Is there any way to enable Time Machine / tmutil and perform a backup from inside the Single User Mode?

I have a Late '11 Radeongate-affected MBP that won't boot beyond the gray boot screen anymore, and I'm about a week's worth of data from my latest backup.

  • tmutil startbackup doesn't work in Single User mode, I assume? – nohillside May 24 '15 at 8:03
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    tmutil by itself is available, however tmutil enable returns Failed to synchronize Time Machine settings. – iduroo May 24 '15 at 8:15
  • Is there anything of interest in /var/log/system.log relating to tmutil? – nohillside May 24 '15 at 8:33
  • not that I can see – iduroo May 24 '15 at 8:44

Problem resolved:

(You will need another mac with a Thunderbolt port to make this work. We'll call the problematic one A and the other one B)

  1. Connect a Thunderbolt cable between the old machine (A) to another one (B).
  2. Start A in target mode (Press T on boot).
  3. You'll now see A's drive as an external drive on B's desktop. Go to 'Startup Disk' in 'System Preferences'. Pick A's drive as your boot disk.
  4. Reboot. If everything's working, you should see A's Finder etc. on B's display.
  5. Connect Time Machine to B. Start it. Click 'Options...' and exclude B's drive from the backup.
  6. Run another time machine backup on the HD.

I eventually went out and got a new MBP (which I was planning to do anyway) and migrated directly from the time machine latest backup.


Using the command line you can do the rsync as it only copies files changed since the last time you ran it.

rsync -av "/Users/your name" "/Volumes/My External Drive"
  • 1
    My MBP is/was already using Time Machine for backup, so I'm looking for a Time Machine-based solution first, before trying other methods such as rsync. – iduroo May 24 '15 at 7:49
  • I understand, did you check the developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/Darwin/Reference/… – Ruskes May 24 '15 at 8:18
  • Here is a good article that explains the use of tmutil. computers.tutsplus.com/tutorials/… – Ruskes May 24 '15 at 8:20
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    Yes. I'm familiar with tmutil, but since this is single user mode, which is slightly different from terminal, my main problem is enabling it at this point of the boot process. Just can't seem to be able to "turn it on". – iduroo May 24 '15 at 8:28

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