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I have just swapped my imac for a macbook pro and did a Time Machine backup to then restore. the problem I have is that the hard drive on the macbook isn't big enough to take my restore point.

I de-selected most of the user files and it restored. I now need to try and get the files which were in my "documents" folder. (30gb of them). Is there any way to mount the backup file so I can take a look at what's in there and selectively get hold of files??

thanks for any help!

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(When having access issues, see also "How do I retrieve files from Time Machine backups from another computer?" at…) – Arjan Feb 23 '10 at 14:57
up vote 0 down vote accepted

A Time Machine backup is really just a huge folder with many hard links to specific versions of a file. Within that structure, any folder shows you the full backup of that date (even though in fact only changed files will have been written to the backup, when Time Machine was running):

Time Machine

Image from Ars Technica

So browse to "Latest" and copy whatever you want.

(When you're using a remote backup, Time Machine might in fact be using a sparse bundle. Double click to mount it.)

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thanks for the replies. I can see that the folder structure is there, but i cannot access the folder i need ("documents"). It says that I do not have access. I restored the backup to the same username - how can I get access (or reset it?) thank you. – user28439 Feb 18 '10 at 8:17
@Matt, with "Get Info" (from the Ctrl-Click context menu, or from clicking Command-I when the folder is selected) you should be able to change the permissions. You might need to click the padlock in the lower right corner first, to allow for making changes. – Arjan Feb 18 '10 at 8:32
thanks. I've done that and have managed to get access to copy it to my desktop... however I still cannot double click and open it. It says I do not have permission. I reset perms to myself and added read&write. I will try copying it to another drive and just drag and drop contents from there. Thanks! – user28439 Feb 18 '10 at 8:45
@Matt, oops, so now you've changed permissions on the backup drive? I thought you wrote you already copied the folder to another disk, so no need to mess with the backup disk itself then? Anyway, when you're first getting the whole folder anyhow, it might be easier to just use Time Machine to restore parts of the backup? When holding down Option while clicking the Time Machine icon, "Enter Time Machine" changes into "Browse Other Time Machine Disks". Does that help you? – Arjan Feb 18 '10 at 11:41
i copied the contents to the disk and have managed to find the files I needed.... thank you for the help!! – user28439 Feb 18 '10 at 22:49

Of course, you can browse your backup. Just navigate through :

/Volumes/[Time Machine Volume]/Backups.backupdb/[Computer Name]/Latest/

From there, go to your old home folder and select which files should be restored.

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