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I want to know list of folders that can be safely excluded from Time Machine backups while ensuring that full restore can get me a same machine running immediately.

The reason why I want to do this is because Time Machine will backup all the files no matter what it contains. So far, I’ve excluded these paths from my backup:

~/Library/Caches
~/Library/Logs
~/Downloads

Caches and Logs don’t need to be backed up because they’re generated when needed. I’m also excluding ~/Downloads folder because those files are usually stored temporarily.

Is there any more folders that I can exclude? What is your Time Machine’s exclusion rules?

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The simple answer is to exclude any files that you create or download that you won't need for a restore (this includes files that you're able to re-download or restore/rebuild from another source if necessary).

Time Machine does not actually backup everything. On the contrary, by default it is configured intelligently to exclude folders like ~/Library/Caches, ~/Library/Logs and many others that are temporary in nature, can be rebuilt from available data and are not required during a system restore. Adding these folders to your exclusion list is not necessary and is redundant.

The default list of files and folders that Time Machine excludes from its backup is listed in /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd.bundle/Contents/Resources/StdExclusions.plist. You can verify that the caches and logs folders are in this exclusion list.

For more information, see:

Personally, I exclude two kinds of folders:

  1. Folders that contain temporarily used files that I can get from another source if I need them.
  2. Folders containing large files that may change frequently. For example, large media files that I may add and delete often are excluded from Time Machine because they would fill up the backup disk very quickly. Those are, however, covered in a full disk clone (that I manage with a limited backup of older files).
  • I’m still not entirely convinced with .DocumentRevisions-V100 being excluded from backup. I’ve monitored the backup change with this folder in BackupLoupe and it actually backup all the versions. I’ll keep monitoring and update later. – sayzlim May 20 '14 at 20:11
  • @M-K Fantastic. – hmedia1 Jun 15 '17 at 8:10
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If you're using services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, then it's safe to exclude these from the Time Machine backups since they will be retrieved from the Internet in case you need to recover your system.

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