I'm interested in creating a clone of my Time Machine backups (the Backups.backupdb folder) so that my local backup strategy isn't entirely dependent on the external HD being alive. My hope is that I can backup the entire Time Machine contents to a single file (a disk image, sparse bundle, I'm not entirely sure of correct terminology) and then upload this file to a service like Amazon S3.

Is there a method for doing so that is known to work well and result in an image file that can later be restored to an actual external disk and have all backed-up contents still be usable?

I have one caveat to my situation which might complicate things - I have about 25GB of other data in other folders on this external HD which I would like to not include in a clone. I've taken a look at SuperDuper and it seems like it would clone the entire HD just fine, but I don't see how to exclude files - and CCC doesn't even show the Backups.backupdb as an option in it's file picker (even after following these instructions).


1 Answer 1


The answer is yes and the tool I would use for this task is Disk Utility.

You can use the File menu to select New Disk Image from Folder… and choose only the Backups.backupdb folder as the source of the image.

You can start and see how it works, but I wanted to add some commentary as well since you already are seeing difficulties with other utilities explicitly not wanting any part of cloning Time Machine data.

Since this folder contains hard links, if you don't choose a tool that respects hard links, you will end up with individual copies of each file and not the efficient storage that Time Machine uses.

For network use, you might choose a sparse disk image format which will be easier to copy to S3 and not lose the entire file if the transfer aborts in the middle.

If I were you, I'd perhaps pick important backup intervals and only move those to the offsite storage, but networks are fast enough that you could push an entire backup set to the cloud if you didn't mind paying the data transfer costs and waiting for the upload to be written to S3.

  • Thanks. And just to be clear, would you expect Disk Utility to respect the hard links?
    – matt b
    Jun 3, 2013 at 19:38
  • It does when I clone a drive entirely. I haven't ever been curious enough to try this since I just move around one time slice and generally don't depend on the history to get moved about. It's possible it doesn't work, but you could test that by making a very simple test case.
    – bmike
    Jun 3, 2013 at 19:55

You must log in to answer this question.

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