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I have a mac with low disk space, that failed to update, and displays an OSX install error on boot. How can I delete some files, so the update can complete?

I can boot this in recovery mode with Command-R, the disk is 97% full. However deleting files with rm does not change available disk space, though the files disappear.

I can run /Volumes/OSX/usr/bin/du to determine size of a directory, and I have found some large ones, but rm -r has the same problem, the space does not come back. Using mount -u -w /Volumes/OSX makes no difference and lsof is of no help. Is there a "trash can" concept at work?

I have read Mac OSX Recovery Mode Terminal: rm -rf doesn't delete anything and it is not quite on point, and the ideas there do not apply.

Filesystem   512-blocks       Used Available Capacity  iused               ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/disk1s1    3932080    2485720   1407040    64%    45155          4294922124    0%   /
devfs               411        411         0   100%      712                   0  100%   /dev
/dev/disk3        10240        952      9288    10%       20          4294967259    0%   /private/var/log
/dev/disk18       12288        344     11944     3%        2          4294967277    0%   /private/var/tmp/RecoveryTemp
/dev/disk19       12288        344     11944     3%        2          4294967277    0%   /private/var/tmp/OSISPredicateUpdateProductTemp
/dev/disk20        1024        280       744    28%        2          4294967277    0%   /private/var/tmp/InstallerCookies
/dev/disk21        4096        280      3816     7%        2          4294967277    0%   /Library/Logs/DiagnosticReports
/dev/disk2s1  499708512  478105512  16094888    97%  1954820 9223372036852820987    0%   /Volumes/OSX
/dev/disk4s1 1462037904 1442425824  19612080    99% 14394174          4280573105    0%   /Volumes/Backup1
/dev/disk4s2  491487192  162467080 329020112    34%    53008          4294914271    0%   /Volumes/Backup2

What can I do to get this machine back?

  • 1
    Which specific files are you trying to rm? Are the actually deleted or do they still show up with ls afterwards? – nohillside Mar 2 at 18:27
  • I've deleted a few old movies, and directories of old user files. They do not show up with ls afterward, they do not show up after reboot. – Bryce Mar 2 at 18:33
  • Why does this need to be done in Recovery? Couldn’t you just get a USB drive, move your files that you want to archive to it and delete them from your disk? – Allan Mar 2 at 18:39
  • @Allan "mac ... displays an OSX install error on boot" – nohillside Mar 2 at 18:42
  • Sometimes a failed update can be bypassed by holding Option while booting and selecting the main OS drive again. What about running "/sbin/mount -uw /" (not /Volumes/OSX)? Other options, if you have another mac handy... connect the machine in target disk mode and deleting data? Or make a bootable macos usb, start from that, and delete files from the hard drive? – Hefewe1zen Mar 3 at 2:41

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