I just noticed that Time Machine is backing up 15 GB (it's been running for a few hours; this means that Time Machine thinks that 15 GB of data changed in one hour which is absurd). I've only been doing some programming in the Terminal, and the usual web browsing/iTunes etc.

Why is this happening? Is there a way to see which files does Time Machine think changed this much? How to stop this behavior?

Edit: It just occured to me that the two times it happened I was using a VMWare Virtual Machine. Is it possible that Apple made the terrible oversight of not having a working binary diff and it's backing up the Virtual Machine image in its entirety every time?

3 Answers 3


Yes, it is the whole virtual disk which gets saved, there is no binary diff.

  • Back up software without a binary diff is insane. But thanks for the answer.
    – houbysoft
    Oct 1, 2012 at 5:02

To Time Machine a file is a file and if it is changed the file is copied again. This is required due to the - rather ingenious - way that hard links are used to have multiple backups use the same single file "on disk".

I found a reasonable solution to make virtual disks work well with Time Machine. Namely to make a sparse disk image and put the virtual machine over there. Then OS X automatically maintains a lot of single, small files comprising your virtual machine disk and only those actually affected needs to be backed up automatically.

See http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20040625012304236 for instructions how to release claimed but unused space from the sparse disk image.


The way I do it is using GrandPerspective (Open Source - http://grandperspectiv.sourceforge.net).

You first need to be able to see the Time Machine backups. The backups are in an sparser image that you need to mount with Disk Utility. The sparser file is called "MachineName.sparsebundle"

Once mounted you will see a new disk called "Time Machine Backups".

Start the application GrandPerspective and when asked for the folder or drive to scan, you select the folder with the last backup, this will look something like : "Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb/MachineName/YYYY-MM-DD-HHMMSS" To select the last backup you will need to select the folder with the closest date or sort by date of creation.

Once GrandPerspective has finished, you will see a graph showing pretty much the same than if you had scanned the hard drive that you backed up. The difference is that most of those files are hard links to previous versions. So you can asked GrandPerspective to filter all the Hard Links. To do that, select "Window/Filter…", then select the filter "No Hard Links" and press Ok.

You will now see a new GrandPerspective window with only the files that where backed up on that last backup.

Note that this instructions only work with the last backup as is the only one that the backed up files will not have any hard links.

If you want to analyse the whole time machine backups, then I recommend you to try the instructions given here: http://grandperspectiv.sourceforge.net/HelpDocumentation/HowToAnalyseTimeMachineBackups.html

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .