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I have decided to use Time Machine to backup incrementally. I have noted and dated these backups, so I can reset back to an earlier date knowing exactly what state the Mac would be in. I find this much more useful than hourly backups as the changes made between each manual backup are far more significant than a few files changed between a few hours or days.

I am aware that if I set Time Machine to backup automatically, the earliest backup would eventually be overwritten. Provided I do not fill the time machine with backups, is there any way I can preserve a backup e.g. by copying it to another drive? Would a backup last forever or does it have an expiry date? Could I also choose individual backups to delete to preserve older ones?

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There is absolutely no point in doing this. TM is an incremental backup, which you can use to restore an earlier 'state' of your Mac at any given time.

If only one file changes in one hour, then TM only adds that one file. And there is consolidation of the hourly backups every 24 hours.

Yes, the first backup will get deleted when the disk is full, but of course that will only affect the 'delta' between that backup and the next.

If you want to archive permanent images of your data, I would recommend using SuperDuper! or CarbonCopyCloner.

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