Q&A: Ghost in the Time Machine

Q Although I have disabled Time Machine, my Mac still runs periodic Time Machine backups. Yet in its pane, it is shown as being off. Is there a ghost in the machine?

A This is not ghostly, but probably because something else is controlling Time Machine’s backup service, rather than its front end.

The two biggest suspects are Time Machine Editor or Time Machine Scheduler, which you might at some stage have installed to experiment with. Third-party tools such as these may choose to operate the backup process independently of the standard mechanism.

Time Machine Scheduler has its own removal script: download a fresh copy and try running that. If it plays hard to get, you may need to check and edit property list settings for launchd, using Lingon X 2. Look for modifications of System and other Daemons whose name begins with com.apple.backupd, as those are involved in Time Machine backups. Lingon remains the best way of viewing and editing the property lists that control periodic events and most of OS X’s major services, including Time Machine.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 26 issue 18, 2010.