What Is “backupd” and Why Is It Running on My Mac?

You notice a process named “backupd” while using Activity Monitor. What is this process, and why is it running on your Mac?

This article is part of our ongoing series explaining various processes found in Activity Monitor, like kernel_task, hidd, mdsworker, installd, WindowServer, blued, launchd, and many others. Don’t know what those services are? Better start reading!

Daemons are processes that run in the background in macOS. The process backupd is the daemon that powers Time Machine—the best way to back up your Mac. The backupd daemon backs up your files every hour, meaning that when your Time Machine backup is running, you’ll notice backupd using up some CPU and memory. You may also noticed a related process in Activity Monitor named backupd-helper. This process helps connect your backup drive in time for your backups to run—particularly if the backup location is on the network.

How to Tell If Time Machine Is Running

If you see backupd taking up resources, Time Machine is probably doing something. You can confirm this by heading to System Preferences > Time Machine, where you can watch the progress of any current backups.

If a backup is running, that’s why backupd is using resources. If you want a faster way to monitor things, you can enable the menu bar icon by checking the box at the bottom of the “Time Machine” window. You can then check what Time Machine is up to by clicking its icon on your menu bar.

In general, backupd shouldn’t slow down your system. By default, Time Machine is configured to throttle its resource usage so as not to interrupt what you’re doing.

If You Ran a Command To Speed Up Time Machine

If backupd is really using up a lot of processing power (to the point where it’s slowing things down), there’s a chance you had a hand at that. For years there have been articles explaining how to speed up Time Machine by running a particular command that removes throttling. This is possibly a good idea the first time you run Time Machine, because it can seriously speed up that initial backup, but it’s not a good idea to leave this on long term.

The command that speeds up your backups is as follows:

sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=0

To undo this, run the following command:

sudo sysctl debug.lowpri_throttle_enabled=1

This will re-enable the throttling, preventing Time Machine from slowing down your system.

Photo Credit: Andrew Neel

Justin Pot is a staff writer for How-To Geek, and a technology enthusiast who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.