My Time Machine backup has 100+ dated backups. What I'd like to be able to do is extract the backups for a particular folder to another location, with the result being like TM's archive (where multiple references to unchanged files are just links to 1 copy). Effectively, this would be a copy of the original TM archive, but only for the selected folder (and it's subfolders). Is there any utility which can do this?

  • Or perhaps I should ask if there is a utility that will behave like TM: take 2 folders, and make a copy of the 2nd folder with links into the 1st folder where files are identical...
    – Jerry B
    Apr 28, 2014 at 19:19
  • Hmm. I see where ditto will will preserve file hard links (but not directory hard links). Other than losing the directory hard links, this could be a perfect result.
    – Jerry B
    Apr 30, 2014 at 2:13

1 Answer 1


ditto didn't cut it, but rsync did. It has a --link-dest option, that uses files in that folder as the base to link to for duplicates. It's important that the source path for rsync end in /.

To prepare, in the location I'm going to store my copy, I create a symlink to the 1st archived folder I want to copy: ln -s -h -f /Volumes/MyBook\ 2/Backups.backupdb/Mini/2012-08-02-003832/Macintosh\ HD/Users/jerrybarrington/pathtothefolder/ /Volumes/MyBook\ /Volumes/MyBook\ 2/CK2.backup/Last.

Then to copy: sudo rsync -a --delete --link-dest=/Volumes/MyBook\ 2/CK2.backup/Last/ /Volumes/MyBook\ 2/Backups.backupdb/Mini/2012-08-02-003832/Macintosh\ HD/Users/jerrybarrington/pathtothefolder/ /Volumes/MyBook\ 2/CK2.backup/2012-08-02-003832/.

Lastly, update the symlink to point to the new copy: ln -s -h -f /Volumes/MyBook\ 2/CK2.backup/2012-08-02-003832/ /Volumes/MyBook\ 2/CK2.backup/Last.

For each subsequent copy, repeat step 2, changing both instances of 2012-08-02-003832 to the next date I want, and then repeat step 3.

see http://www.mikerubel.org/computers/rsync_snapshots/ for my inspiration.

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