I have a question and its based on the situation below. The whole aim is to get certain important files out of my Macbook Air's backup.

My Macbook Air crashed and won't wake up at all anymore. Before it crashed, I was able to save all the files (128 GB) into a Time Machine backup on an external 1 TB hard drive.

My Macbook Pro is working. I want to save all of its files too (128 GB) through a Time Machine backup onto the same external 1 TB hard drive.

I want to now use the Macbook Pro as a means to recover files from my Macbook Air. So I want to restore my Time Machine backup of my Macbook Air onto my Macbook Pro. However, after I get the files I want from my Macbook Air backup, I will replace this Time Machine backup with the backup I made for the Macbook Pro, so I get all the files of my Macbook Pro back onto the Macbook Pro and the files of my Macbook Air are kept in the external 1 TB hard drive.

Is this achievable using Time Machine, and if not, what should I do?- M.

  • 1
    It sounds like you're planning to do a full restore of the Macbook Air's backup onto the Macbook Pro, get the files you want, then re-restore the Macbook Pro's backup. I would strongly advise against this. It should work, but if something goes wrong, it could go badly wrong. It'd be much better to just pull the specific files you care about from the Macbook Air's backup without disrupting the Macbook Pro's setup. Jan 30, 2021 at 5:44

2 Answers 2


It is possible to use an external drive to back up two Macs via Time Machine. Per this thread, the backups will be stored separately, without any special setup needed.

Per pulling specific files from another Time Machine backup, you may want to refer to this thread. It should be doable to search that backup volume without having to install the entire backup onto another machine using the restore feature.


In a nutshell, Apple backups do not merge, so you need a plan to merge settings or data for items like photos, contacts, keychain. Other than that, it’s perfectly cromulent to have one drive contain two or more separate backups, independent of each other.

Do the backups, and then ask a follow on question that’s narrowed to how to merge any one set of data. Documents and files will be easy, but the other app databases can be tricky and depend heavily on the exact version of macOS don’t to the build or minor version in some cases.

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