I am attempting to restore a backup with Time Machine for the first time. I use a Macbook air M1 2020 (its SSD is 512 GB), and an external SSD of 1 TB used only for Time Machine with this Macbook. I tried to restore a backup done a week ago, but I received the following message once I arrived in the phase "Selection the information to transfer" (I want to select them all):

"Not enough space available to transfer. Select fewer items to continue."

Notice that the sum of the items is less than 512 GB. In other posts and forums, I found that this problem was encountered with a backup in a large disk to be restored in a smaller disk.

However, I do not understand not even why I encountered this problem because the disks used are always the same. Hence, I think that the backup of the Macbook with SSD 512 GB should fit into its own SSD 512 Gb. Moreover, the free space on the Macbook internal SSD is now around 250 GB...

Question: How can I solve this issue?

2 Answers 2


Time Machine isn't a 'full backup' of your drive. Specifically, it is "to automatically back up your personal data, including apps, music, photos, email, and documents" as Apple says on their support site. So do not expect Time Machine to be able to restore your entire SSD, as it is NOT an image. If you need an image, I recommend Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper apps.

Time Machine Restoration is supported in two ways: 1) individual files, and 2) entire categories. For individual files, you can enter the Time Machine interface from the app, find your file (and the date) and then restore that file. For categories, you access this via Migration Assistant, where you can restore your account preferences, apps, and documents. Migration Assistant is typically used after a Restore, where the drive is wiped and MacOS has been reinstalled. Note that this can be destructive, as Migration Assistant will overwrite or delete any matching files and your entire account and preferences.

So, restoring everything depends on what you mean by everything:

  • The entire SSD? No, it can't do that.
  • Your Documents folder? Yes, Time Machine can do that.
  • Your User Account? Yes, Time Machine can do that.
  • MacOS? No, Time Machine can't do that, but if you Restore from the Boot Partition and then use Time Machine you will get everything
  • Thank you a lot @cmanson ! By "everything," I mean anything that includes the software part to solve these two problems that I did not have until one week ago. 1) I could use the internet with the hotspot of any android phone, but now, I can do it only if there is no password associated with the hotspot. 2) I could rearrange my Chrome bookmarks by simply dragging the name of one of them to a place where I want. Now I have to use Bookmark Manager to obtain the same result. -- Since it seems complicated to solve these issues directly, I wanted to use a TM backup I had one week ago. Mar 11, 2022 at 14:53
  • Does it make sense? Should I wipe the Mackbook drive and reinstall macOS using the Time Machine backup of one week ago? I have Big Sur now. Should I try instead to update to Monterey? Mar 11, 2022 at 14:54
  • 1
    @PenelopeBenenati I suspect that the first item would only be resolved with restoration of your MacOS settings, and that's only available via a full restore of MacOS. But, before you do, try deleting the hotspot from Mac network Settings>Wifi>Advanced. The Chrome one is a bug, i have seen suggestions to delete Chrome sync data on Google Dashboard and resync
    – cmason
    Mar 11, 2022 at 15:40
  • @cmanson thank you! I tried even deleting the hotspot from Mac network and readding it. Still, I got the same problem: Tethering works with android smarphones only if the hotspot password is absent (and it works even with Apple phones with or without password). I am thinking to try to update to Monterey. Thank you also for advice about Chrome. Mar 11, 2022 at 15:59
  • @cmanson, anyway, I did not understand yet how it is possible that I obtain the error message about the lack of memory space using the same MacBook to backup and restore... Mar 11, 2022 at 16:01

I'd be tempted to leave out something bulky yet easy to do manually - like the Photos Library - then check remaining space afterwards & see if it will fit.

If not, you then have the relative luxury of picking through already-transferred data to find some space.

BTW, it's not wise to keep your boot drive close to full at any time. You really ought to leave 10-15% free space at all times. It might be time to get an external for these bulky items, long-term.

  • Thank you for your answer. I forgot to mention that I deleted most of the space used on the SSD of my Macbook. Now I am using only 250 GB of the SSD with 512GB, i.e., half is empty (I deleted purgeable space too). Still, I get the same message from Time Machine. In any case, I do not understand how I may obtain this problem because the SSD is the same. Do you know if it is possible to modify some backup of Time Machine by deleting, for instance, a specific folder (the photo folder did not change and contains 150 GB... so I am not interested in restoring it)? Mar 11, 2022 at 9:44
  • 1
    It's not entirely clear what you're trying to do. Using Time Machine as a restore/migrate, which your "Selection the information to transfer" would imply, will restore an entire user - a new user, separate to any already on the Mac. If you just want to selectively restore some files, do it from within Time Machine rather than as part of a restore.
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 11, 2022 at 9:53
  • OK @Tetsujin, some more details: Working with my Macbook, in the last two days, I noticed new issues that I have never encountered previously (e.g., tethering does not work anymore, some apps cannot be controlled from the menu bar as before, etc.). It seems very difficult to solve these issues manually, and I remember well that one week ago, everything was fine. Hence, I thought to restore everything using the TM backup done one week ago. However, if there is a space problem (no idea how it's possible), I wonder whether I can avoid restoring some huge media files, for example. Mar 11, 2022 at 10:51

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