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I want to get off an older Mac OS X system permanently.

It is an iBook G3, so that has two important characteristics:

  • Power PC, not Intel based.
  • Runs only Tiger, not Leopard.

This means, as far as I can tell:

Cannot run Time Machine directly.

Here's the approach I have been contemplating:

Mount the drive in Firewire mode. Back up the drive as a external drive to the Time Machine volume. Disconnect the drive (permanently).

However, I'm concerned that this drive will eventually age out, when the Time Machine volume fills up, and the old-system-as-external-drive is gone.

Would it be better to do a single backup with another utility, to shared disk?

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In this case you gain nothing from time machine as you are not adding to the one off copy as well as the issues you mention

There are several ways of making backups to a firewire drive and these can be made bootable as well. Also if you backup to a disk image you can make the disk image compressed and save space.

Part of the OS will do this see the ditto command or Disk Utility that can copy a disk.

Freeware includes Carbon copy cloner and SuperDuper

In this case I have used Carbon Copy Cloner as I felt it was the simplest. (I think it just calls ditto for the whole drive)

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At this point I'd chuck Time Machine entirely and use Rsnapshot. This is what a lot of people who wanted Time Machine functionality used before Apple introduced it's own version. No fancy interface but it works. I think it works better because you can set up more parameters that you can't with Time Machine, e.g. ditch old backups instead of keeping everything until the backup disk is full. There was a write up about setting it up with Tiger which I'm sure you can find by searching.

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I assume things will be different for an extra drive, but for files on your normal drive things are even worse than you describe. Maybe this should have been a comment, but I think an answer stands out better in case someone reads this in the future:

Time Machine only keeps hourly backups for the last 24 hours, only all first daily backups for the last month, and only all first weekly backups until the disk is full.

So, even before Time Machine runs out of disk space, if you run Time Machine hourly then files that did not exist on your Mac for more than a day might be deleted from your backup after a day. Or, when running daily, files that did not exist on your Mac for more than a week might be deleted after a week (or a month; I never tested that).

For example:

  1. Run Time Machine at 10 am.
  2. Add some files to your Mac at 11 am.
  3. Run Time Machine at 1 pm. The files from step 2 will be added.
  4. Delete the files you created in step 2 from your Mac.
  5. Run Time Machine at 2 pm. The files from step 2, written to the backup in step 3, will still be on the backup, but no longer on your Mac.
  6. Run Time Machine at 11 am next day. All yesterday's backups will be deleted, except for the first which was created in step 1. Hence, your backup no longer holds the files you created in step 2 (and were deleted from your Mac in step 4).
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