Turning Off Versions in Mac OS X Lion

New to Mac OS X Lion is “Versions”, it is an automatic backup utility much like Time Machine that saves several copies of files as you’re working on them. Apple introduced this utility so that users could always revert back to previous versions of a file if they chose.

A few people have wondered if there was a way to turn this feature off. As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, there is not. Versions is a built-in feature that comes standard with Apple’s word-processing software such as Text Edit, Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

As of now, there is no way to fully eliminate Versions or turn off the feature. However, if you are extremely bothered by Versions, you may wish to switch to a non-Apple version of word processing software. Microsoft Office and its applications do not use Versions.

One workaround that I can offer, albeit it is quite a pain, is to save your document under a different name when you go to save it, and then deleting the other version. As I said, I know it’s not a perfect solution, but at this time it is the only real workaround that I can suggest, save for switching to another word processing application.

The best advice that I can offer at this time is to call or email Apple support and make your voice and concerns heard. Believe it or not, Apple’s support team DOES listen to your suggestions and ideas (both positive and negative) and incorporate them into future software updates and operating systems.

Now, if you’re working with large files and your main concern has to do with the hard drive space being taken up by Versions, there is a way to delete the Versions history. Warning: It is painstaking process, and will be something you will need to do every time you want to delete the Versions history. You have been forewarned, so here it is:

1. The first thing we will want to do is show all files. To do this, we need to open a Terminal window and type the following:
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles YES
Press ‘Return’, then type
killall Finder

2. Now, we will need to logon to the Root User account. To do this, we will go to System Preferences, followed by Users & Groups. Click “Login Options”, followed by clicking “Network Account Server: Join”.

Once you’ve done that, you will see a button that says: “Open Directory Utility”. You’ll need to unlock the lock from the bottom left, and then enter your password.

Go to “Edit” from the top menu bar, and click “Enable Root User”. You will now be prompted to enter a password for the Root User account. Choose something you know you will remember. We will now log out of your account, and login to the Root User account we just enabled.

3. From your MacIntosh HD’s root directory in Finder, you will want to find the folder called “DocumentRevisions-V100”. You probably cannot open it right now, so we’ll have to change the permissions of the file. Right-click on the folder and select “Get Info”. At the very bottom of the menu that appears, you will see another lock to unlock. Click it, and enter the ROOT password. Change the permissions of the folder to “read & write” and choose “Apply to enclosed items”. If you’re prompted to confirm, click OK.

You can now clear out that folder and regain your hard drive space. As mentioned before, you would need to perform these steps every time that you want to remove your Versions history. So, with all this in mind, it might just be best to grin and bear Versions for now, at least until Apple releases an option to disable it.

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  • Thanks, I would like to think there is an answer on this somewhere in the terminal. I truly hope. Another option is store the files on a remote drive (server) and viola, versions doesn’t work. Autosave, not sure. I need to kill auto save too.

    This is a feature that is great for a new user making small files on their local machine but for hard core graphics users it is a world of complication.

    This article says complete copies of files are stored in the hidden directory.
    So if I am working on a 1.2 gig Keynote presentation think of the bloat and autosave lag that is going to give your pooter ever 10 minutes.

    Versions stored within the file is nightmarish when the client is on the phone requiring the 400 page presentation we did last year to be recalled right now and you know some versions had sensitive confidential info in them and others didn’t.

    Somebody get me off this thing!!!! Shaun, what would happen if the hidden directory was deleted?