I found my .MobileBackups folder quite large, it weighs 160 GiB. Shouldn't the .MobileBackups folder be wiped after the Time Machine 'backup session'?

Since I have backup done on my external drive how can I get back my 160GiB of HDD space? Can I simply remove this folder or maybe set some limit of mobile backups?

  • New in OSX 10.10.1 (for me at least ...). When, in Time Machine preferences, you turn Time Machine OFF and later turn it ON again, local backups come back like a recurring nightmare. Must disable local again.
    – YvesLeBorg
    Nov 22, 2014 at 13:03

3 Answers 3


To disable local backups issue this command in terminal:

sudo tmutil disablelocal

This almost never is necessary as the system will automatically prune and disable local backups as your drive fills. You can search for backupd using the console app to see if and when the storage cleanup happens due to low space.

There is a lot of confusion as to the purpose of local snapshots. It's not to take snapshots that then get dumped to your actual Time Machine drive when you run a backup, it's a separate set of snapshots that let you restore files you've accidentally changed or deleted, when you're away from your Time Machine drive. It's not a true backup -- it won't help you if your laptop's drive fails -- but it will help out if you're on the go and you accidentally lose something while on the go. As such, they don't get cleared out after TM backups.

On my computer (a Macbook Air with flash memory), it deletes old mobile snapshots after a week. The behavior may be different on devices with hard drives, as they don't experience longevity issues with full disks. According to Apple's documentation, they aren't deleted after a week. Note that the available space shown in Finder does not take into account the local snapshots, because they will automatically be deleted if you need the space, and it will automatically keep at least 20% of your disk space free -- so you generally shouldn't worry about space taken up by local snapshots. However, if you don't want them around, you can disable them with the command sudo tmutil disablelocal. This will free up the space taken by your local snapshots, and if you reenable it with sudo tmutil enablelocal, it'll start again with an empty set of local snapshots. So, a quick way of clearing out what's on there is to disable and re-enable local snapshots.

You can see how many old backups are being stored by activating Time Machine. White tick marks indicate local snapshots, and purple ones indicate real backups.

There's more information from apple and here.

  • After temporarily disabling the feature (in order to clear the space one time), do we have to reboot? wait some time? It's not clearing up for me
    – huyz
    Aug 20, 2014 at 21:51
  • 1
    Answering my own question, it can take a day or so apparently. Pondini, Time Machine guru, says: "Normally if you either run sudo tmutil disablelocal or turn Time Machine OFF, they will be deleted. If your disk is over 90% full, it's done at a high priority, otherwise at a lower one, so it can take a while. However, on rare occasions, there's something corrupted preventing them from being deleted. You may have to Restart, look in the trash for recovered items and force-delete them."
    – huyz
    Aug 20, 2014 at 21:56
  • This didn't delete /Volumes/MobileBackups, just moved it somewhere. Where did it go and how do I get rid of the data immediately? Nov 8, 2017 at 3:19

I'll add to this, since I had the issue of migrating data from a 1TB HDD to a 0.5TB SSD via Time Machine Restore. I had slimmed down the total data on the disk from ~730GB to ~350GB, but still was seeing that the Time Machine Backup was at the ~730GB size, due to the Mobile Backups.

Turning Time Machine off will delete Mobile Backups, but that isn't done immediately (and can be confirmed in Disk Utility)—they are simply moved to the Trash to be deleted later (although you won't see them). Some would suggest the drastic measure of using this Terminal command:

$ sudo rm -rf /.MobileBackups.trash

I would only recommend this as a last-ditch effort.

Since my data was backed up, I could try it, but was presented with permissions errors, presumably by the system as a type of safeguard. So, I stopped the process, and just did multiple system restarts.

This did the trick, and the space was freed up, allowing me to create a smaller Time Machine backup to restore to the smaller drive.

  • You need to be more specific with you terminal command. DO NOT use a relative path, because people are going to copy and paste that command which could be bad news. Use this command sudo rm -r /Volumes/MobileBackups Nov 8, 2017 at 3:16

This is a virtual folder. And displayed size is not actual, there is only changed files copied, but displayed total size of all data. Removing MobileBackups will not make 160 gb more free space.

To remove MobileBackups just make another Backup to external drive, it will move all data. You will get free space and more detailed backup on external drive.

  • It will make more free space in terms of what tools like du report. I just ran sudo tmutil disable local ; sudo tmutil enable local (thanks, @cablesm) and as a result, du reports another 38 GB free, which I need at the moment. Aug 9, 2014 at 20:58
  • Under El Capitan, the Finder definitely does report space used by .Mobilebackups. Doing a sudo rm -fr .MobileBackups instantly frees up many gigabytes of space.
    – odysseus
    Nov 9, 2015 at 12:32

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