window displays showing a tree structure on the left representing the folders on your hard drive, the percentage of the total space each one is using, the size of each folder, and the Contents, or how many items are in that folder. On the right side of the window is a rings chart representing the usage of the hard disk. You can click on parts of the ring or on folders in the tree on the left to drill down and find out what folders are using up the most space.

In the bottom-right corner of the window are two buttons. The left button is selected by default when this window opens, displaying the rings chart. Click the right button to display a treemap chart.

The following is an example of a treemap chart. It looks similar to a Windows program, called SpaceSniffer, that analyzes your disk space usage. Even though Disk Usage Analyzer doesn’t display the folders/files and sizes in the boxes, the area of each of these boxes is proportional to that folder’s or file’s size on the hard disk. You can click on the boxes or the folders in the tree (just as in the rings chart view) to drill down for further information.

Click the X in the upper-left corner of the window to close Disk Usage Analyzer.

These two programs can help you keep track of your hard disk space, letting you know when you need to delete or archive items, or uninstall large programs you don’t need anymore.

Profile Photo for Lori Kaufman Lori Kaufman
Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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