Time Machine - Troubleshooting

A2.  Time Tracker  and/or  Backup Loupe

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Time Machine’s "Star Wars" display shows how your system looked at the time of each backup.  Sometimes, though, there’s a need to figure out just what was actually backed-up on a particular backup.  There are a couple of 3rd-party apps for that (samples below):


These show most of the files saved by Time Machine for each actual backup (excluding Local snapshots on Lion, and some hidden/system files, etc.). This can help you figure out just what is (or is not) being backed-up.


  1. Time Tracker  is free;  it’s pretty basic but usually works well.  It only shows backups on the current backup destination, though, so if you've got more than one, you have to select the one you want (if you're using "rotating backups," it's the set most recently backed-up to).

  2. BackupLoupe  requires a small payment ($5 U.S. as of June, 2013), but will show all (mounted) backup sets.  It also has some additional features some users may like.  A nice package.

  3. Other, similar apps may exist, but I haven't used any of them, so can't comment.


Note that both these applications work by comparing a completed backup you select to the one before it.  So if you select a large backup, it’s going to take a while to determine, calculate, and display the items.  If your backups are on a network, connect via Ethernet if possible.  It will still take a while, but be 2-3 times faster than WIFI.

That also means that, after 24 hours, you're not really looking at what was backed-up on a particular backup, but all the backups since the previous one.

And you can’t select the oldest backup, since there’s nothing to compare it to, or one that’s running, failed, or was cancelled.



Sample Time Tracker display:

  1. This is similar to a Finder window in List view.  The dated backups will show 0 bytes until you select one, then the app will calculate the size, so may take a while.  You can click the disclosure triangles to see the items in that folder that were backed-up. 

  2. Time Tracker will only show backups on the volume currently selected for backups (or most recently backed-up to) in Time Machine preferences.

  3. The recent version of Time Tracker may give you a permissions error on network backups;  if it does, try double-clicking the sparse bundle via the Finder to mount the disk image.




Sample Backup Loupe display:

This is similar to a Finder window in Column view.  The dated backups will have no size until you select one, then the app will calculate the size, so may take a while. 

If you have multiple backup sets for the same Mac, and the set you want isn't the one listed at the top of the sidebar, click the arrows to the left of the name to select the set you want.

Backup Loupe will show all the backups it can find, on any internal, external, or mounted network locations. If you have backups for multiple Macs, and the one you want isn't the one shown in the second line in the sidebar, click the arrows in front of it to get a selection menu.

Pretty good Help is available by clicking Help in the menubar.

There are several options available in the toolbar and/or menubar.

The Excluded Items icon will list the items specified for exclusion for that backup in Time Machine Preferences > Options  (note that there are other, automatic exclusions that won't be listed:  see Frequently Asked Question #11).

There are a few additional display and formatting options, via Preferences.