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I need to restore Google Chrome (Canary) browsing history from a Time Machine backup. It seems Time Machine has backed up all the profile files in ~/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome/Default except the History file. Oops. Why is that, and how can I restore Chrome's History from a backup?

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Why Chrome history is not backed up

You are correct that the ~/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome/Default location you reference is where Google Chrome's history (among other things) is stored.

However, (and I don't recall exactly where I originally came across this), that App developers can determine which files (if any) they want skipped by a Time Machine backup and that Google doesn't allow Chrome's History to be backed up by Time Machine after changes made in 2009.

Although I only use Google Chrome occasionally, I personally get around this limitation by manually backing up the five files not backed up via Time Machine. The five files in question are:

  • Favicons
  • Favicons-journal
  • History
  • History-journal
  • previews_opt_out.db-journal

Restoring your missing Chrome history

Now, in terms of restoring your currently missing history, you may have some luck if you have a Google Account. If so, you could check whether you had Chrome Sync enabled. If you did, Chrome Sync syncs your history (as well as bookmarks, passwords, etc) to your Google Account so you can use them on other devices.

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  • Thanks--further research shows the chromium team decided to mark the History database as not backed up, in order to keep the backups from growing larger with the ever-changing History file. Terrible design decision--they should just split and rotate the History so that only the most recent portion is backed up often. Sure, if you are willing to upload your entire browsing history, etc. to Google then no problem. In this case, it was kept locally and needed to be restored for forensic purposes, but SOL. Oops. Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 17:37
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There is a different way than trying to back up the History and the History-journal. Because my guess is what you care about is the open tabs that you lost, not the history itself. These are actually backed up by TimeMachine.

You can find them here: ~/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome/Default/Sessions

You should find 2 'Session_' files and 2 'Tabs_' files there. Close Chrome. Enter TimeMachine from the date of your choosing to the same location. Copy the 4 TimeMachine files. Replace your current 4 files with the ones. Then open Chrome. It will open all your lost tabs.

I thought I had lost over 200 open tabs in Chrome and got them all back using this method. You might want to back up your current 2 'Session_' files and 2 'Tabs_' as a safety precaution, but you shouldn't need them.

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  • Don't guess. The history database is specifically mentioned by the OP, and the accepted answer references the reasons why. Tabs are not mentioned though your answer has some use if trying to recover them. Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 16:15

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