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I know that someone can use a partition on a hard disk drive for Time Machine, but is it possible to specify more than one partition on a single drive for this purpose?

The scenario: My partner and I want to share one physical HDD to back up our Macs, but we want completely separate encryption passwords for our backups.

And if it is possible, is there a downside?

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It is definitely possible to partition a single drive into two partitions and have separate encrypted Time Machine backups on each partition for your two individual Macs.

The only downside is a single point of failure since there's a single physical drive used for two machines. If anything goes wrong with that disk, both the Macs would be left without usable backups. You could still go ahead with this approach, but it would be better if you have disk clones also done regularly on (additional) separate physical drives and/or use some online backup service for important data.

For more information on Time Machine and encrypted backups, see:
Time Machine FAQ - How do I set up and use encrypted backups?

  • Thanks @m-k. I already plan to use another HDD for redundancy, and I may post a question later about cloning, etc. Regarding your answer, can you (or anyone) direct me to documentation showing that your answer is true, or have you (or anyone) had success doing a recovery using this sort of setup? The link that you provided doesn't say anything about multiple partitions on a single HDD. – EJ Mak Mar 11 '14 at 15:06
  • For a while, I did use a single drive with two partitions, with one for Time Machine backups and the other for a clone. I have also used a single partition to store Time Machine backups from multiple Macs (TM creates a new folder under the Backups.backupdb folder for every Mac that it backs up). In all these cases, I have done successful restores. – M K Mar 12 '14 at 4:37
  • I have not done encrypted backups across partitions like you have asked about, but there's nothing about the way Time Machine works that would preclude that option and result in an unusable backup (if you leave aside drive issues). – M K Mar 12 '14 at 4:38

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