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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Control bandwidth-sucking apps with TripMode

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

One of my favorite Mac software discoveries in the last few years is TripMode, a $8 utility that I appreciate more every time I’m somewhere with a MacBook and no Wi-Fi, when I’m forced to tether to my iPhone in order to get on the Internet.


iOS was built from the beginning as an operating system that was aware that it could be operating in one of two different networking environments: wi-fi or cellular. Wi-fi is usually fast and often unmetered; cellular data is comparatively slow and often strictly metered. As a result, iOS apps can behave differently based on what kind of network they’re connecting to, or offer users the option to avoid pricey data transfers when on cellular networks.

The Mac, on the other hand, has no such design. When your Mac is on the Internet, it will attempt to do everything it usually does, no matter if you’re on a super-fast home network, a slow hotel network, or tethered to your iPhone. I can’t tell you how many times I wondered why my hotel internet was impossibly slow, only to realize that my Mac was trying to run an online backup and sync thousands of Dropbox files over that same poky connection.

This is where TripMode comes in. TripMode lives in the menu bar and gives me incredible control over which apps have access to my network connection. When I’m traveling, I can turn off the spigot for apps that use too much data, and only prioritize the apps that I absolutely need.

The interface couldn’t be simpler. When you click on the TripMode menu bar item, you’re given a simple on/off slider. Turn it on, and the network filtering begins. All the apps that are currently using your network appear in a list, with a checkbox next to them. When you uncheck the box, that app loses its access to the Internet. To the right you can see how much data each app has used in the current session, this day, or this month—a useful tool in ferreting out the apps that are really hungry for bandwidth.

TripMode tries to make things easy, too—it recognizes when you connect to a network where it’s been activated in the past, and automatically activates itself. So if I flip open my MacBook when I’m in the car, my online backup is prevented from destroying my data cap even if I forget to manually engage TripMode.

I also use TripMode on the iMac I use every day in my office. I’m not hopping from network to network at home, but I have been known to occasionally record a podcast or two. My TripMode settings at home are designed to turn off network access for all non-essential apps when I’m recording a podcast, to maximize the network bandwidth available for my Skype audio.

If you find yourself constantly pausing or quitting bandwidth-hogging apps when you’re traveling, TripMode is well worth the $8. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

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