Sunday, April 8, 2018

Quick-and-clean disk usage utility in Python

By Vasudev Ram

Hard disk image

Hard disk image attribution

Hi readers,

Recently, I thought that I should check the disk space on my PC more often, possibly because of having installed a lot of software on it over a period. As you know, these days, many software apps take up a lot of disk space, sometimes in the range of a gigabyte or more for one app. So I wanted a way to check more frequently whether my disks are close to getting full.

I thought of creating a quick-and-dirty disk free space checker tool in Python, to partially automate this task. Worked out how to do it, and wrote it - initially for Windows only. I called it Ran it to check the disk free space on a few of my disk partitions, and it worked as intended.

Then I slapped my forehead as I realized that I could do it in a cleaner as well as more cross-platform way, using the psutil library, which I knew and had used earlier.

So I wrote another version of the tool using psutil, that I called

Here is the code for

# Author: Vasudev Ram
# Copyright 2018 Vasudev Ram
# Web site:
# Blog:
# Product store:
# Software mentoring:
# Description: A Python app to show disk usage.
# Usage: python path
# For the path given as command-line argument, it shows 
# the percentage of space used, and the total, used and 
# free space, in both MiB and GiB. For definitions of
# MiB vs. MB and GiB vs. GB, see:
# Requires: The psutil module, see:

from __future__ import print_function
import sys
import psutil

BYTES_PER_MIB = 1024.0 * 1024.0

def disk_usage_in_mib(path):
    """ Return disk usage data in MiB. """
    # Here percent means percent used, not percent free.
    total, used, free, percent = psutil.disk_usage(path)
    # psutil returns usage data in bytes, so convert to MiB.
    return total/BYTES_PER_MIB, used/BYTES_PER_MIB, \
    free/BYTES_PER_MIB, percent

def main():
    if len(sys.argv) == 1:
        print("Usage: python {} path".format(sys.argv[0]))
        print("Shows the disk usage for the given path (file system).")
    path = sys.argv[1]
        # Get disk usage data.
        total_mib, used_mib, free_mib, percent = disk_usage_in_mib(path)
        # Print disk usage data.
        print("Disk Usage for {} - {:.1f} percent used. ".format( \
        path, percent))
        print("In MiB: {:.0f} total; {:.0f} used; {:.0f} free.".format(
            total_mib, used_mib, free_mib))
        print("In GiB: {:.3f} total; {:.3f} used; {:.3f} free.".format(
            total_mib/1024.0, used_mib/1024.0, free_mib/1024.0))
    except OSError as ose:
        sys.stdout.write("{}: Caught OSError: {}\n".format(
            sys.argv[0], str(ose)))
    except Exception as e:
        sys.stdout.write("{}: Caught Exception: {}\n".format(
            sys.argv[0], str(e)))

if __name__ == '__main__':

Here is the output from running it a few times:

On Linux:
$ df -BM -h /
Filesystem                  Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/mapper/precise32-root   79G  5.2G   70G   7% /

$ python /
Disk Usage for / - 6.8 percent used.
In MiB: 80773 total; 5256 used; 71472 free.
In GiB: 78.880 total; 5.132 used; 69.797 free.

$ df -BM -h /boot
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1       228M   24M  192M  12% /boot

$ python /boot
Disk Usage for /boot - 11.1 percent used.
In MiB: 228 total; 24 used; 192 free.
In GiB: 0.222 total; 0.023 used; 0.187 free.

On Windows:
$ python d:\
Disk Usage for d:\ - 59.7 percent used.
In MiB: 100000 total; 59667 used; 40333 free.
In GiB: 97.656 total; 58.268 used; 39.388 free.

$ python h:\
Disk Usage for h:\ - 28.4 percent used.
In MiB: 100 total; 28 used; 72 free.
In GiB: 0.098 total; 0.028 used; 0.070 free.

I had to tweak the df command invocation to be as you see it above, to make the results of my program and those of df to match. This is because of the difference in calculating MB vs. MiB and GB vs. GiB - see Wikipedia link in header comment of my program above, if you do not know the differences.

So this program using psutil is both cleaner and more cross-platform than my original quick-and-dirty one which was only for Windows, but which did not need psutil installed. Pros and cons for both. I will show the latter program in a following post.

The image at the top of the post is of "a newer 2.5-inch (63.5 mm) 6,495 MB HDD compared to an older 5.25-inch full-height 110 MB HDD".

I've worked some years earlier in system engineer roles where I encountered such older models of hard disks, and also had good experiences and learning in solving problems related to them, mainly on Unix machines, including sometimes using Unix commands and tricks of the trade that I learned or discovered, to recover data from systems where the machine or the hard disk had crashed, and of course, often without backups available. Here is one such anecdote, which I later wrote up and published as an article for Linux For You magazine (now called Open Source For You):

How Knoppix saved the day.

Talk of Murphy's Law ...


- Vasudev Ram - Online Python training and consulting

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