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APFS local snapshots are generally a pain for me, especially on some of my systems with small internal drives. All of my systems have Time Machine backups and the hourly backups it performs are more than sufficient for my needs.

Is there any way to disable just local snapshots and keep Time Machine backups running?

  • Given snapshots appear as available storage and they are only created when there is "plenty" of free space, how are they causing problems? I ask because I have not encountered problems so far and would appreciate knowing what to look for. – Graham Miln Jul 16 at 15:45
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    @GrahamMiln I've found that Apple's claims that local snapshots are not counted against free space and are freed automatically are often overconfident or just untrue. I've had several times where my MacBook Air (with an admittedly small 120 GB internal drive) ran out of space due to tens of gigabytes being taken up by local snapshots that I had to remove manually. And most recently, I was prevented from resizing the APFS container of my local drive due to local snapshots. I had to delete all of them and disable Time Machine in order to do it. – GuyGizmo Jul 16 at 16:06
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    I also don't like that Apple doesn't provide any sort of GUI for viewing or managing local snapshots, which makes it unclear to the user what's going on. That caused a lot of initial confusion for me because I had no idea why my drives showed so little free space and macOS didn't give me any indication that it was being taken up by local snapshots. And it's caused plenty more confusion for other users who aren't as comfortable using a command line, which is what's required to deal with them. – GuyGizmo Jul 16 at 16:09
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    Thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to comment. They are very helpful. – Graham Miln Jul 16 at 16:56
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    A drawback of snapshots: When I do "First Aid" in Disk Utility, the snapshots take a long time to check. Could be hours if there are lots of them. – GEdgar Jul 17 at 14:47
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With macOS 10.14, it appears not to be possible to disable local snapshots.

You can remove local snapshots using a method documented in Apple's About Time Machine local snapshots support document:

How local snapshots use storage space

You don't need to think about how much storage space local snapshots are using, because they don't use space needed for tasks like downloading files, copying files, or installing new software.

Your Mac counts the space used by snapshots as available storage. Even so, Time Machine stores snapshots only on disks that have plenty of free space, and it automatically deletes snapshots as they age or as space is needed for other things.

If you want to delete local snapshots manually, turn off Time Machine temporarily:

  1. Open Time Machine preferences from the Time Machine menu in the menu bar. Or choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, then click Time Machine.
  2. Deselect "Back Up Automatically" or click the Off/On switch, depending on what you see in Time Machine preferences.
  3. Wait a few minutes to allow the local snapshots to be deleted. Then turn on Time Machine again. It remembers your backup disks.

See also the Apple forum discussion Disable local snapshots in High Sierra with APFS.

  • +1 for this. Removing local snapshots achieves nothing. Their existence should be invisible to the user, and not constitute 'a pain'. – benwiggy Jul 16 at 14:38
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    @benwiggy In practice I've found that local snapshots are not invisible. I've had plenty of occasions where they were taking up so much free space that I wasn't able to copy over large files or install large applications (such as Xcode). In those cases I needed to delete them manually. I suppose if you're only doing basic things like browsing the web or checking emails you don't have to worry about them, but as soon as you need to manage space carefully they become quite annoying. – GuyGizmo Jul 16 at 16:11
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    It's too bad there's no way to disable them. I hope Apple provides some more features -- and even more importantly, a GUI -- for managing local snapshots in the future. – GuyGizmo Jul 16 at 16:12
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This is part of Time Machine, not APFS. Using Time Machine is going to create a local snapshot for 24 hours and on other occasions.

See: About Time Machine local snapshots for more information from Apple.

Short of using another backup program that does not take local snapshots everything else is sort of a hack.

If you really want to do it...

  • Open Terminal.
  • Enter the following command:

    sudo tmutil disablelocal 
    
  • Press Enter.

See: How to use Time Machine local snapshots to recover data on your Mac in 2019

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    disablelocal was removed from tmutil in macOS 10.13. – GuyGizmo Jul 17 at 4:38
  • Particularly if they removed it from the CLI then, like I said, it's not going to be possible without some messy hack. Like discussions.apple.com/thread/8612572 says you can cron a code snippet to delete the local snapshots. – Thomas Nelson Jul 18 at 5:20

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