All about Apple’s Mac MobileBackups and How to Disable It

Starting with OS X 10.7, Apple caused your Mac to start making “Mobile Backups” of “Local Snapshots” to the MobileBackups directory (technically .MobileBackups) on your hard drive. It does this whenever your Mac is away from your Time Machine backup drive, such as your Time Capsule.

The thinking is, of course, that while you work on your laptop at the coffee shop, whatever you are creating should be backed up.

Explains Apple, “Local snapshots complement regular Time Machine backups that are stored on your external disk or Time Capsule by creating a local backup on your startup disk when your normal backup drive is not available. This provides you with a “safety net” for times when you might be away from your external backup disk or Time Capsule but accidentally delete a file. When your normal backup is available again, Time Machine copies the local snapshot contents from your startup disk to your normal backup drive.”

But you may not want your Mac to do that, especially as it consumes valuable hard drive space.

Unfortunately, no matter where you look in your Settings – Time Machine or otherwise – there is no preference setting to turn this off. Nor did Apple bother to, you know, document this, other than the information above about why they foisted this upon you, which you can also read on the Apple site.

So, here is how to turn off (disable) the automatic MobileBackups.

You will need to use the Terminal utility for this. If you have never used Terminal before, then you should stop reading now – as this isn’t the time to learn about executing commands at the command line level (it’s basically analogous to working under the hood of your car). But if you’re already comfortable with working on the command line, read on.

At your shell prompt type:

sudo tmutil disablelocal (return)

mac mobilebackups sudo

You will be prompted for your system password. Enter it and hit return, and you’re done!

No more pesky Local Snapshots or MobileBackups!

Get notified of new Internet Patrol articles!
All about Apple's Mac MobileBackups and How to Disable It
Article Name
All about Apple's Mac MobileBackups and How to Disable It
Macs now make a "Mobile Backup" of a "Local Snapshot" to the MobileBackup directory on your hard drive. Here's how to turn it off (disable it).

5 Replies to “All about Apple’s Mac MobileBackups and How to Disable It”

  1. Great article…If I want to enable it again. Do I use: sudo tmutil enablelocal

    Or is that grossly oversimplifying it?

  2. THank you so very much for this useful tip. It was annoying to see that extra volume pop up on my hard drive.

  3. Good Article.
    Okay, so let’s say I want to keep those backups.
    Re: “restoring files from local snapshots”
    How can I access them?

  4. Local snapshots don’t so much “consume” disk space as they borrow unused space. If your free disk space drops below 20%, Time Machine will start clearing out snapshots to make room, up to the point of removing all but the latest and stopping new snapshot creation if you get over 90% full with current files. So unless you’re moving big files on and off your machine actively or really using >90% of your disk on an ongoing basis, you won’t recover significant space (i.e. space you will actually use for something else) by disabling local snapshots.

    On the other side, restoring files from local snapshots is much faster than recovering from an external disk, particularly over a network. If you have a habit of deleting files too hastily, you probably want to keep the local snapshots enabled.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *