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I am on a rather low monthly limit with my mobile phone plan. When travelling, I usually write mails and browse the web on my Macbook Air via iPhone Personal Hotspot.

However, I do know several system services send and receive data "in the background" when a network connection is available — but I don’t want my Mac to download hundreds of MB of system updates or similar through my costly mobile data plan.

Is there a way to temporarily limit data throughput to a set of applications, let’s say and CLI solutions preferred, but any help is greatly appreciated!

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Would you mind rolling back the "answer" edits and either making your own answer or editing the existing answer? We're fine with people answering their questions - but want to keep the answers in the answer and the question in a state where others looking for answers can just see the question... – bmike Aug 16 '12 at 14:25
@bmike sure! I didn’t feel comfortable with editing the accepted answer, so I wrote an answer to my own question – myhd Aug 16 '12 at 15:03
It's my answer and you certainly can edit it - thank you so much for cleaning the information to match the site expectations. – bmike Aug 16 '12 at 15:08
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You'll want a tool that lets you script the changes so you can roll them in and out or perhaps get fancy and script it based on the detected network connection interface.

I would start by evaluating Little Snitch to see if it fits your needs or at least can give you a leg up on the processes that are connecting in case you care to just control them. I wouldn't be surprised if Little Snitch were controllable from the command line - but haven't used it lately to know for sure.

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I use Little Snitch every day and have always disliked that it had no profiles, but only one set of rules. Looks like this has changed with upcoming Version 3. Will give it a shot. – myhd Aug 14 '12 at 16:42
Indeed that changes coming from look great. You could always use something like rooSwitch to manage settings - but now you're so far from a simple CLI solution that things get really clunky and painful... – bmike Aug 14 '12 at 16:46
Did not know about rooSwitch, but looks a bit clunky indeed. – myhd Aug 14 '12 at 17:17

I settled for Little Snitch:

Little Snitch Screenshot

I created a "deny any connection" for any processes and added back the applications I want to be able to use the network.

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