Wanted to wipe out my drive, but wanted to make sure when restoring from Time Machine, all files, apps, hack-apps, will still work?

  • 1
    You can test it out by remove the old system disk and install a clean disk in its place and do a restore. If it doesn't work, you can compare the old disk with the new one to figure out why. Dec 25, 2009 at 15:05
  • Pretty much the same question as Verifying Time Machine backups Jan 12, 2011 at 10:07

4 Answers 4


When you reinstall your operating system, OS X will ask if you want to restore from a Time Machine backup. just select your TM backup drive and it will install the OS fresh and then restore your data.

As long as you haven't setup any excluded folders, it will copy all of your data in all the places except system folders.

You can find the current list of system exclusions at /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd.bundle/Contents/Resources/StdExclusions.plist It is an XML file you can open with any text editor.

Mine (Mac OS 10.5.8) looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
    <!-- paths we do not want to include in a system backup -->
        <string>/Desktop DB</string>
        <string>/Desktop DF</string>
        <string>/Previous Systems</string>
        <string>/Users/Shared/SC Info</string>
        <string>/private/var/db/Spotlight</string>          <!-- old tiger location of the Spotlight db -->
        <string>/private/var/db/Spotlight-V100</string>     <!-- old tiger location of the Spotlight db -->
    <!-- paths we need to include in backup so we can restore disk structure, but don't want to backup contents -->
    <!-- standard user paths we want to skip for each user (subpath relative to root of home directory) -->
        <string>Library/Application Support/SyncServices</string>
        <string>Library/Mail/Envelope Index</string>
  • yeah.. i wanted to make sure.. I have always done a clean install and add files manually.. thanks.. vote my question up so i get some points to vote on your answer
    – fady
    Nov 17, 2009 at 20:50
  • It won't back up user-installed screen savers (~/Library/Screen Savers) by default!
    – SilverWolf
    Apr 24, 2018 at 14:10
  • To find files and folders excluded by design, see:


    Beware that some paths may actually be symbolic links to paths mentioned in that file! Like Apache might refer to the symbolic link /var/logs/apache2, which is actually excluded through its target /private/var/logs/apache2.

  • To find files and folders manually excluded by an administrative user, see:


  • To find files and folders excluded by specific software (like iTunes, and like pre-1.1.2 versions of VMware Fusion, according to Take Your VM Back in Time), by setting the extended attribute com.apple.metadata:com_apple_backup_excludeItem on its files, run:

    mdfind "com_apple_backup_excludeItem = 'com.apple.backupd'"

  • When using FileVault then your home folder is only being backed up when you log out.


As far as I know. A month ago I was trying to restore some config files from macport upgrade (/opt/local/etc, which is hidden within Finder). When I explored with Timemachine I found all the files and directories since the first day I started using Timemachine.


For all intents and purposes, without exclusions, it will backup up all user data... The scope of Time Machine (Time Machine Exclusions)

Time Machine, by default, backups up every local drive on your machine. It won’t backup network mounted drives, but any local drive that is not excluded is by default added into the backup. Apple has a standard list of exclusions, but since Apple has not officially documented these exculsions they may change unpredictably in the future. But for now, the following directories do not have to be excluded manually:

/private/var/db/Spotlight <!– old tiger location of the Spotlight db –>
/private/var/db/Spotlight-V100     <!– old tiger location of the Spotlight db –>
/Desktop DB
/Desktop DF
/Previous Systems
/Users/Shared/SC Info
/dev,  /home,  /net
~/Library/Application Support/SyncServices/data.version
~/Library/Mail/Envelope Index

From http://www.schollnick.net/wordpress/systems-administration/macintosh-related/time-machine-information/


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