Additionally to TM backing up everything every hour, I'd like sometimes to tell it to quickly add a backup of a single folder. Can that be done?

  • Just in case you don't know: Time Machine is not an archiving tool or a revision system. After a few more backups it will start removing files from the backup, leaving you with the hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for everything older than a month. – Arjan May 22 '10 at 8:39
  • Yeah, I know that, but thanks anyway. ( I have a 1 TB disk for backup, I'm not expecting that anytime soon, my initial backup was 170 GB, from which I have to remove many useless files like movies, and progrssive backups are no more than a couple of MBs now ) – Petruza May 23 '10 at 12:58
  • If by I'm not expecting that anytime soon you mean that you're not expecting Time Machine to remove things from your backup disk until that disk is full, then you're wrong. Time Machine will always clean up. Like: files that have not existed on your Mac for more than a week might completely disappear from your backup too. Also, Time Machine is keeping the first weekly backup, not the latest... – Arjan Dec 2 '10 at 20:37

If you go to the menu item for TM, in the dropdown menu is an item "Make backup now" (or some such string, I use another language). It will immediately start to add all changed items, including all new files in that folder.

If you only want that folder, I don't know of a direct way, maybe a command line thing will work. But I'd choose the menu item I just mentioned.

  • Indeed. And if one is running a normal backup every hour, then probably running it at command will probably not find a lot of other files besides those in that specific folder. – Arjan May 22 '10 at 8:31
  • Yeah, that's what I do now, it seems what I ask is not possible thanks to Apple's "extremely easy and user friendly" design style. – Petruza May 23 '10 at 13:00
  • @Henno Are you referring to a specific 'command line thing'. Is there a way to interact with Time Machine via the Terminal? – Evan Plaice Jun 26 '14 at 5:51
  • @EvanPlaice tmutil does that. It's man page is at developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/Darwin/Reference/… (and on your mac). You start backups with "tmutil startbackup -a", to get the same effect as starting it from the GUI. But no way that I can see to just backup single folders, though. – Henno Jun 27 '14 at 3:59

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1427 Selecting items to be excluded from Time Machine you could select your entire library to be excluded except for the individual file / folder that you want time machine to back up.


The solution is simple but requires a little Unix trickery.

Create a partition to hold the files

  • Open Disk Utility
  • Create a partition formatted to Mac OSX (Journaled)

Note: Ensure that your Time Machine's backup disk/partition is 3x the size of the partition you're going to back up.

Create a symbolic link pointing to the new partition.

  • Open the Terminal
  • Navigate to the directory where your backed-up folder will reside
  • Create a symbolic link to the partition you created in the last step

    ln -s /Volumes/[PartitionName] ./[Folder Name]

Setup exclusions

  • Open up the Time Machine Preferences
  • Open up the Options
  • Use the + to add the System and Time Machine volumes to the exclusions
  • Turn on Time Machine

Note: I use the ambiguous 'Time Machine Volume' because it's location depends on your setup.

The nicest part about this solution is you can move your backed-up folder to a different location without screwing up the backups by simply creating a new symlink.

Last but not least, drink some Tiger's Blood because you'll be winning.


I guess what Petruza is asking is what I would like; to be able to exclude the whole system drive except for one specific folder, which @Camreon indicates here (quoted below), is cumbersome, so he recommends other software. I am trying to backup 2 GB to a 3.4 GB flash drive and I receive an error that 164.6 GB is required. Get Info of the whole drive says only 22.4 GB are in use, Time Machine shows 25 GB excluded, so 164 GB certainly makes NO sense.

Unfortunately, Time Machine preferences only allow you to set which drives/folders you want to ignore, not which ones you want to back up. You can get the behavior you want by excluding all the folders you don't want backed up, but it's kind of cumbersome. I suggest using SuperDuper or some kind of VCS if you only want to incrementally back up one folder.

  • 1
    I pulled in the answer from the linked (and [closed]) question. – JoshP Sep 28 '12 at 14:27

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