Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a problem with my MacBookPro, the left click button on (any) mouse and the trackpad doesnt respond to any clicks, so the only thing that works properly is the keybaord.

I havent been able to solve the issue so I am taking my labtop to an Apple store on Friday, but I fear they may need to send it away and may wipe the disk so Id really like a backup of the machine.

But although I have backups of my most immportant docs I have never used Time Machine and dont have a backup of the whole thing. So Id really like to do a backup but I cannot seem to configure anything in the Time Machine preferences with only the keyboard, is there a commandline equivalent that I can use ?

share|improve this question
up vote 1 down vote accepted

As of OS 10.7, you can control Time Machine from the command line. The command line tool is called (and is called with) tmutil. Open up the Terminal, which is located in your /Applications/Utilities folder. It will be easy to get there if, From the Finder, you type Shift+Command+G, which brings up a sheet where you can type the destination path to the Terminal (copy and paste this): /Applications/Utilities.

After the Terminal opens, and at the prompt, type man tmutil, which will get you the manual page for tmutil outlining all the commands and options available. It's quite extensive, and more than can be covered in a single answer, but examples might be:

Turn on Time Machine backups:
tmutil enable

Set the destination to be used as backup:
tmutil setdestination... (this has options that can be added to specify destination information and type)

Start a full backup to a drive:
tmutil startbackup -d /Volumes/Name_Of_Your_Backup_Disk

You must carefully read this manual all the way through and understand the terminology before beginning. The manual is also available online at Apple's manpages reference area. You can read it here, and there is a good primer on Simon Heimlicher's site with much better examples than what I've given above.

As with all command line tools, USE CAUTION. You will have to run most of these as root as well, which means that you're granting yourself power to do lots of potentially nasty things to your computer. In the case of tmutil, though you're unlikely to do much damage as you have to correctly specify a destination before it'll actually do anything. Probably the greatest hazard would be if you'd already set a destination you could accidentally erase it; since you have no destination, though, that's not going to happen.

Good luck getting your backup going and with getting your machine fixed!

share|improve this answer
Thanks for this comprehensive answer, however Ive now found an easier way round by Gui problems by toggling to Mouse Keys (by pressing OPtion key 5 times) I can simulate a mouse click with Cntl-I so I'll probably configure TimeMachine with Gui after all. – Paul Taylor Nov 15 '12 at 9:20
Cool. Hope you get it squared away soon. – soxman Nov 15 '12 at 13:20

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.