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I have set up a new Apple Silicon Mac and attached an external drive as Time Machine.

The Time Machine drive I can see in Terminal as

$ ls -1 /Volumes
...
Persistently
...

And in Finder I can in the drive Persistently see all the individual snapshots as folders:

Time machine in Finder

However, in the Terminal, when I list the folders under Persistently, I get only:

$ ls -1 /Volumes/Persistently
2024-03-30-201433.previous
backup_manifest.plist

Where are the snapshots folders?

On my old Mac (running Catalina), I always could see the snapshots folders in Terminal and work through some of the files with Unix commands.

How do I do this now in Ventura?

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  • What is problem you are trying to solve by viewing TM snapshots with ls?
    – Gilby
    Commented Mar 31 at 8:31
  • @Gilby I just want get all the snapshot versions of file on a specific path (like ~/data/house/temperatures.csv) and copy them (with a date stamp added to the file name) into a directory for later inspection. Does this make sense?
    – halloleo
    Commented Apr 1 at 0:19
  • Yes that does make sense. BackupLoupe builds an index which lets you search for all unique occurrences of a file - but doesn't do your restore requirements.
    – Gilby
    Commented Apr 1 at 3:40

1 Answer 1

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Your new backups are using APFS format, the old ones were HFS+. This has brought a major change to Time Machine in terms of how to find the backups and, more importantly, much increased reliability.

The most recent backup snapshot is mounted at /Volumes/<TMdisk> and this is what you are seeing with ls -1 /Volumes/<TMdisk>.

All backup snapshots are mounted under /Volumes/.timemachine/<GUID> where the GUID is a string of hex digits and hyphens. You can see all the mounted snapshots with the command mount | sort.

Then use ls -la /Volumes/.timemachine/<GUID>/<date-time>.backup and drill down to get to your files.

In my view, using the command line is not an efficient way of viewing backup snapshots. Using Finder is so much easier.

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  • Thanks for the explanations. However it doesn't work for me completely. I do see the backups under /Volumes/.timemachine/<>GUID>/, e.g. /Volumes/.timemachine/<GUID>/2024-03-14-123547.backup and I can see inside that a Data directory, but when I try to look into the Data directory with ls -a /Volumes/.timemachine/<GUID>/2024-03-14-123547.backup/Data I get an "No such file or directory" error. So no snapshot is there!
    – halloleo
    Commented Mar 31 at 4:39
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    @halloleo Under /Volumes/.timemachine are mount points from all/most TM backups. The mount points for 'thinned' backups are still there, but don't have anything mounted. That is why I suggested using mount to discover the backups which are mounted. If the backups are not mounted you can a) open them in Finder or b) Disk Utility with View > Show APFS snapshots.
    – Gilby
    Commented Mar 31 at 8:30
  • Interesting! I see, the backups need to be mounted first. Can I mount them in the terminal (so that I then can search in the terminal through them)?
    – halloleo
    Commented Apr 1 at 0:14
  • I find that after a while (a few hours after booting) they are all mounted. I don't know what kicks that off. Likely easiest just to rapidly open them in Finder - select the TM disk, select first backup and hit down arrow.
    – Gilby
    Commented Apr 1 at 3:30

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