Disk Utility in Mac OS X El Capitan has had an overhaul, visually at least. If you were a regular user of the app in previous versions of OS X, you're in for a surprise.

The most obvious difference in Disk Utility in El Capitan is that it has been simplified. Its interface is cleaner and less intimidating, which can only be a good thing. Not such a good thing are the features that have gone missing, or at least appear to have gone missing along the way.

Disk Utility offers a colour-coded indicator of how much space has been used by different types of files.

Let's start with the positive. When you click the current boot volume in Disk Utility, you'll see a view of it just like the one in the Storage section of About This Mac - that is, a colour-coded indicator of how much space has been used by different types of files. Blue for applications, pink for photos, amber for audio, and so on. For other volumes, there's no colour coding, but a yellow bar indicates how much free space is left on the disk. Below that indicator is a table of information on the volume.

Also useful is that Disk Utility's left hand sidebar is split between internal and external volumes. And the change from a mix of buttons and tabs to a single row of buttons along the top, where the First Aid, Erase, and Partition tabs join Unmount and Info simplifies the interface.

First Aid in Disk Utility

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted the lack of a Verify button. Disk Utility can no longer verify a disk – that is, make sure it’s in good health without unmounting it. Click on the First Aid button and Disk Utility will perform a full repair on the disk, but only if it can unmount it. If it can’t, you’ll get an error message.

There's one other significant feature missing from El Capitan Disk Utility: repairing permissions. Significant because repairing permissions - the settings that control which users can perform read and write actions on a file - was the go-to first step for problem solving in OS X. It’s gone because the new System Integrity Protection (SIP) in El Capitan prevents permissions on files being modified which, according to Apple at least, means there should be no need to repair permissions.

The ability to burn CDs and DVDs from Disk Utility has also gone but given that no Mac now ships with an optical drive and that it was a poor option for burning disks anyway, it's no great loss. The same could be said of the removal of the RAID feature - something which can be done better using third-party tools.

You can still partition a disk in Disk Utility, but instead of displaying partitions as a rectangle with the partitions stacked one on top of the other, they are displayed as a pie chart. Like before, you drag a handle, this time round a circle, to modify the size of a partition.

Opening a Disk Image in Disk Utility

Disk images are still managed in Disk Utility, though you can no longer drag an image onto Disk Utility from the Finder, you must add it from the File menu. And instead of copying an image to another disk, you Restore it to the disk - the same thing with different terminology.

Prettier to look at and less intimidating than its predecessors, Disk Utility has retained most of its features. Some of those it has lost can be found in other parts of the OS, some have been rendered obsolete (at least in Apple's eyes) and others need third-party tools.

On the next page: More Disk Utility tips, including tips for earlier versions of Mac OS X >>