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I would like to clean up my backups since there are a lot of files which I don't need to access anymore (e.g. videos, podcasts and installation packages). The problem I am facing is however that I don't know which snapshots contain these large files and in which directories I used to store them. Is there perhaps a way to list the largest files in the Time Machine backup, similar to Grand Perspective or Disk Inventory X?

  • Time Machine manages storage automatically, why do you want to manually remove them? – nohillside Mar 4 '16 at 13:59
  • @patrix I've had some clients that needed this sort of tool. They didn't realize virtual machines, outlook database files, etc... were so large and had 4 TB drives full but wanted to preserve the history. Worse, they deleted the apps and didn't clean up the backups. It's a bit of a contrived example. Most people should just look at the current system and set up TM exclusions properly. – bmike Mar 4 '16 at 14:58
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Yes - you can find large files in many ways.

In the finder search field type size:>9000 and add a size field if you wish in the list view to sort descending. Add zeroes to the number to get less results back for your file sizes.

This doesn't work well for network backups in my experience due to lag or incomplete spotlight databases. If that doesn't work, get a tool made to analyze Time Machine backups like BackupLoupe. It is crafted specifically to efficiently scan time machine backup drives and network volumes. It creates a comprehensive backup database of all the files and revisions that would make your size query a snap.

  • http://www.soma-zone.com/BackupLoupe/

    1. Install the app
    2. Let it index one or more intervals
    3. Use the app's find window to sort on size after setting the search criteria as follows: Type is directory and match type of none of the following is true

enter image description here

It also helps to reveal the files in Finder so you could decide to remove that file across backups or just to delete that interval entirely.

Since Time Machine stores each backup in folders, you could unleash any other tool (DaisyDisk, Grand Perspective, WhatSize or other) on the backup, but they don't know how to interpret hard links and may take days or months to make a picture that doesn't represent the actual storage allocations.

BackupLoupe is smarter than the existing tools and doesn't double count hard linked files. It also runs in the background if you wish. Lastly, it reads a database file summarizing the backups so the results are near instantaneous and you don't even need the backup drive mounted to do the reporting.

  • The question was "Is there perhaps a way to list the largest files in the Time Machine backup, similar to Grand Perspective or Disk Inventory X?" and while BackupLoupe can read a Time Machine Backup and provide various functions, it doesn't provide the perspective/view of the disk which Grand Perspective or Disk Inventory X provides and therefore you saying "Yes" is somewhat erroneous. – user3439894 Mar 4 '16 at 14:41
  • @user3439894 I'll add explicitly that the database and find function in the app sorts by size. Thanks for spotting the missing tidbit. I didn't get hung up on the "visual" ask since no one wants a picture. If you re-read the first sentence - OP wants the picture to decide what to do. This tool is the fastest way to decide what to do IMO. Don't fall for the XY problem trap :-) – bmike Mar 4 '16 at 14:51
  • I've used BackupLoupe and also TimeTracker and I agree with the merits of BackupLoupe. As to the OP there are actually two questions and while I focused on the later, the view or the picture, some users seem to be more comfortable having that perspective to aid in the decision making and why since one of the questions was specific in that direction I mentioned it. Personally I find just using the Finder window and the Search dialog, while in Time Machine, adequate to purge things I no longer need/want in the backup. – user3439894 Mar 4 '16 at 15:10
  • Now after your various edits, I just have to give you a +1 :) – user3439894 Mar 4 '16 at 15:41
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I see two questions in your post, the title "Is there a way to list the largest files and folders in Time Machine backups?" and the one in the body, "Is there perhaps a way to list the largest files in the Time Machine backup, similar to Grand Perspective or Disk Inventory X?"

There is no Time Machine specific software that I'm aware of that providers the perspective/view of the disk of the Time Machine Backup which Grand Perspective or Disk Inventory X provides and therefore I have to say the answer to the latter question is no.

As to the question in the title and aside from various third party apps that do provide various functions you can also just enter Time Machine and do a search through the Finder window using the Search dialog to formulate various queries, around e.g. size, and use the Size column to rack from large to small, etc.

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