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Large blank files are often used for testing purposes in disk access testing, development, quality control, data reset, and scripting. Although it’s definitely not suitable for most users, it’s easy to make sure anyone can try it, even if you don’t have a special need.
We discuss three ways to quickly create files of almost anything, two of which use the command line; one of them is operating system agnostic and the other is MacOS and Mac OS X specific, and the other is a more user-friendly approach that uses the original Disk Utility application for Mac OS X.
This is, of course, for slightly more advanced users with some ready on the command line. To continue tracking, open the Terminal app to get started.
Create a large file from the command line
The simplest way to quickly create an empty file is to use the ‘mkfile’ command, which can instantly create a file of any size, whether it’s quite small in bytes or gigabytes in bytes. The syntax of the Mkfile is as follows:
Size mkfile filename
For example, to create a 1GB file called “LargeTestFile” on the desktop, the command is:
mkfile -n 1g ~/Desktop/LargeTestFile
The file is created immediately and takes full size. Large files created from mk file are full of zeros.
You can confirm the created file size with the Find Info command in the finder or by using ls:
ls -lh ~/Desktop/LargeTestFile
The only downside to the mkfile command is that it seems to be limited to Mac OS X only, so if you’re looking for a multi-level compatible solution that works with all other unix and linux versions, you’ll trying to use “dd” instead.
The dd command is a bit less clear than the mkfile, but it is quite simple, you need to specify the file name, block size, and number of blocks:
dd if = /dev/zero = filename bs = 1024 number = 1000
Another approach is to use a search flag with a simple multiplier of a megabyte block (1024), so the following command creates a file with a size of 100 MB (1024 x 100):
dd if = /dev/zero = LargeTestFile.img bs = 1024 number = 0 search = $
The final multiplication of CyberCit can be a bit easier if you don’t know how to evaluate large amounts of bytes.
Create a large file with Disk Utility
Although most users who want to create large blank files probably prefer the command line, you can also use Disk Utility.
- Start Disk Utility and select New Image
- Name the file if necessary, then pull down the Size sub-menu and select the appropriate file size for your needs
- Ignore all other settings and click Create
DiskUtility creates a disk image of a specified size which works great for testing. Look for the newly formatted DMG Finder and you’ll see that it takes the full size specified, in this case a 2.6GB DVD:
Unlike dd or mkfile, the disk image is writable by default, unless otherwise selected, which may be useful for this development purpose.
Whichever method you use, you’ll probably want to delete large test files afterwards, or a huge, useless test file can quickly eat up your hard drive. If you create test files in a dark folder and can’t find them anymore, don’t forget that you can perform file size searches with Spotlight in OS X Finder to quickly track down all the large items in the file on your system .
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