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Time Machine: Consolidating backups into a single archival copy

2839 Views 7 Replies Latest reply: Jan 6, 2013 7:54 AM by ipsofactory RSS
ipsofactory Calculating status...
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Jan 19, 2012 7:11 AM

Hello forum peoples.


I have had a Powerbook G4 for the past 7 years and been using Time Machine to backup. Now I've just bought a new Macbook Pro and have decided to start afresh and not migrate my files to the new computer, instead bringing across files as I need them. Also, I have a new external HD set up as Time Machine for my new laptop.


The issue is that I still want to use my old Time Machine HD as an extra storage space on the new computer but all the historical backups from Time Machine are taking up most of the space. For the archival backup of my old computer all I need is ONE copy of each file. I imagined that consolidating all the backups into one would be a pretty obvious requirement but it seems otherwise.


I understand that because of the incremental way files are backed up with hard copies that you cant just jump into the TM folder and delete older backup folders. I have also just spoken to Apple support line and they said what I am asking for is not possible and I will have to keep all the backups. However they didn't seem sure about it atall!


I have also had a look at Carbon Copy Cloner and notice it does have controls which say 'automatically prune archived content' and you can tell it to delete/prune backups older than X date . This sounds like it would do the job, but I'm just concerned that all that will do is delete the backups in the same way as if i manually put the old backups in the trash and similarily mess up the newest backup.


Can anyone please confirm if there is a way of consolidating the backups which will not mess up the structure and damage the remaning backup.




Time Machine, Mac OS X (10.5.8)
  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)

    ipsofactory wrote:

    . . .

    For the archival backup of my old computer all I need is ONE copy of each file. I imagined that consolidating all the backups into one would be a pretty obvious requirement but it seems otherwise.

    That can be done, but it will be very tedious and time-consuming.  You'd have to delete all but the last backup, one at a time.  See Time Machine - Frequently Asked Question #12 for details.


    Much easier, and probably better, would be to do a full system restore of the last backup to a different external HD.  Then start up from it to be sure everything's there and working, then erase the TM drive.  See FAQ #14 for instructions.

  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)

    ipsofactory wrote:

    . . .

    Can I do this on my new Macbook Pro using Lion's Recovery HD even though the backups were made on 10.5? As I don't have discs for my old OS any more that would be ideal.

    That should work, but I haven't tried it.   Since you'll be restoring to an empty drive, I'd say, give it a try.  You should be able to start and run the G4 from that drive (if it's a FireWire drive, and as I recall it would have to have the APM Partition Map Scheme, not GUID).  If it won't boot, you may still be able to view and copy selected data from it.  Or, AppleCare can send a replacement set of the original discs for a nominal fee; then you can start the G4 from that disc and do the restore to the external HD.


    You won't be able to start your new Mac up from that drive, of course, since it won't run Leopard.


    A couple of other notes:


    Since you'll have a working system on that drive, not backups, you can't use Time Machine to browse or restore;  it will just look like a normal external HD.  You can browse or copy via the Finder.


    Permissions will be enforced; if there are multiple user accounts on either Mac, one user on the new Mac may not have permission to see or change files for a different user on the other one.  You can change those, however, via the Sharing & Permissions section of the Get Info panel. 


    However I don't want to restore all the masses of stuff on to the system HD of my new laptop by accident. From the instructions in FAQ #14 it sounds a bit like it's going to replace my system with what is on the backup.

    In step (h) there, you choose the destination, so just be sure to pick the external, not your internal.

  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)

    ipsofactory wrote:

    . . .

    In your last reply you say that yes I can try restoring on the Macbook Pro but then described how to do it on the G4. So just to confirm: I am not touching the G4, it's already packed away forever!

    Ah, sorry, I didn't realize that.  That would be a sure way to get what you need, and you could be sure it's ok by starting up from it.


    I do not need a working system on the external drive, as you said it will not work on the new laptop anyway, all I want are the files. Does this matter? Is this still the best process to use?

    As I said, I've never tried it, but you might be able to connect the old backups to your new Mac and restore the last backup to a different external HD.  If that works, you should be able to access those backups from the new Mac (there might be permissions problems with different user accounts, but that can be dealt with).  See Time Machine - Frequently Asked Question #14 for instructions.



    Another option would be to only restore selected files to a different HD.  That would be more tedious (finding and selecting the ones you want), but take up less space (since you wouldn't copy OSX or apps).  See Time Machine - Frequently Asked Question #15 and #16 if you're not sure how to do that.



    Finally, my old TM disk has the 'Backups.backupdb' folder but also lots of of other folders which I have chucked on there manually over the years.

    For future reference, that's not a good idea.  See Time Machine - Frequently Asked Question #3.  Also, you need some other way to back up anything you put on the same drive as your backups.


    I do not want them restored too so I just want to check they will be left alone and not deleted when the restore process takes place. I am concerned the Restore process may not work if there is anything more than just the 'Backups.backupdb' folder on the Time Machine.

    No, that's not a problem. Time Machine will ignore anything else on the drive, and restore only what you specifically tell it to. 


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