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Can I backup only specific folders with Time Machine?

If there is not an "official" way to do this, does somebody know a trick to do so?

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The answer depends on whether excluding folders will work. It won't if you want to backup a subfolder of an otherwise excluded folder. This is in some sense 2 different questions depending on this. –  tog22 May 9 '14 at 19:19

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You may exclude items from a Time Machine backup as follows:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click Time Machine.
  3. After having enabled Time Machine and chosen a backup disk, click Options.
  4. Click + to specify an item that is not to be backed up. The backup disk is included on this list automatically so that it does not back up itself.
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What happen when I create new folders and new content ? I guess it depends if the new folders have as parent a backed up folder or not... could you confirm this ? –  Patrick Oct 14 '10 at 6:17
(Second question) I actually need to backup only few folders... is it going to be horrible job to exclude my entire hard disk beside few folders ? –  Patrick Oct 14 '10 at 6:18
Your assumption about whether new folders and content will be backed up is correct. Concerning listing the folders you want to exclude, you only have to create the entire list once. If you only need to backup a few folders, you should be able to exclude most folders at the top of their hierarchy, so it shouldn't be too bad. –  sentinel Oct 14 '10 at 13:26
+1 This is the right way to do it (although it kind of defeats the purpose of t.m. in the first place); but exclude all you don’t want, make sure what you want is not excluded. Whatever is added outside your exclusion zone, will get backed up in the next iteration, always. In any case, check CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper! for arguably better alternatives to that problem. –  Martín Marconcini Oct 19 '10 at 8:25

In my case I have items on an external drive that I want to have backed-up. What I do is create a partition on that drive and then remove that partition from the exclusion list.

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Please place this as a comment. –  killswitch Jul 20 '14 at 15:09

Easily - no. Time Machine's selection only uses exclusion so you'd have to exclude everything but the folders you want. I'd recommend looking at a different solution instead (eg. rsync, Retrospect, or other backup software)

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I'm not sure if time machine follows symbolic links, but if so, you could have a high level directory full of links to the directories you want backed-up, then exclude all the top level directories except that one....slightly roundabout, but not too work intensive (if time machine backs up the content of symbolic links, which I slightly doubt, but should be checked....)

I checked. It does not work. Other ideas?

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Somebody should try this and report here what is his/her conclusion, because it will be a nice trick ! –  Rabskatran Oct 14 '10 at 8:45
Doesn't work... –  Yossi Farjoun Oct 18 '10 at 21:44

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