Is there a way to find out what time machine is backing up?

My time machine has been running fine, but it suddenly started to back-up 20GB a few days ago when I have not changed that much since last back-up.

This morning it started to back-up 14Mb, but I have not used it since it's last back up at 00.01 am.




3 Answers 3


TimeTracker is a quick-and-dirty application that displays the contents of your Time Machine backups, and shows what's changed since the previous backup.

  • I'd suggest BackupLoupe over TimeTracker; it's a bit more polished and probably would be less buggy
    – Oion Akif
    Feb 15, 2017 at 16:05

There are two tools I know of that do this: (1) BackupLoupe (which is a GUI application) and (2) timedog (command-line Perl script).

  • 1
    BackupLoupe is stellar in presenting the changes so you can see which are taking the largest incremental space. It is visually stunning as well. +1 indeed
    – bmike
    Aug 16, 2011 at 14:55
  • BackupLoup is now located at soma-zone.com/BackupLoupe Jan 8, 2016 at 9:07

Mobile Time Machine and Time Machine in Lion: using Terminal to view activities

At any time

A command such as this will present a lightweight overview:

tail -f /private/var/log/system.log | grep -E 'backup|mtm'

During a backup

A command such as this will present detail:

sudo fs_usage cmd backupd

When you have finished

To interrupt a running command:



From the manual page for tmutil in Mac OS X 10.7 (Build 11A511), the description:

tmutil provides methods of controlling and interacting with Time Machine, as well as examining and manipulating Time Machine backups. Common abilities include restoring data from backups, editing exclusions, and comparing backups.

Expect Apple to publish that manual page, and others for 10.7, at:

  • I've tried that in El Capitan but I mostly see entries like 01:48:38 THROTTLED 0.024550 backupd and no actual paths.
    – mgol
    Jun 28, 2016 at 23:49
  • sudo fs_usage cmd backupd saved the day for me. Apparently postgres has been failing to start every 10 seconds since 2013, and time machine can no longer handle the number of files in that directory.
    – Tim
    Nov 3, 2018 at 4:24

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