Quite simply, I have a process that's triggered by launchd but currently runs once an hour, however really what I would like it to do is run once a Time Machine backup has completed.

Initially I thought I could just set my Time Machine backup (/Volumes/Foo/Backups.backupdb/Haravikk's Mac) as a watch path for launchd, however this seems to trigger much too early. It does seem to trigger again near the end, so I'm currently using a delay and then checking for the existence of a .inprogress backup, but it's not really an ideal solution, and sometimes Time Machine's cleanup stage will trigger the process multiple times.

Is there a more specific path that I could watch that will trigger my process only when Time Machine has finished a backup?

I realise I should perform my checks anyway to be sure, but currently my process is triggering several times per backup, which isn't what I want.


A simple solution is to use the tmutil command to manually trigger the backup and follow it up with your process (as part of a shell script that does both these steps).

  • First, turn off automatic backups from System Preferences > Time Machine or using the command tmutil disable
  • Use tmutil startbackup --auto --block to trigger a backup once every hour (the --block option is required to make the execution wait until the backup is finished)
  • Follow this with launching your process

See man tmutil for more information on using Time Machine from the command line.

  • That would be ideal, and I could maybe make it work, but I was really hoping to be able to make my script a "drop in" addition, leaving Time Machine to function normally (I just don't want to be running at the same time). Is there perhaps a way to look out for backupd running and just wait till it finishes before running my script?
    – Haravikk
    Nov 5 '13 at 11:43
  • I just tried creating and running a wrapper program for backupd, but it runs once every 10 seconds and exits. So monitoring backupd is not useful.
    – M K
    Nov 5 '13 at 15:15

Okay, so after setting up a launch agent to log information for a while I've come up with a combined solution.

Quite simply I created a launch-agent that watches the com.apple.TimeMachine.plist file for updates like-so:

 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
 <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
 <plist version="1.0">
        <string>do something</string>

This file is updated every time Time Machine performs a backup, and runs towards the end (during the cleaning up/finishing stage I believe). With this in mind it is possible to invoke a script with the above watch path that checks to see if backupd is still running; if it is then the script sleeps for a minute and checks again, repeating until backupd has finished, before proceeding with whatever it needs to do.

This now allows post-backup actions to be triggered such as performing secondary backups (in my case via rsync to a NAS), checking the size of the last backup and other handy things.

Anyway, this solution seems to be the best way to do it, as I couldn't find any path to watch that triggers reliably after a backup is complete, but this should run close enough to the end of a backup to be useful.

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