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I know that it's possible to end up wasting a lot of space in Time Machine with backing up huge files that have changed only a little (like a Parallels image that is not optimized for time machine) and it seems to me possible that there are also some cases in which one gets lots of little files that are constantly changing or coming and going, like a web cache would do if Time Machine weren't already configured to refrain from backing the cache up.

Apparently there is or was a bug in Chrome that causes such issues.

Is there a tool out there that can detect if I'm wasting a bunch of space somewhere? To detect big files it might tell me (Total space dedicated to versions of file X) - (space required for latest version of file X); there might be a more complicated analogue for directories.

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The two best tools I have discovered are tmutil which is bundled with OS X and BackupLoupe which is excellent software for deeply inspecting your backups.

I would start with the graphical program BackupLoupe and try out a command like tmutil compare to see what Apple's tools provide to show you what will be part of the next backup interval.

  • While working with BackupLoupe I stumbled onto a link to a program called Time Tracker. The developer's site says, "TimeTracker is in an extremely early state, and is as such very unpolished," but for the sake of completeness, here it is. – kuzzooroo Jan 15 '14 at 2:00

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