I have an old Time Machine backup and would like to recover the latest version of the files without restoring the backup to a whole computer.

For example, say that the Time Machine backup drive has two files:

Backups.backupdb/Drive 1/2008-01-01-080000/Macintosh HD/Users/user/Documents/file1.doc
Backups.backupdb/Drive 1/2008-01-01-080000/Macintosh HD/Users/user/Documents/file2.doc
Backups.backupdb/Drive 1/2008-02-01-080000/Macintosh HD/Users/user/Documents/file1.doc

I want to recover this backup with the same folder structure and the latest version of each file, e.g.:

user/Documents/file1.doc (from 2008-02-01)
user/Documents/file2.doc (from 2008-01-01)

For a few files and two backups, it's easier to do by hand. But for nested tree structures and multiple backups, it quickly becomes tedious.

I searched online for macos time machine python script deduplicate multiple backup versions without results.

Does such a tool or script already exist in bash or python or would I need to code it?

  • 1
    I don't understand - the latest version of all files is ion the 2008-02-01-080000 backup?
    – mmmmmm
    Jul 5, 2022 at 14:27
  • file1.doc was unchanged, so it is present only in the 2008-02-01 backup, as far as I understand. But if Time Machine has the latest version of all files in Latest thanks to hard links, then I only need to copy the latest backup. I'll check that in a few weeks when I have access to the backup again.
    – emonigma
    Jul 5, 2022 at 14:29
  • 1
    No file1.doc is in all backups between when it was created until when it is deleted. The hard links are used in all versions. actually on APFS backups it is not there at all.
    – mmmmmm
    Jul 5, 2022 at 14:34
  • Thank you @mmmmmm. Can you write an answer?
    – emonigma
    Jul 5, 2022 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


Navigate to the folder with “latest” instead of the year and date directory/folder to get the latest snapshot. (So instead of 2008-01-01-080000 and such)

This works for all versions of Time Machine and will simplify your process.

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