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Time Machine: How to transfer backups from a current backup drive to a new backup drive

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Question: Quick copy of time machine backups

What is the fastest way to copy a time machine backup drive to another disk for safekeeping? I bought a hard drive to copy my current time machine backups but it was going to take forever and I didn't want to be without my time machine that long. I tried to just copy by copying the subfolder (e.g. Macintosh HD) but it filled the new disk after only copying about 1/20 of the folders. That makes no sense if they are the same size drives! Does time machine somehow shrink them? I just want a backup before I get the dreaded "Time Machine must create a new backup" and I lose the backups I have.

MacBook Pro with Retina display, OS X Yosemite (10.10.5)

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Mar 2, 2018 9:38 AM in response to RFB In response to RFB

My current TM drive is only half full and I'd like to clone only what's there now. Can I do that to a drive that is smaller?

Cloning apps, like Disk Utility, will attempt to replicate one drive to another. Typically you will want to use a drive that is equal or larger than the one you are trying to clone. However, it is also possible to clone to a smaller drive if there is sufficient space to store the data. Note that some cloning apps will refuse to proceed (or at least warn you) with a clone if there will not be enough space available.

Is cloning faster?

Potentially, yes, but not significantly. The "weakest links" will be the type of ports used (Thunderbolt, USB, etc.) and the computer's CPU to physically transfer the data.

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Mar 2, 2018 9:23 AM in response to RFB In response to RFB

Sorry, but no method will make this process "fast."


Time Machine: How to transfer backups from a current backup drive to a new backup drive - Apple Support


Optionally, you can clone one TM backup drive to another.

Mar 2, 2018 9:23 AM

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Question marked as Helpful

Mar 2, 2018 9:38 AM in response to RFB In response to RFB

My current TM drive is only half full and I'd like to clone only what's there now. Can I do that to a drive that is smaller?

Cloning apps, like Disk Utility, will attempt to replicate one drive to another. Typically you will want to use a drive that is equal or larger than the one you are trying to clone. However, it is also possible to clone to a smaller drive if there is sufficient space to store the data. Note that some cloning apps will refuse to proceed (or at least warn you) with a clone if there will not be enough space available.

Is cloning faster?

Potentially, yes, but not significantly. The "weakest links" will be the type of ports used (Thunderbolt, USB, etc.) and the computer's CPU to physically transfer the data.

Mar 2, 2018 9:38 AM

Reply Helpful (1)
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Question: Quick copy of time machine backups