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Is it possible to have time machine backup different drives separately? So I have 512GB internal and 1TB external working storage that I currently backup to a 1.5TB external. I'd like to add another 1TB drive to make a redundant backup of just my internal drive (because it doesn't have space for both internal and external work drives).

I'd guess this isn't possible but perhaps there is a way to hack it? Perhaps with tmutil and a shell script?

  • So currently you have internal + external --> one TM. You want to have another backup of internal --> TMx2. Time machine doesn't backup external volumes by default (they are automatically 'excluded' in settings) so just connect the new external drive and set it up as another time machine volume. – njboot Jul 4 '18 at 16:52
  • I decided to keep things simple I would just manually backup my 1TB external and leave Time Machine to just do redundant backups of my internal 512GB – Mark Robinson Jul 16 '18 at 11:48
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So if I understand correctly, you want to exclude the 1TB working storage volume from the backups on the 1TB backup disk, but not from those on the 1.5TB backup disk. I don’t think this is supported by tmutil’s addexclusion verb, as it does not provide a way to specify that you only want to exclude the item from a specific backup disk.

To hack a solution yourself, you could basically, before making a backup, invoke either addexclusion or removeexclusion depending on which disk you will be backing up to. If you don’t plan on having both backup disks connected at the same time, you could automate this by running a script when you connect one of the two backup disks, see the question on “How to run Applescript on Disk mount” for possible solutions. If you do want to have both backup disks connected at the same time, you will probably also have to turn off automatic backups and hack your own solution to periodically run the startbackup verb (using its -d argument to alternate between the two disks).

Note that I didn’t try hacking this myself, so there might be “caveats” I’m not thinking of. One thing I’m not sure about is whether or not toggling the exclusion on and off again for the 1TB working storage volume will cause Time Machine to do a “deep scan” of the volume again on the next backup, which would make your backups take longer, depending on how many files and directories it holds. In the end, you’ll have to evaluate yourself whether hacking this is worth the additional hassle, given that an external 2TB USB drive can easily be had on Amazon for 65 USD or less.

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I would get a 4 TB or 2 TB drive and set that up to be your primary backup.

When you have enough history on that new drive, span the two other drives (RAID 0) into one large volume and add that as a second drive.

The cost of storage is so low, it’s better to just have a simple backup in my experience. Hacking changes to the system means you might miss an error condition and have no backup.

Off-site backup for the gap might be worthwhile as well. Backblaze or arq backup to whatever storage you please (Amazon S3 / Azure / Google / other cloud) would be ideal for Mac backup in my eyes in 2019.

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