I just got a new 2TB hard drive and I wanted to set up Time Machine. I did and now it is backing up stuff.
On this page (http://www.howtogeek.com/212445/how-to-use-a-time-machine-drive-for-both-file-storage-and-backups/) I read that "When you set up Time Machine, your Mac wants to use an entire external drive exclusively for backups."
Is this true, what does it mean exactly?
Also is it possible to view folders in a regular manner after they are backed up on the hard drive without using Time Machine?

2 Answers 2


You can read any file on the Time Machine volume - just write permission is withheld in the Backups.backupdb folder. This is all covered in https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201250

Feel free to explore the drive and use it for other storage - the system keeps you from messing in places where the machine needs to control file writes.

I can only assume the "exclusively" means that it might ask to erase and reformat a drive that doesn't meet Time Machine requirements. I've never had issues with GUID/Extended HFS volumes and Time Machine needing to be "exclusive".

  • Can I use time machine on another mac with same hardrive?
    – appleuser1
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 21:18
  • @appleuser1 That would make a second great question. See if it's already asked by reviewing the side bar before you post it. It's likely already been covered. If so, we can close it as duplicate. :-) Welcome to Ask Different.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 21:19
  • Okay. So basically you are saying that I can put in any files I want as long as it isn't in the backups folder. But how can I view the files that time machine backsup without using time machine?
    – appleuser1
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 21:21

I have used an external drive with Time Machine and had no problem also storing other files on it. You don't need to create a separate partition or anything (though you could, if you wanted to) - just put other files anywhere on the disk except for the backups.backupdb folder.

The only thing to note is that the TimeMachine backups (in backups.backupdb) will keep getting bigger and bigger until eventually the disk is full.

At that point, to add more (non-TimeMachine) files to the drive, you will need to delete some old backups. Pondini gives excellent instructions for deleting backups, but in summary:

  1. From Time Machine menu, "Enter Time Machine".
  2. Choose backup to delete (perhaps the oldest one - but it is up to you) from dark grey tabs at right-hand side of screen.
  3. From Gear menu on Finder window, choose "Delete Backup".

(You can also delete individual or all backups of a particular file/folder.)

Obviously deleting old backups makes Time Machine's archive less useful - but only slightly, because by the time the drive is this full, Time Machine will already be deleting the oldest backups when making new ones anyway - you're just prodding it to delete old backups a little earlier than it otherwise would.

When your drive is so full that Time Machine only has space to store a few very recent backups then it's time to get a bigger disk - or free up space by moving the non-Time-Machine files to a different drive.

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