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Question: Time Machine backups gone missing

I'm trying to find some lost photos from Time Machine, but for some unbelievable reason, Time Machine only has backups from March 1st 2018 even if I've had it set up for years and years.


Is there some way I could recover my old backups to be able to find the files I'm missing?


User uploaded file


My setup has been using two external HD's for Time Machine: a network drive (MyBookLive) and a FW drive connected to the computer (AUDIO). I've already gone through the backups on the other drive, but as there's a big gap of no backups in the time period I'd need I was hoping I could find them on the network drive. The drive has never been even close to full.


On the AUDIO -drive I can find a TimeMachine-folder and see all the backups as separate files and folders.

But on the network-drive I have two folders:

  1. an empty folder called "TimeMachineBackup"
  2. a folder called "TimeMachine" with only one large file "Myname - MacBookPro" 376,52 Gt


Is there any hope I could be able to dig out older backups from this network drive, as for some reason I don't have backups from the needed time period on the other drive.


Again, this setup and backups have certainly been running for years and years. I do not understand why my most recent backup is only a few days old!


Many thanks for your help!

MacBook Pro with Retina display, OS X El Capitan (10.11.6), mid-2012

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Mar 5, 2018 1:08 PM in response to Oh-oh Ouroboros In response to Oh-oh Ouroboros

Time Machine stores its backups a bit differently between local (directly attached drives, like your AUDIO drive) and network drives (like your TimeMachine drive).


When everything is working properly, your mounted TimeMachine drive, should contain a "file" in the form of a sparsebundle with the name of the Mac that is being backed up. For example, if your Mac is named MyMac, then there should be a file at this location, called: MyMac.sparsebundle.


If you double-click on this file, two things should happen:

  1. An icon, named: Time Machine Backups, should appear on the Desktop, and
  2. A new Finder window will appear with a folder, named: Backups.backupdb


If you now double-click on this folder, another Finder window will appear with the name of your computer. Double-clicking on this folder should open yet another Finder window with each backup set that is currently available. You can continue double-clicking on any of these folders to drill down to where the backups are stored.

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Question marked as Helpful

Mar 5, 2018 1:08 PM in response to Oh-oh Ouroboros In response to Oh-oh Ouroboros

Time Machine stores its backups a bit differently between local (directly attached drives, like your AUDIO drive) and network drives (like your TimeMachine drive).


When everything is working properly, your mounted TimeMachine drive, should contain a "file" in the form of a sparsebundle with the name of the Mac that is being backed up. For example, if your Mac is named MyMac, then there should be a file at this location, called: MyMac.sparsebundle.


If you double-click on this file, two things should happen:

  1. An icon, named: Time Machine Backups, should appear on the Desktop, and
  2. A new Finder window will appear with a folder, named: Backups.backupdb


If you now double-click on this folder, another Finder window will appear with the name of your computer. Double-clicking on this folder should open yet another Finder window with each backup set that is currently available. You can continue double-clicking on any of these folders to drill down to where the backups are stored.

Mar 5, 2018 1:08 PM

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Mar 5, 2018 1:13 PM in response to Oh-oh Ouroboros In response to Oh-oh Ouroboros

Thanks for the info!


Everything was like Tesserax described, but sadly the sparsebundle-file only has backups from March 1st 2018 onwards. I don't understand where years of backups can have vanished? The drive has over 2TB of free space!


Is it possible I could find something with a file recovery software?

Mar 5, 2018 1:13 PM

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Mar 6, 2018 1:10 AM in response to apluslban In response to apluslban

No, I'm still on 10.11.6 but there was a "Gatekeeper Configuration Data" update on 26.2.2018.


However on March 3rd, I did DOWNLOAD the installation file for High Sierra, with the intention of installing it, but I didn't go ahead as I discovered problems with my backups and missing files.


I really need those backups back...

Mar 6, 2018 1:10 AM

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Mar 6, 2018 10:43 AM in response to Oh-oh Ouroboros In response to Oh-oh Ouroboros

If you cannot locate the dated folders in Finder, then as far as Time Machine (TM) is concerned, they don't exist. Recovery apps may help, but there is no guarantee of recovering them of course.


We have seen numerous posts related to TM with network drives (especially with the Time Capsule) with either corrupted or missing backups since the release of macOS Sierra. It doesn't appear to be affecting TM backups to local drives. A number of us have been recommending using a third-party solution for incremental backup, like Carbon Copy Cloner. Unfortunately, this won't help with your current situation. Sorry!

Mar 6, 2018 10:43 AM

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Mar 6, 2018 12:58 PM in response to Oh-oh Ouroboros In response to Oh-oh Ouroboros

Agreed! That's why I don't rely on a single backup methodology for critical data.


FWIW. As a minimum, I use the following methods:

  1. Incremental backups.
    • I use Time Machine to make backups to both network and local drives.
      • For the network drives, I use:
        • An 802.11ac Time Capsule (TC)
        • A Synology DS916+ NAS
      • For the local drive, I use a WD My Book Pro connected directly to my Mac mini's Thunderbolt port.
    • I use Carbon Copy Cloner to make backups to the TC.
  2. Full disk cloning. I use Carbon Copy Cloner to create bootable clones of my Mac's internal drive to WD My Passport portable USB drives. I have multiples of these drives and I rotate them off-site for storage.
  3. Quarterly, I create archive copies of the TM backups that are stored on the TC, and then, start with fresh TM backups to that same TC.
  4. Weekly, I verify the TM backups on my network drives and boot from my cloned drives to validate my backups are accessible.
  5. I presently do not utilize any cloud services for backups.


This may be overkill for most folks, but I "sleep better" at night not worrying about it.

Mar 6, 2018 12:58 PM

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Mar 6, 2018 2:40 PM in response to Tesserax In response to Tesserax

Having read up on the subject, I've come to realise that I probably did get a pop-up window at some point with


"Time Machine completed a verification of your backups. To improve reliability, Time Machine must create a new backup for you."

Which I okayed, but I could never have imagined that creating a new backup means wiping out 6 years of data!!


I've tried different data rescue softwares on the network Time Machine -drive, but they find absolutely nothing.


I'm still wondering why I have two different Time Machine -partitions on the disk:

  • TimeMachine - including only one sparsebundle backup file (which holds only backups from the last week)
  • TimeMachineBackups - which is totally empty



Is it time for me to accept my defeat?

Mar 6, 2018 2:40 PM

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Mar 7, 2018 8:20 AM in response to Oh-oh Ouroboros In response to Oh-oh Ouroboros

Having read up on the subject, I've come to realise that I probably did get a pop-up window at some point with


"Time Machine completed a verification of your backups. To improve reliability, Time Machine must create a new backup for you."

Which I okayed, but I could never have imagined that creating a new backup means wiping out 6 years of data!!

Unfortunately, that's exactly what happens if you"ok" this message. However, it should only delete the backup set for the currently connected computer. If you had made Time Machine backups for other Macs, they would should not be affected by this.

I'm still wondering why I have two different Time Machine -partitions on the disk:

  • TimeMachine - including only one sparsebundle backup file (which holds only backups from the last week)
  • TimeMachineBackups - which is totally empty



Is it time for me to accept my defeat?

In this case, TimeMachine is the logical volume name of your WD My Book Live device that is used by Time Machine. When Time Machine runs, it will first attempt to mount this volume. It then finds the sparsebundle for your computer's backup which is actually a disk image. It then mounts this image at: /Volumes/Time Machine Backups. That's what the second item is ... so, here TimeMachine should only contain a single sparsebundle, which unfortunately, does not have any backups in it when the "new" backup was created.


The only thing I can offer at this point, is if this data is critical to you, you may need to hire a recovery specialist to see if they can recover the data. In the mean time you should stop using your WD device so that no additional data can overwrite them. Good luck!

Mar 7, 2018 8:20 AM

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Question: Time Machine backups gone missing