I have this file that I want to restore, that is a system file, normally stored on /tmp.

If I open Finder, and select GO > GO TO FOLDER

I type /tmp on the window and it opens /private/tmp (???? why ?)

Anyway, the file is not there, but the file was there 5 days ago. I open time machine and it shows me an empty window If I go back in type, but if I type the name of the file on the finder search box, I see several versions of the file (one day ago, two days ago, etc.). I select one of them, but the RESTORE BUTTON is disabled. I right click on a file and select RESTORE TO, but nothing happens...

How do I select a system file from days ago from a time machine backup?

Yes, I am sure the file is there.


  • 1
    What is the full file name?
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 14:01
  • It's worth noting that /tmp is specifically for temporary files. There's a good reason it isn't backed up.
    – Bobson
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 15:29

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately, you're not going to be able to recover that file using Time Machine. There are a number of files and directories that Time Machine does not back up—primarily cache and temporary files. This includes the files in the /tmp directory. The directory itself (minus contents) is backed up, because it is necessary for a reinstall.

The complete list of exclusions can be found in /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd.bundle/Contents/Resources/StdExclusions.plist

image of StdExclusions.plist in Property List Editor

ᔥ Devin Lane: Time Machine Exclusions


because /tmp is a symbolic link to /private/tmp

aka /tmp does not really exist

enter image description here


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