Skip navigation
This discussion is archived

Time Machine backup disappeared--devastating loss

1345 Views 12 Replies Latest reply: Nov 15, 2012 9:50 PM by Pondini RSS
Frozo Level 2 Level 2 (270 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Nov 15, 2012 6:12 PM

Long story short, my system drive became corrupted and I wasn't able to repair it with Disk Utility or DiskWarrior. I knew my Time Machine backup was up to date on my Time Capsule, so I formatted (quick format) my drive and installed OS X again, thinking I could just reimport my info back from the Time Machine backup.


What happened is now the hard drive is not showing up in the sparsebundle file. The other 2 internal drives seem to be fine.


In retrospect, I know I screwed up process. But my question is, is there ANY way to make that backup available again? I know it all must still be there but somehow the link to it must have been broken and I can't access it.


I lost everything but the videos/photos of my 17 month old son is devastation. I really hope someone can save me here.


(I did use a recovery app (read only) on the system drive so I do have access to the raw data, but there are literally millions of files to sort through, many corrupted).

  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 15, 2012 7:31 PM (in response to Frozo)

    Frozo wrote:

    . . .

    so I formatted (quick format) my drive and installed OS X again,

    Then what did you do?  When your Mac started up after the installation, did you choose to transfer your data via this window?




    I'm assuming you did not, but set up a new user account instead?  



    To be clear, I can open my "Sparse Disk Image Bundle" on the Time Capsule. I then have access to /Backups.backupdb/Mac Pro/. There are many incremental backups listed, within each are 2 folders (one for each internal drive I still have connected to my Mac Pro). There should be a THIRD folder with my boot disk "The Tardis" listed, but it's completely gone in all incremental folders.


    Have you done any backups since the boot drive failed?


    Do you mean you opened the sparse bundle via the Finder, or via the Time Machine browser (the "Star Wars" display)?


    If you mean the TM browser, see #E3 in Time Machine - Troubleshooting.  If you've done any backups since the failure, don't select anything in the Finder window, but in the TimeLine on the right, locate a backup from before the failure and see what drives were backed-up on it.  If the old boot drive was backed-up, there will be a folder representing it.


    If you mean the Finder, are there any backup folders from before the failure?

  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 15, 2012 7:50 PM (in response to Frozo)

    Frozo wrote:

    . . .

    I know for a fact, 100%, that the old boot drive has been backing up. It mysteriously disappeared.

    That doesn't just happen spontaneously.  Either it wasn't being backed-up, or the backups of it have been manually deleted.


    The only other (very remote) possibility is, the sparse bundle's directory is damaged.  Try reparing it, per #A5 in Time Machine - Troubleshooting.  It sounds like you have quite a lot of backups, so that will likely take a very long time, so connect to the Time Capsule via Ethernet cable if at all possible.  It will still take quite a while, but be 2-3 times faster than via WIFI.



    (It's fairly late here, and I'll be going to bed in an hour or so  (most likely long before you'll have any results from that), but I'll be back online tomorrow.)

  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 15, 2012 8:55 PM (in response to Frozo)

    Frozo wrote:


    Disk Utility returned "The volume Time Machine Backups appears to be OK."

    That was quick!  


    Would you know what the preference file would be that holds the information as to which drives are being backed up? I may be able to do a content search for it on my recovered raw data files. Id be curious--maybe I had accidentally added the disk on the exclude list somehow!? Maybe I wasnt 100% sure, because I havent had to access it for over a year at least.



    (That's the top-level Library folder, not the one in your user home folder).   It contains the current instructions;  if you make a change, that will be reflected in subsequent backups, but earlier ones won't be changed.


    But of course, if you don't have the backups, you can't tell what was in that file.


    Lets say it was recently deleted somehow, is there any recourse to pulling anything off it?

    Even if it was recently added to the exclusion list (all internals are backed-up by default), that wouldn't affect prior backups.  Those would still be in the Backups.backupdb folder, until the entire backup (or all backups of a selected item, as below) was deleted.  Since you have at least a year's worth of backups, it would still have been there.


    If you really want to double-check, Time Machine puts a hidden, somewhat cryptic, log in each backup folder.  Among other things, it shows which volumes were backed-up. 


    First, you have to change the Finder to show hidden items.  See #A3 in Time Machine - Troubleshooting if you don't know how to do that.


    Then via the Finder, locate the log file, shown in gray since we mere mortals are not authorized to read it, either:


    Screen Shot 2012-11-15 at 11.40.39 PM.png


    Then you must give yourself read rights to the file.  Right-click it and select Get Info.  In the window that shows, open the Sharing & Permissions section at the bottom.  Click the padlock and enter your Admin password, then click the plus sign and select your user account.  That will give you read rights.


    Open it with a text editor.  Here's part of a sample, showing the "preflight" to back up two drives:


    Screen Shot 2012-11-15 at 11.45.45 PM.png


    See if the "missing" drive shows up there.  If not, it wasn't backed-up.



    But then, even it it were physically delted, it wouldnt have been an accident, since it would have to be manually removed from each incremental folder and there are about 70 of them!

    There is a "Delete all backups of ..." option in the TM browser that would do them all at once.  It's almost impossible to do it by accident, though.  See Time Machine - Frequently Asked Question #12.

  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 15, 2012 9:14 PM (in response to Frozo)

    Yup.    My condolences. 



    One more reason never to rely on a single backup, no matter where it is or how it was made -- you'd be in the same pickle if the Time Capsule had failed (which they do, of course).


    See Time Machine - Frequently Asked Question #27 for details and some suggestions.

  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 15, 2012 9:37 PM (in response to Frozo)

    Do you mean the one that's hidden in the backup folder, along with the log?   If so, that doesn't show excluded volumes for some reason, just excluded files and folders for volumes that were backed-up.


    If you mean the current /Library/Preferences/, that won't help.  When you erased your startup drive and installed OSX, that generated a new one.   Since you don't have backups of the pre-erase startup drive, you can't tell what was in the old version.


    Run a backup, then check to confirm whether it's getting backed-up.

  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 15, 2012 9:50 PM (in response to Frozo)

    Frozo wrote:

    . . .

    Where would you exclude specific volumes? Same Time Machine "Options" as you would exlude files/folders?



    Your Time Machine drive should be there automatically, but shown in gray (meaning you can't remove it).  So will any drives/partitions that aren't formatted for a Mac, since Time Machine can't back them up.


    I would never have done that intentionally... how easy could that be to do accidentally? So weird

    Some folks manage it.  It seems to happen when they don't quite get that it's an exclusion list, not a list of drives/partitions they want to be backed-up, as with other backup apps.  Usually, they only have a single internal HD, and if it's excluded, Time Machine will fail with a message about there not being anything to back up.


More Like This

  • Retrieving data ...

Bookmarked By (0)


  • This solved my question - 10 points
  • This helped me - 5 points
This site contains user submitted content, comments and opinions and is for informational purposes only. Apple disclaims any and all liability for the acts, omissions and conduct of any third parties in connection with or related to your use of the site. All postings and use of the content on this site are subject to the Apple Support Communities Terms of Use.