I have this strange problem where a single text file (Notes.txt, where I keep random notes) is, as of yesterday, not being backed up by Time Machine. It exists in the many backups that I have dating several months back, but since yesterday, it hasn't changed in Time Machine even though I edit the file almost every hour.

Anyone know what could be causing this? I'm pretty sure that if I deleted the file (after backing it up somewhere else) then moving it back there will probably force Time Machine to back it up again, but I'm really curious as to what is causing this, just in case it happens again. It's a good thing I happnened to notice this, because I needed to look back at a previous version, but now I'm very worried that it might happen to another file that I am never aware is being missed by Time Machine.

  • Have you checked the time machine preferences (there under "options") if for any reason it is in the "do not backup" list? If not, that really bothers me because I also rely on time machine backups.
    – cyphorious
    Nov 16, 2012 at 12:22
  • Oh.. another thing: is the file encrypted? Older versions of mac os x were not able to backup encrypted parts of the HDD. Maybe still not if you use something different to Vile Fault2.
    – cyphorious
    Nov 16, 2012 at 12:23
  • This could turn into the answer if you're looking for how to track this down instead of just nailing the issue with experience or a good guess. The program BackupLoupe would be able to let you know which backups have that file saved as well as show you the exclusion lists in place in case that's a reason why Time Machine is being told to ignore that file.
    – bmike
    Nov 16, 2012 at 14:19
  • I'm also deleting the bootcamp tag on this - it's not clear why that tag is here so please edit the text of the question if bootcamp is somehow in play with the location of the file...
    – bmike
    Nov 16, 2012 at 14:31

1 Answer 1


There are a couple of things you can do to narrow down if the system is being told to ignore that file or if there is a problem with the disk structures or some other bug at play.

If you like programs with icons and controls - go get Backup Loupe and use it to track that file across your backups. The program will pause itself if Time Machine is running, so you might do one backup and then turn Time Machine off for the time it takes the Loupe to scan a few backups.

Similarly, Apple has a diagnostic tool that they use to capture information that could show a bug or a problem with time machine and spotlight indexing - it's called tmdiagnose. If you are comfortable with zip files with lots of diagnostic data and text files, start here.

Lastly, you could run tmutil compare from the terminal to just let the system tell you which files are in need of a backup the next "time the machine" runs.

As written, you have four places to look to narrow things down:

  1. Time Machine is being told to ignore that file and you can learn all the exclusion rules and patterns and check for that.
  2. Spotlight is messing up and Time Machine depends on that to know what has changed.
  3. Time Machine itself is messing up.
  4. The disks / hardware / file system are messing up - general troubleshooting of that might be needed once you've ruled out the above three potential causes.
  • Thanks, using "tmutil compare" put me on the right path. I found out that because I had used "ln -s" to include a folder into my Dropbox folder, Dropbox had for some reason renamed my folder but Time Machine was not picking it up.
    – Gary
    Nov 23, 2012 at 2:48

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