My wife's 2011 MacBook Pro died. It had a 512GB hard drive that had about 350GB of stuff on it, about 200GB of it is irreplaceable pictures and movies.

She will get a new computer, but with Apple's new 2TB iCloud service for $10/mo I think it makes more sense to keep all of these infrequently-used files in the cloud along with our other backups rather than on her machine. She doesn't need more than 128GB of space on the new computer if I can keep this other stuff in the cloud.

I have a Time Machine backup of her computer before it died, so I want to restore certain files from that backup and put them on the iCloud drive.

I tried mounting the drive, navigating to the "Latest" folder and simply dragging the files to the iCloud drive. This did not work, Finder told me that I did not have enough space on the iCloud drive (not true since I now have 2TB and it was copying about 200GB). I tried copying smaller folders and files one a time, some of these worked, but some did not, like the iPhoto Library which is about 170GB for the one file (which isn't really one file but a directory).

I started to copy the files to the cloud with the command line, by simply using "cp" (other options are rsync, tar, etc). This works in the sense that it seems to copy the files, but I know that Time Machine backup files are "special" because they have internal links and versioning. In my case I don't care about the history but really just want a copy of the latest version of these files.

I am looking at the backup drive on another computer, an iMac. I can browse through the files and Time Machine can restore them, but it would try to restore them to this iMac, which I don't want. I can also use Migration Assistant to do the same thing. My iMac has 85GB available, not enough to restore everything. It has a 500GB drive though, so I could probably do something like copy a bunch of stuff from the iMac to the cloud, delete it from the iMac, restore the backup to the iMac, copy that to the cloud, then restore the iMac's files from the cloud. Or I could use an external drive to do something similar. But that would take many hours and I'd be worried about losing something.

Also given the irreplaceable nature of the files in the Time Machine backup I want to make sure I do this the right way. Is there a way to simply restore files from the backup directly to the iCloud drive?

EDIT: I just found "tmutil" which seems to be exactly what I need. I tried to use that to restore the entire backup to the cloud. It ran for a few minutes (nowhere near enough time to actually copy everything), reported that it restored everything, but after looking there wasn't anything actually copied. Why is that?

iMac$ tmutil restore -v Latest/Macintosh\ HD/Users// /Users//Library/Mobile\ Documents/com\~apple\~CloudDocs/ Total copied: 334453.70 MB (350700119382 bytes) Items copied: 562891

2 Answers 2


Since you say that the 200 GB of pictures and movies are irreplaceable, I submit that it's worth the small expense of buying a 200 GB or larger external hard disk, so that you can first extract the files you want to keep to this disk and verify they are present and correct before trying to transfer them to iCloud Drive.

I'm not familiar with tmutil but it sounds as if you should be able to access the files from the backup using Browse Other Backup Disks as described in various answers to this question:

Before going into Time Machine, open a Finder window and choose "Computer" from the Finder's Go menu. (That's the key to being able to browse another computer's backup drive.) Then hold the option key and choose "Browse Other Backup Disks".

iCloud Drive used with the Store in iCloud option described here should be able to store your files in the way that you want but I don't know how it behaves if you try to copy a large amount of data (which is more than the free space on your local disk, if I understand correctly) in one go. You might have to copy the files in chunks that will fit on the local drive and wait for iCloud Drive to copy them and free up the space again before copying the next chunk. Alternatively you might want to look at alternative cloud storage services like Dropbox, where you can upload files through a web interface into a folder that doesn't automatically sync back to your local disk.


was looking for the same thing and came across this on apple support: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201104

"You can store any type of file in iCloud Drive, as long as it's 50GB or less in size and you don't exceed your iCloud storage limit. "

thought I share for who ever comes by.

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