Recently, I tried to migrate a Time Machine backup to a new Mac. The Migration Assistant completely messed up. I ended up with a scrambled hard drive and completely empty Time Capsule. Called Apple, they could not help in recovering the Time Capsule.

Is there any way to recover my Time Capsule hard drive after it is completely formatted to its previous state?

I know that there are file recovery solutions like Photo Rec, Disk Drill, etc. But the results will give me lots of scrabbled files, my goal here is to retrieve the Time Capsule to its previous state, and go back to recover my computer from it.

Few clarifications (from comments):

  • I do not have my previous Mac to re-backup and recover from
  • I am able to retrieve files, but the time machine contains a large amount of mess, it had backup of 3 separate computers
  • Searched online for "Using Migration Assistant lead to an empty Time Capsule", but it doesn't seem to be a know issue

Update: few days later

  • I have mounted the Time Capsule hard drive on a docking system, recovered most of the data on it using Disk Drill.
  • It seems that somehow, while using the migration assistant, there was some kind of error which damaged the Time Capsule hard drive filesystem and/or partition.
  • Might it be worthwhile to dig into the "Using Migration Assistant lead to an empty Time Capsule" issue? How exactly did you try to use Migration Assistant here? Based on what do you come to the conclusion that your Time Capsule is empty now?
    – nohillside
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 7:56
  • IMHO the question is somehow unclear: if you've tried to migrate an old Mac to a new Mac via the Time Machine backup of the old one, isn't it easier to format the TC, backup the old Mac again and then retry the migration? Or is the old Mac gone?
    – klanomath
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 7:56
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – klanomath
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 8:18
  • If you click on chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/100137/… we can continue chatting in the chatroom...
    – klanomath
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 8:59

1 Answer 1


You are most likely so far down the road that it is impossible to go back.

You CAN, however, take out the harddisk of the time capsule, buy a spare harddisk, bitcopy the contents of the time capsule to the spare harddisk and use advanced forensic tools to salvage parts of the file system not overwritten by what you did so far. You may be lucky. A Time Capsule is essentially a small Mac using a HFS filesystem internally to my understanding.

If your data is important enough to warrant spending money on them, consider contacting a professional company.

In the future, you may want to use the "dump contents to external disk" feature of the Time Capsule. This gives you a stand-alone Time Machine backup that you can save off-site for disasters like this. Combined with iCloud you have a relatively cheap and simple coverage of your data.

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