“Other Volume” and “Other Volumes in Container” in macOS High Sierra

One day, a Mac owner may notice some weird stuff called “Other Volume” and “Other Volumes in Container”. They may consume several gigabytes of the hard drive space, so it is impossible to ignore them. What are those things? Can a Mac owner get rid of them to reclaim a couple of gigabytes back?

Other Volumes in Container

Other Volume

As you have probably noticed, these things show up after the High Sierra upgrade, including the supplement update. It is just one more novelty users face after this action, which is highly recommended by Apple anyway.

Brief Definition of the Term

So, what in the world is meant under “other volume”? It is roughly the same as purgeable volume/partition. You may not find this under About This Mac à Storage as earlier. However, it is possible to view one with the help of Disk Utility in the bottom section. So, it is not a recovery partition as some users may think.

What you get after the High Sierra update is rather this combination: VM + Recovery + (Virtual Machine for MAC OS X or Logical Volume manager + EFI, etc.)

These are all parts of a standard APFS boot volume. The Virtual Machine volume ‘eats’ most of the space. The point is this one supplements the random access memory (RAM) to save stuff that looks too large for the memory storage.

What about a container? Well, in APFS, it is almost the same as a partition in other file systems. It includes numerous virtual volumes. It means they share the space of the container.

As for the High Sierra novelties, there is one more thing to consider that was not there before: each time the operating system is to be updated, a kind of snapshot of the actual OS will appear on the solid-state disk (SSD). It’s just to ensure the safety of information meaning none of it was lost if something goes wrong while upgrading to the latest version. It is like a Time Machine snapshot. In case something really fails. It can revive quickly.

Examples and Interpretation

Here is how these volumes (other) may look if you try to detect them with Terminal (just type diskutil list in its window):

detect volume

So, what do these tables and codes mean? It means that a particular Mac owner has a couple of physical disks, 0 and 2. They are also known as an internal and external respectively. The internal one is APFS with a single container that keeps the startup volume. It is related to “Other Volumes”.

The external one is CoreStorage, and this drive is encrypted. The logical volume (the used storage) is located at /dev/disk3. Because it may be mounted for usage, it is unlocked in our example.

  • Disk# stands for the physical or synthesized disks like virtual one;
  • Disk#s# refer to the partitions/containers or volumes as well as any disk section identified by the partition scheme;
  • The name of the synthesized disk shows in which section of which disk it is located (e.g., in the example above, disk1 is a synthesized disk that is located in subpart 2 of physical disk0).

The only thing left is to respond to another question: is there a way to delete “Other Volume”?

Deleting the Target Volumes

Try to get rid of the volumes discussed above the same way users remove an APFS partition:

  1. Click on Spotlight.
  2. Type and launch Disk Utility once it shows up.
  3. Discover the target partition/volume to erase.
  4. Right-click the APFS volume to select “Delete APFS volume”.
  5. Pick the Delete function when prompted “Delete APFS volume?”
  6. Wait ‘til the process of removal is over.

Keep in mind that a new concept, container, stands for the APFS volume. It explains a lot. It is the primary storage unit for APFS. It includes a single or more volumes. It is possible to divide a physical drive into few containers. Mind that you cannot eliminate an APFS container, unlike an APFS partition/volume.