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I have two laptops that back up via Time Machine to a Time Capsule. The shared volume on the Time Capsule contains two .sparsebundle files.

Can I copy those .sparsebundle files to an external hard disk and expect them to work as Time Machine backup resources again?

I usually send my Time Machine hard disks to a remote location every few months. With the Time Capsule I don't want to do that. That's whyt I want to copy the data and need to know whether I can still restore from it if I do.

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Can I copy those .sparsebundle files to an external hard disk and expect them to work as Time Machine backup resources again?

Almost certainly yes.

Modes and ownership

Ideally, use chmod(1) and chown(8) to have the mode and ownership, of the copy of the disk image, consistent with how Mountain Lion normally creates a local disk image for Time Machine.


GPES3E-gjp4-1:~ gjp22$ sudo ls -al /Volumes/tall/com.apple.backupd/GPES3E-gjp4-1.sparsebundle/
total 16672
drwx------@ 3 root   staff     10  7 Jun 19:07 .
drwxr-xr-x  8 gjp22  staff     10  6 Jun 18:57 ..
-rw-r--r--  1 root   staff    500  7 Jun 18:03 Info.bckup
-rw-r--r--  1 root   staff    500  7 Jun 18:03 Info.plist
drwx------  2 root   staff  78855  7 Jun 19:07 bands
-rw-r--r--  1 root   staff    444  7 Jun 18:02 com.apple.TimeMachine.MachineID.bckup
-rw-r--r--  1 root   staff    444  7 Jun 18:02 com.apple.TimeMachine.MachineID.plist
-rw-r--r--  1 root   staff   1473  6 Jun 21:28 com.apple.TimeMachine.Results.plist
-rw-r--r--  1 root   staff  10698  6 Jun 22:24 com.apple.TimeMachine.SnapshotHistory.plist
-rwx------  1 root   staff      0 19 Mar 19:36 token

– and for each band, you should have:

-rw-------  1 root  staff 

Attaching the copy of the disk image

With Terminal, for the example above:

sudo hdiutil attach -readonly /Volumes/tall/com.apple.backupd/GPES3E-gjp4-1.sparsebundle/

If you use Terminal from within Recovery OS: you'll probably not need the sudo prefix to the command.

Additional detail

… whether I can still restore …

You require:

  • a copy of a Time Machine destination, a copy that will be good for restoration
  • not an additional Time Machine destination.


You wish the copy to be usable, for restoration only, in the event of loss or failure of the Time Capsule.

If the disk is attached from a local image where modes and ownership vary from the norm for a local image:

  • OS X or Recovery OS might use that disk without difficulty; I can't be certain.


If you're preparing for the possibility of loss or failure of a Time Capsule – and restoration from a copy of what was there – then think a step further, to backing up without the original Time Capsule. (If you wish the copy to be writeable by Time Machine, that could be a separate question.)

All things considered

It's probably quicker and simpler to use the external hard disk, or a part, as a Time Machine destination.

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All those files are owned by me rather than root. –  Andrew J. Brehm Jun 7 '13 at 19:55

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