Time Machine automatically takes backups every hour of the last day, every day of the last month, etcetera.

I just finished setting up a new Mavericks installation, and turned it on.

It took one snapshot. 22 gigs. But then one hour later it took another one. Another 22 gigs.

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What a waste of space! I didn't even touch my computer in between these two backups(even though my MacBook does seem to have doodled half a gig into existence).

This is horrible! All it is doing is copying my entire filesystem into a folder on my harddrive. I can do that myself! And then I can do it at sensible junctures.

For example, let's say I'm going to evaluate a dozen text editors, some of which I need to compile from the command line, involving homebrew, Mac Ports, filling my file system with nonsense that very possibly isn't going to get removed cleanly.

So I would first backup, try all the competitors out, then revert and install the winner, and take another backup.

As far as I can see, I can just create a folder on my external hard drive and drag drop my filesystem into it. Then I should be able to, from within disk utility, "restore from Time Machine backup" and just select the folder.

This has the added bonus that I can create sensible folder names for my various backups.

Can anyone confirm, can I do this? Is there a better way?

EDIT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rsync

  • 1
    There is a lot of misunderstanding going on here. A) I suggest you read "How Time Machine Works its Magic" <pondini.org/TM/Works.html>. TL;DR: Time Machine uses "hard links" so each backup does NOT really use an additional 22 GB. B) Mac apps don’t clutter your drive like Windows apps do, but if you really want an uninstaller, use AppZapper or the like (be sure you understand what they remove), C) No, you can’t drag/drop your filesystem like that, D) No rsync is NOT the tool you want for this job (for reasons like Mac metadata, ACLs, etc), but SuperDuper or CarbonCopyCloner might be.
    – TJ Luoma
    Jan 15, 2014 at 19:04
  • Wait! The question can be rolled back by clicking the "edited X minutes ago" link that appears underneath it...
    – Dan J
    Jan 15, 2014 at 21:07
  • Ah you star DanJ, I love a site that pre-empts my stupidity (I overwrote my question by mistake)
    – P i
    Jan 17, 2014 at 22:53

1 Answer 1


Because of the way TimeMachine has saved the data, you don't actually have two copies. It just seems that each backup is a full set of files (which it is; but, in the background there is some nifty unix filesystem "trickery" going on).

If you go to the enclosing folder (π's MacBook Air) or the top-level of the hard drive itself, you should see around 22GB used there, and not 44GB.

(Edit) As for dragging/dropping, unless you do it as the root user, some files will not be copied into your destination folder, due to permission issues. And, copying large amounts of data via Finder can strain your CPU and your patience.

Rsync is a better alternative than drag/drop. And, if your goal is to set a bookmark for your file system to revert to after experimenting with text editors and what-not, it might actually be better than Time Machine. Time Machine is good for recovering accidentally deleted files; but, if you want to return the computer to a previous state, you would have to "restore" the complete old Applications/ folder, just to "remove" the new files added there that you don't want anymore. Rsync would make that a little more amenable.

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