"Flattening" a Time Machine backup?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by iMusings, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. iMusings macrumors member

    Feb 22, 2009
    Hi all,

    I've got a time machine backup of my machine, and browsing through the .db folder in Finder I noticed that it is made up of many subfolders with date and times on them.

    What I'm trying to do is to "flatten it" so that I will have a filesystem with the latest copy of all files on it, rather than timed snapshots of my filesystem.

    Is it possible?
  2. ziggyonice macrumors 68020


    Mar 12, 2006
    Rural America
    Well, the way Time Machine works is that the very first backup it ever did was a full backup, making a copy of everything on your drive. After that, it performs incremental backups, only copying the changes.

    If you're wanting to "flatten" the backup, you could delete all the incremental changes and just re-backup everything as if it were the first time. One big backup, but I assume it'd be the same thing you're talking about.
  3. iMusings thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 22, 2009
    I've been giving it some thought, and I think the way I should do it manually is a bit like this:

    1) go into the oldest time machine folder
    2) copy everything out to a destination drive
    3) go to next oldest time machine folder
    4) same as two, overwriting files by the same name as necessary

    The trouble with 4) is that OS X seems to replace folders rather than merging their contents. That, and the fact that such a method of doing it means I'll have to recopy files that have not changed between backups too, which makes it takes a lot longer than it should.

    The idea is I want to reproduce my file system with all the deleted files present, as well as the latest copy of all my files. I've been using TM for my Macbook Pro as some sort of "extension" of my hard drive (running out of space? just delete a file! it is on my TM anyway!) and now it is coming back to bite me in the behind when I actually want to try and find a file :(
  4. tdhurst macrumors 601


    Dec 27, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ

    Aren't you better off getting another external for your extra files and then using TM as intended?
  5. bloogersnigen macrumors regular


    May 15, 2005
    Wherever the water flows
    New to leopard is the way time machine views files (well I guess time machine is new as well, but this is the coolest part of TM). It allows there to be multiple pointer to the same data. Like a super-alias.. If you only want the most recent version of your drive, simply delete all previous backups other than that most recent one.
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    WHY? THe whole point of Time Machine is to keep a history of changes. TM uses a smart method to do this too that does not use up much space.

    OK if you want to "flatten" it, then it is easy. Get a new hard drive and connect it to your Mac. Then boot from the Mac OS install CD and do a "Restore" from Time Machine. The restore process will recreate you disk. from the most reacent versions of your files.

    But again what's the point? The backup you have is better.
  7. iMusings thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 22, 2009
    The real advantage to it is that deleted files will be easily found, I'll simply go to where I last saved it and it will be there.

    As a time machine backup I actually need to remember when I deleted it too, which gets tricky with so many backups.
  8. williamsardar macrumors newbie

    May 3, 2008
    Just do what bloogersnigen said. It's spot on. I do this personally from time to time to clear up space on my drive.
  9. misterredman macrumors 6502a


    Oct 3, 2007
    You can "safely" deleted the old backups.
    As said above time machine doesn't backup unmodified files again, but just create a new "hard link" to the data (so no more space is used by unmodified file, but each backup appears as a complete copy). The suggestion that is "safe" to delete the old backups comes from the fact that when you deleted a file in time machine, the data is not deleted if until there is another "hard link" pointing to it (in another backup).


    You can also delete backups by entering Time Machine, browsing to the backup you want to delete, select the Gear and then "Delete Backup".

    Anyway, I strongly discourage playing with the TM backups, especially it those are the only backup you have.

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