I would like to recover/restore only *.GIF files from my most recent backup. They were accidentally deleted from everywhere in My Computer instead of just the intended folder. I currently have only 6 GB of free space (they took up about 1 GB, and only ~4000 files).

If I try selecting the most recent backup in Time Machine for recover, it starts by counting up to >20,000 files and then quits saying there is not enough space and stops. If I try to specify the Users folder, and kind:GIF in the most recent backup in Time Machine, the files remain gray color and not selectable.

Am I doing something wrong, or is this not possible?

Let me know if more info is needed.

NOTE: I edited to change "recover" to "recover/restore" - I didn't stop to think about the difference in meaning. If possible I need them back where they belong and there were so many locations - including applications and webpage downloads - I doubt I could figure it out myself.

Here is my most recent backup. Is Seagate Backup Plus Drive the drive name? With spaces?

screenshot of backup drive

This seems to work:
david914s-MacBook-Air:Volumes david914$ cd "/Volumes/Seagate Backup Plus Drive/Backups.backupdb/"

But adding this, doesn't:
david914s-MacBook-Air:Backups.backupdb david914$ cd "/Volumes/Seagate Backup Plus Drive/Backups.backupdb/david914's MacBook Air/"

-bash: cd: /Volumes/Seagate Backup Plus Drive/Backups.backupdb/david914's MacBook Air/: No such file or directory

Hmm... I've deleted --dry-run but still it is not adding files back to my computer.

david914s-MacBook-Air:david914’s MacBook Air david914$ rsync -av --include=".gif" --include="/" --exclude="*" "/Volumes/Seagate Backup Plus Drive/Backups.backupdb/david914’s MacBook Air/2015-08-30-221221/Macintosh HD/Users/david914/" "/Users/david914/"
building file list ... done

sent 81 bytes  received 26 bytes  214.00 bytes/sec
total size is 0  speedup is 0.00
david914s-MacBook-Air:david914’s MacBook Air david914$
  • 1
    Just noticed: In your code dump it says --include="/" and should be --include="*/"
    – n1000
    Sep 3, 2015 at 13:12
  • 1
    Same for --include=".gif" - should be --include="*.gif"
    – n1000
    Sep 3, 2015 at 13:37
  • There is further discussion of that possessive apostrophe here
    – uhoh
    Sep 4, 2015 at 9:03

1 Answer 1


It seems like you will have to use the Terminal:

  1. Mount your Time Machine disk. It will be located in /Volumes/myTMdisk/.
  2. Start the Terminal
  3. Type rsync -av --dry-run --include="*.gif" --include="*/" --exclude="*" /Volumes/myTMdisk/Backups.backupdb/myMac/Latest/myDisk/Users/me/ /Users/me/Desktop/allmygifs/

    • Replace myTMdisk, myMac, myDisk, me, and /Users/me/Desktop/allmygifs/ with the appropriate values.
    • You can use the tab key while typing to auto-complete your path.
    • If your pathname contains whitespaces or special characters, put it in quotes, e.g. rsync -av --dry-run --include="*.gif" --include="*/" --exclude="*" "/Volumes/Seagate Backup Plus Drive/Backups.backupdb/david914’s MacBook Air/2015-08-30-221221/Macintosh HD/Users/david914/" "/Users/david914/Desktop/allmygifs/"
    • If you want to restore the files into the original locations, use rsync -av --dry-run --include="*.gif" --include="*/" --exclude="*" /Volumes/myTMdisk/Backups.backupdb/myMac/Latest/myDisk/Users/me/ /Users/me/. I would recommend another backup before doing that. Then replace Latest with the respective timestamp.
    • In case you get file permission errors (e.g. Permission denied and code 23 error as described here), you may have to use sudo in front of rsync. But now you will really need to backup first. Ideally backup to a different disk or make another copy of your TM disk.
  4. Once you are sure everything works, remove the --dry-run argument after rsync -av to actually write files.

  5. Enjoy!

  • So @n1000 does this just copy all of them into a single folder I specify? I'm trying to recover/restore them to their original locations - the way that I'm hoping TIme Machine knows how to do (see update). So one can not do extension-specific restores with Time Machine? There are GIFs all over the place,
    – uhoh
    Sep 3, 2015 at 10:47
  • 1
    added autocomplete and cd results at bottom of question - bitten by the single quote maybe?
    – uhoh
    Sep 3, 2015 at 12:46
  • 1
    Yes - it's the single quote your path contains not ' in david914’s MacBook Air
    – n1000
    Sep 3, 2015 at 12:50
  • 1
    DONE!! :) I think I should try to tidy up my question a bit? But that will have to wait a half-day, ditto my previous thanks @n1000. For the record: sent 1502930485 bytes received 42564 bytes 17999677.23 bytes/sec total size is 2536747693 speedup is 1.69
    – uhoh
    Sep 3, 2015 at 13:50
  • 1
    Great!! Glad it worked. Yes - might be helpful for others to clean up comments and question.
    – n1000
    Sep 3, 2015 at 13:53

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