There’s nothing I like better on a holiday Monday morning than to document another in the never-ending stream of Arq Backup bugs. This app, by far, dominates the computer problems I see on any platform.

The Arq Bug Of the Day™ is its auto-update feature. Now, this is something I’ve had problems with since day one, but I haven’t bothered mentioning until now. Why now? Because today I found out that this is one of those special Arq bugs where the feature doesn’t work when you want it to, and works when you don’t want it to.

This is a continuation of my previous posting, which in turn was a continuation of another posting. That’s right, Arq has so many severe bugs that to document them all in one posting would result in a novel.

Since I started using Arq 5.0 in early 2016, I’ve enabled Arq’s auto-update feature on the four computers I use. Two computers never automatically updated, and two others were intermittent. I don’t mind controlling when backups are done so I haven’t made a big deal about it until today.

In the 2018-02-18 update to the previous post about Arq hanging for 11 hours at midnight, I mentioned that I would be rolling back my main computer to version 5.10, and I did by running the 5.10 installer and verifing it was installed. I also made sure that Arq’s auto-update preference was unchecked on both accounts. Both?

Yes, I run two accounts on one computer. An admin account where a few servers run like FileMaker Pro, Plex, iTunes, and various home grown tools. My other account is my main account where I spend the vast majority of my time. It too has administrator privileges. Because I have two accounts, I have to have two instances of Arq running because Arq, in spite of having admin privileges, can’t back up everything on the computer. This is a royal PITA.

I ask myself, if the awful CrashPlan can figure out how to have a single instance back up the whole computer, and automatically update itself, then why is Arq so deficient? Don’t get me wrong. I still prefer Arq to CrashPlan—barely—it’s just that running two instances adds a layer of complexity I don’t need. Combined with Arq’s inability to easily backup the same content to different destinations, Arq requires a lot more set-up and hand-holding.

Anyway, I quit the Arq Agent on both accounts, ran the 5.10 installer, opened Arq on both accounts to check if it was the correct version—it was—made sure the auto-update was turned off on both accounts, and closed the Arq app.

But, I made a fatal mistake. I didn’t force a backup to see if it would run.

When I checked the logs this morning, to my dismay I saw that Arq hung at midnight again. I immediately thought, oh no! I’ve blamed Arq when it may be a macOS High Sierra bug. After all, Arq is now running version 5.10 which didn’t exhibit this bug.

But then I looked at the version number in the logs. It was 5.11.2. That’s right, after two years of Arq’s auto-update not working on this computer, I turned off the option and—it updates itself. In fact, it updated itself before the next backup. Diabolical. It’s almost as if the checkbox in the preferences does the opposite of what it’s set to. Is it possible I misread the text of the checkbox?

Nope. It’s pretty clear that unchecking this box should prevent Arq from auto-updating. Oh, that last checkbox where it says not to include file lists? Yeah, another bug. Arq will include file and block lists for validations. Sometimes tens of thousands of lines. Totally useless lines.

So now I have to take additional steps to prevent Arq 5.10 from updating itself to the nasty 5.11.2, in spite of me instructing it not to. Fortunately, I run Little Snitch that can block outgoing connections. So I’ve now denied outgoing connections from Arq’s arq_updater process. I hope that’s sufficient. I checked and found that I can still ask the Arq app to check for updates, and it does this check whether I like it or not, although I could block that outgoing connection too, if I wanted. Arq’s update check is customer hostile, like Apple’s updater. There’s no option to “Skip This Version” and never be reminded about it again. There’s only “Remind Me Later” and “Install Update” options because, hey, who wouldn’t want the latest and greatest Arq version?

OK, I ran the Arq 5.10 installer and bizarre things started happening that didn’t happen last time I rolled back. Like this nasty warning from Little Snitch.

The application is running in App Translocation, a macOS security mechanism for apps that are not properly installed.

Although Arq’s installer seemed to run properly, something went wrong. Yet another Arq bug?

I launched Arq, it nagged me to update, so I guess the app can still check for updates even though the arq_updater process is blocked.

This time I forced a backup to ensure that version 5.10 was running. I checked the logs; it was. So now I just need to wait until tomorrow morning to see if the bug went away. But that dialog above was bothering me.

I checked my other login account, fired up Arq, and it reported it was at 5.11.2. So yeah, something didn’t take.

I logged back into my main account and tried to launch Arq to see if it was still reporting version 5.10, like it did immediately after rollback. But this is what I saw:

I couldn’t open Arq again. I checked the /Application folder and, sure enough, it said that version 5.11.2 was installed. Now I’m starting to wonder if installing Arq 5.10 yesterday didn’t really replace all components of 5.11.2. Geez, it’s like a virus.

Fine. I guess the safest thing to do is to make sure my settings are backed up to another folder and/or Time Machine, and uninstall Arq first. Then I’ll check to make sure all its debris has been removed.

Like most macOS apps since the first Macintosh in 1984, Arq does not come with an uninstaller. The laziness and hubris of the majority of developers who think people will never want to uninstall their apps is amazing. This is one area where Windows is far superior to the Mac. I really appreciate Mac devs who put in the extra effort to create an uninstaller thereby putting the customer first.

I couldn’t find uninstall instructions in Arq’s Help. Oh, it’s there, but instead of being labelled “Uninstall” it’s in the “Starting Over with Arq Configuration“.

Except … I don’t really want to follow those directions verbatim. It says to delete ~/Library/Arq. DON’T DO THAT! If I did that, I’d lose all my configuration. That’s fine if I really want to nuke Arq, but I just want to rollback. And get this, Arq doesn’t even back up its own settings, even though you have that folder selected in an Arq backup. This is not a bug, just another bizarre design decision. I daily sync that folder to another folder so that I don’t lose any configuration if I need to restore from a wiped computer.

Here’s the reinstall procedure I used:

  1. Drag /Applications/Arq and Arq Help to the trash.
  2. Empty the trash.
  3. Searched for any file name containing “arq” or “haystack” including invisible and system files. I couldn’t find any relevant ones.
  4. I did not delete my ~/Library/Arq folders as there’s nothing in there that should affect installation of the app or agent.
  5. Removed the now missing Arq Agent from the Users & Groups system preference Login Items.
  6. Ran the 5.10 installer.
  7. The Arq app auto-launched.
  8. Verified in the app’s About dialog that it was version 5.10.
  9. Verified in the /Applications folder that the app was version 5.10.
  10. Noticed that Arq Agent was not added to the Login Items.
  11. Checked the app’s preferences and found the checkbox for “Start Arq Agent at login” was turned off, so I turned it on and verified the Login Items now included the Arq Agent.
  12. Noticed that the “Automatically update Arq” preference had been rechecked so I unchecked it again.
  13. Wondered why those two preferences were changed when no other configuration information was. 🤔
  14. Verified that Little Snitch’s rules to block arq_updater were still intact.
  15. Logged into the other account and launched Arq to ensure it was also 5.10 and to start the agent.
  16. Noticed that its start at login and auto-update preferences had not changed and were correct. I’m assuming those are global preferences and setting them in one login account sets them for all accounts.
  17. Noticed that Arq nagged me to update to 5.11.2. I ignored it.

So, is that set of procedures going to stick, or will Arq magically update itself again. I guess I’ll have to continue to supervise this thing closely, something I’m very, very used to doing.

I’ll just have to wait until tomorrow morning to see if Arq will turn into a vampire again at midnight and continue sucking out my will to live.

No, I won’t be up anyway watching the Winter Olympics. Are you crazy? I have a DVR and stream overnight events the next day … using technology that works.

Author: Tom

Destroyer of software. If I haven't tested it, it hasn't been tested.

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