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I have a Time Machine sparsebundle backup on an NTFS volume on a USB drive. When I wanted to restore from it I connected it and the volume was mounted as read-only, but I was unable to mount the sparsebundle and migration assistant didn't offer it as a source to restore from.

After copying the sparsebundle to a read-write HFS+ volume (on a USB drive) I was offered the option to restore from it, leading to my question.

What are the requirements to be able to restore from a sparsebundle? Is it that the containing volume is writable, or something else?

Background

I'm doing my backups over SMB, so I want a file system that's journalled on Linux (i.e. I can't use HFS+) and from which I can restore when using it as a USB drive (so far not NTFS). I'm aware of paid drivers for NTFS on macOS, but I'm initially looking for a free solution for Mojave.

The ntfs-3g project seemed completely dead judging by its website, and the install/compile instructions seemed lacking and outdated (packages from 2015 as opposed to the latest release in 2017).

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I have experienced problems using sparsebundles on APFS volumes, whereby writing ~50gb lead to a backup that had incorrect checksums (determined by running tmutil verifychecksums and seeing a failure).

I then switch to using sparsebundles on HFS+ volumes, and no more problems.

Worth mentioning that you are probably using sparsebundles that are themselves HFS+ formatted, if you are using them for Time Machine.

If I had to take a guess, I would say it probably has more to do with the filesystem that the sparsebundle lives on (not the filesystem internal to the sparsebundle)... and less to do with the read/write vs read-only issue. You can test this simply... try to mount your sparsebundle while it lives on a read-only HFS+ volume... does that work? (can you mount?)

Yes, I realize that the filesystem where the sparsebundle lives should not matter, but I have myself seen that sometimes it does. One reason is quite simply that filesystems themselves have bugs. APFS, NTFS, and HFS are no exception to this.

As some further detail, I noticed that verifying checksums for a sparsebundle on an APFS volume took significantly longer than performing the same operation on a similar sparsebundle on an HFS+ volume.

  • I have since got it working on a writable NTFS partition, and figured out how to prepare the sparsebundle to make it possible to alternate backing up over USB and SMB. – Andreas Sep 12 at 18:04
  • what did you do differently or what was the trick? – Ian Morris Nieves Sep 13 at 19:59
  • Well, my best guess is because it was writable (using Tuxera NTFS) – Andreas Sep 15 at 10:17

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