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Take control of your Mac’s Time Machine — from custom backup times to finding out where those 2 GB of new files are, the right apps can give you power and knowledge Apple’s own tools just don’t provide.

Apple’s Time Machine is pretty simple to set up and easy to restore files from How to Restore Data From Time Machine Backups How to Restore Data From Time Machine Backups It's really easy to set up Time Machine, the backup software that comes with every Mac — but how do you get your files back when things go wrong? Read More  (unless you want to back up to an unsupported NAS Turn Your NAS Or Windows Share Into A Time Machine Backup Turn Your NAS Or Windows Share Into A Time Machine Backup Use your NAS, or any network share, for backing up your Mac with Time Machine. Read More ), but that simplicity comes at a price: a lack of control. If you want to define when Time Machine does and doesn’t backup, or figure out more about how your Time Machine is working, these are the best tools for the job.

Time Machine Editor (free): Control When Backups Happen

Time Machine by default backs up every hour your Mac is connected to your backup drive. If you’d rather this be every two hours, or even every six hours, Time Machine Editor lets you do that.

time-machine-editor-interval

Alternatively, you could tell Time Machine Editor to only ever run backups when you’re not using your computer – great if you find that the backups are slowing you down. Or, if you really want control, you can set up an elaborate schedule.

time-machine-editor-calendar

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You could, for example, run hourly Time Machine backups only on particular days of the week. Or you could set your backup to happen at the same time, every day. There’s no limit to how many times you can set, so this gives you complete control over when backups happen – perfect for anyone obsessed with performance. There’s even experimental support for Power Nap, meaning newer Macs could run backups, on schedule, while asleep.

Basically, if you want control over when Time Machine backs up, this is the best tool for the job. And it’s free.

BackupLoupe ($5, free trial): See What Was Backed Up & When

Have you ever seen that Time Machine is backing up 2 GB of files, only to wonder how you managed to create that much information in just a few hours? If so, BackupLoupe is for you. This app scans your Time Machine so you can browse what was backed up when.

backup-loupe-browse-time-machine-backups

In this case, it seems like a Chrome update is responsible for a lot of the last backup’s size. Who knew?

Scanning the various snapshots can take a while, but once that’s done you can see exactly which files were updated during every backup session. This makes it easy to find large, constantly updating files that might be worth adding to Time Machine’s exception list.

Time Machine Buddy (free): Read Detailed Logs

Wondering what the heck Time Machine is up to? Time Machine Buddy is a Dashboard widget that tells you when a backup is in progress, or when the last backup ran. It also lets you read detailed logs of the current backup, so you can see exactly what Time Machine is up to.

time-machine-buddy-logs

This can be very useful if a backup is taking a particularly long time, or seemingly not running at all.

If you don’t use the Dashboard anymore, don’t worry: you can turn any widget into its own app Turn Any Mac Dashboard Widget Into Its Own App Turn Any Mac Dashboard Widget Into Its Own App You probably haven't used Dashboard in years, but there is that one widget you wish you could just turn into an app. Guess what? You can! Read More quickly enough.

Alternatively, you can check the logs without a dedicated app: just head to your Utilities folder, then open Terminal. Type “backupd” into the search and you should see the most recent Time Machine entries in the log.

Get Time Machine Info From The Terminal

If you want to really dig into Time Machine, you can try out tmutil in the Terminal. This command lets you control and find information about your Time Machine from the command line. Type man tmutil in the Terminal for an overview, or read the tmutil manual online. Here’s a few examples of what you can do:

  • tmutil startbackup — starts a backup, right now.
  • tmutil stopbackup — stops the current backup.
  • tmutil compare — compares your computer to the latest backup.
  • tmutil latestbackup — shows you the path to the latest backup.

time-machine-tmutil-latest

These are some of the simpler commands, so dig into the manual if you want more control.

It’s also worth noting that this command could be really useful if you use Geektool to make your Mac your own How To Use GeekTool To Truly Make Your Mac Your Own How To Use GeekTool To Truly Make Your Mac Your Own Would you rather have your boring desktop space filled with useful system information or family photos? You need GeekTool. Read More , or use Today Scripts to add command outputs to the Notification Center How To Use GeekTool To Truly Make Your Mac Your Own How To Use GeekTool To Truly Make Your Mac Your Own Would you rather have your boring desktop space filled with useful system information or family photos? You need GeekTool. Read More – tmutil could be used to get all sorts of information. MacOSXtips.co.uk has a decent example, if you’re curious.

What Other Tools Help Control Time Machine?

I want to know which tools I’ve missed, so please: fill me in in the comments below. I’d particularly like to know if any of you found a way to see notifications when backups start and end, because I tried – a lot – and failed.

Time Machine alone might not be enough: the ultimate Mac backup strategy The Ultimate Triple Backup Solution For Your Mac [Mac OSX] The Ultimate Triple Backup Solution For Your Mac [Mac OSX] As the developer here at MakeUseOf and as someone who earns their entire income from working online, it's fair to say my computer and data are quite important. They’re set up perfectly for productivity with... Read More also includes a full system backup. Consider doing this if you really want a foolproof backup.

Image Credits: BTTF DeLorean Time Machine by Terabass

  1. Francois
    August 5, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    You missed the most powerful Time Machine tool that I know of. It is also the most expensive one, but it can be really worth : Back-In-Time by Tri-Edre. It lets you analyse TM backups in a bunch of differents ways, enhances restore options, compares space usage by file or file types, you can even selectively delete backups or files. The interface is not pretty, but it is a work horse. I highly recommend you check it out, a trial is available.

  2. Shar
    May 30, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    This was very interesting to read. How do I find out the exact time my external hard drive was backed up and then, more importantly, ejected? Thank you

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