I love Time Machine's functionality. However, I just hate that while the GUI is displayed, I cannot do anything else. It's slow. Slowness is more or less* understandable, given I am using it over Wi-Fi, but it takes fullscreen and defeats multitasking. So I am looking for a way to either

  • force it to a window
  • re-enable Spaces when it is on screen (as it disables it, for some change reason)
  • perhaps an alternative GUI that does not have these problems (I know about BackupLoupe, but am still looking for options. it seems to take a lot of time 'indexing', I am not sure if this is a necessary step, it is very lengthy*)

I am using El Capitan.

*: I know that I can in fact retrieve files very fast from the command line, it's not as convenient as looking up files, and file attributes are off if I don't use the proper ditto/rsync options, which I always forget because I need it rarely

  • 1
    Which GUI are you referring to? The one in which you restore files/folder from backup?
    – oarfish
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 12:46
  • 2
    @oarfish, The Time Machine GUI In this case is referring to the Starfield Background Time Machine User Interface since it is the only Time Machine window that is both full screen and modal. The Time Machine Preferences window is not a modal window and normally is not shown in full screen. Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 14:02
  • 1
    You can open time machine volume directly in finder without invoking the special interface or using terminal
    – Ezekiel
    Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 20:39
  • The Time Machine UI is designed just for the restore function. And so one would assume that one's concentration should be on that specific task, so the need to multitask is moot. It's not designed to keep open all the time. If you wish to browse backups in that manner, as Ezekiel suggests, you can do that through Finder. Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 23:11

1 Answer 1


I just hate that while the [Time Machine] GUI is displayed, I cannot do anything else.

This is by design.

The Time Machine (henceforth referred to as TM) UI is very specific; unlike any other application from Apple, it literally takes over your entire desktop and forces you to focus on it because it needs your undivided attention.

Backing up files is actually pretty easy. You simply make a copy of the file and archive it so that in the unfortunate event something goes sideways, you have a recent copy of the file from which to restore.

In fact, Time Machine is operating, in the background, continually taking snapshots ever hour

When you use Time Machine, Time Machine also saves local snapshots you can use to recover previous versions of files, even if your backup disk is not attached. These snapshots are created hourly…

First, this “hourly” snapshot is not “every hour on the hour.” It is roughly every 60 minutes or more accurately, every 3600 seconds give-or-take a predetermined fudge factor. Secondly, while TM is making periodic snapshots, it can do so in the background because this is not an activity that will impact the system in any way.

Restoring files is the critical activity

Whether on your desktop or in the datacenter, when files are being restored, writing of new files is stopped. The reason for this is to avoid version conflicts. TM cannot “know” what you intend to recover even if you yourself are very clear on it.

TM needs to stop taking snapshots and/or making its backups, allow you to restore what you need and when you’re finished, it will begin making backups of those new files as you work.


No, you cannot minimize, “window”, move to a Space the Time Machine User Interface. It is by design that when restoring files, it requires your undivided attention because it needs to pause its activities so that you can effectuate a restoration of file(s).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .