16

Out of curiosity, I'm wondering where in the file system Time Machine stores its local backups/snapshots.

13

The actual data is stored in a hidden directory called .MobileBackups at the root of the volume.

There is a special virtual filesystem type called mtmfs which translates the raw data in these hidden directories into a virtual Time Machine drive which is automatically mounted on /Volumes/MobileBackups

This mechanism of storing local backups existed on HFS format file systems and is no longer how things work on APFS Macs. Snapshots now are built in to the filesystem as opposed to needing to make “shadow copies” of files in a new location, the “shadow copies” are of the whole disk state.

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  • 1
    Not sure if this works for El Captain anymore, I can't find anything at least. I cd'd into volumes and did a ls -a (which shows all files, so including the hidden ones, in a directory) which gave nothing, tried this in both recovery and normal boot mode. Did the same thing for the root volume. – rien333 Jan 23 '16 at 20:46
  • I can still see it on my El Capitan laptop (10.11.4). /Volumes/MobileBackups exists and has a Backups.backupdb directory inside it. It's still a mtmfs mount according to mount, and I'm pretty sure the actual data is still stored in /.MobileBackups but the format has changed. – Kris Shannon May 14 '16 at 16:07
18

Under the new file system in High Sierra (Apple File System (APFS)), this it is different. You can see what is considered the "local backups" via command line like this:

sudo tmutil listlocalsnapshots /

Ones that are listed as "(dateless)" will cause all sorts of problems:

com.apple.TimeMachine.2017-12-23-090037 (dataless)

so you can delete any backup by command line like this (deletes the one listed above, note only date used in reference):

sudo tmutil deletelocalsnapshots 2017-12-23-090037

Note that in my latest problem with macOS, the "bird" process was eating up egregious amounts of CPU. It was suggested that dumping backups that were damaged (damaged, who knew?) would help.

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  • This should be the accepted answer. This is the correct practice. – Kevin Lemaire May 6 at 12:16
4

They are stored on your hard drive in the folder entitled:

/Volumes/MobileBackups

Note: This answer is now dated and incorrect for current MacOS versions. It was accurate for MacOS Lion, but has changed since that time. See other answers for updated locations.

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1

On Catalina they seem to be in:

/Volumes/com.apple.TimeMachine.localsnapshots
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  • Yes, this is where the snapshots can be mounted. They are stored in the filesystem and may not be visible until they get mounted by the system or Finder or a command line tool. – bmike Oct 1 at 18:01
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    They probably do get automatically mounted by the OS, since I at least haven't done anything to mount them and they still appear. – ruohola Oct 1 at 18:03

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