Turn Off Auto-Save in OS X Mountain Lion

Turn Off Auto Save in Mac OS X

If you don’t like the Auto-Save feature of OS X, you’ll be pleased to discover that turning it off system-wide on a Mac is just a matter of checking a settings box within OS X Mountain Lion and OS X Mavericks. This will disable the automatic saving behavior for all files across all documents on a Mac.

Just to clarify, auto-save tracks changes made to documents and saves them to the file automatically, thereby preventing manual saving from the File menu. This can be a major perk to many Mac users, but others find it frustrating because it may be overwriting a file or document that is in progress or being edited before changes are ready to write to the file.

Simply turning off the auto-save function will prevent those file overwrites from happening, but it then requires users to manually save documents themselves, similar to how older versions of Mac OS X behaved. This setting is really a matter of personal preference, though many users are accustomed to it and would not want to disable it.

Disabling Auto-Save Completely in Mac OS X

  1. Open “System Preferences” from the  Apple menu and click the “General” pane
  2. Check the box next to “Ask to keep changes when closing documents”
  3. Close out of System Preferences

The change takes effect immediately, though you may want to reboot the Mac or log out and back in if you notice some apps are still doing

With automatic saving turned off, you will be asked to save files manually each time you attempt to close a file or document that has been modified, just like past versions of Mac OS X. This means you will be prompted for file changes when an app or document is being closed, as demonstrated in this screen shot:

Ask to Save Files instead of Using Auto-Save in OS X

The System Preference based approach to toggle the setting is much easier to use than disabling the feature in Lion through defaults writes commands and the Terminal, and with the newer approach, turning this off does not disable Versions too (Versions allows you to track changes made to files and revert back to prior versions).

It’s important to remember how turning this off changes the behavior of OS X from the default automatic saving, to the user needing to save documents manually again. If you’re already accustomed to the automatic saving on file change behavior, it’s probably best to leave enabled. Then, if you find a file has been overwritten unintentionally, use Versions or Time Machine to roll back to a prior version of that file.


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