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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk Storage Devices
Transferring a Time Machine backup to a larger disk can be challenging, as a simple file copy operation in the Finder does not work.

The entire volume has to be transferred in one piece, sector by sector. Disk Utility can usually do this by creating an interim image, but that requires an even larger disk as a temporary storage medium.

This hint is a bit more low level, but once understood, pretty simple: Copy all volume blocks to the new drive, then adjust the volume's size to match the new, larger, partition. That's it.

In this article I describe how I moved my entire Time Machine backup from one internal disk to another, larger, one. This technique keeps the backup volume intact so that TM keeps using it without the need to start over by losing all previous backups. In my case, I had the volume on a mirrored RAID set, and move it to another, larger, mirrored RAID set - so this works, too.

Warning: This is a hack that requires some technical understanding of disks. Due to the nature of the operation you could, if you are not paying attention, erase the contents of valuable data on your disks. I have made an effort to tell you what to do to avoid such mistakes during this procedure, though.

Note: Usually, this can also be done using Apple's Disk Utility application, by first creating a disk image from the backup volume, then restore that to the new drive. But that requires more steps and another, even larger, interim drive to store the image file, so my solution may actually be less of a hassle.

[crarko adds: I haven't tested this one. If it were me, I'd use Disk Utility as described in this hint. I've had pretty good luck using the 'Restore' option in DU to copy full drives. It also looks like Carbon Copy Cloner can do this.

I put in the link to the article rather than just pasting the contents here. I view it as another method, and the iBored program used looks like a nice little hex editor. As mentioned above, use it with caution. The article provides it bit of a primer on HFS+; for a more in depth look see this Apple tech note.]
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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: rombaldi on Dec 16, '10 08:54:54AM

Here is Apple's instructions on moving to another drive, pretty simple. I transferred 345 gig this way and it worked fine even though it took some time.


Mac OS X v10.6: How to transfer your backups from your current hard drive to a new hard drive

If you upgrade to a new hard drive with a larger capacity, you may want to transfer your existing Time Machine backups to it before using it for regular backups. To keep your existing backups on your new, larger backup hard drive, follow these steps:

Connect your new hard drive.
In Disk Utility, make sure it has a GUID partition and is formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled). If needed, reformat the drive as Mac OS Extended with a GUID partition. If you do not know how, see the steps in this article. Note: Back up any data on the hard drive before you format it.
Select the new drive's icon on the desktop and choose Get Info from the File menu.
Make sure "Ignore ownership on this volume" is not enabled.
Open Time Machine preferences in System Preferences.
Slide the Time Machine switch to Off.
In Finder, double-click the current backup hard drive to open its Finder window.
Drag the folder "Backups.backupd" to the new hard drive.
Enter an administrator user name and password, then click OK to start the copying process. This may take some time to complete because all your backups will be copied.
In Time Machine System Preferences click "Select Disk…"
Select your new hard drive, then click "Use for Backup."
Now, on your new hard drive, you will have all of your existing backups from the previous backup hard drive plus have more room for more new backups.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: tempel on Dec 16, '10 01:18:28PM

Alright. I've been a fool. Thanks for showing us all a better way :)



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: Auricchio on Dec 16, '10 08:57:14AM
In this article, Apple shows the steps to simply copy backups.backupsdb to a new drive using the Finder.

This applies to 10.6 Snow Leopard. I've included the salient part of the article:

Mac OS X v10.6: How to transfer your backups from your current hard drive to a new hard drive

If you upgrade to a new hard drive with a larger capacity, you may want to transfer your existing Time Machine backups to it before using it for regular backups. To keep your existing backups on your new, larger backup hard drive, follow these steps:

Connect your new hard drive.

In Disk Utility, make sure it has a GUID partition and is formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled). If needed, reformat the drive as Mac OS Extended with a GUID partition. If you do not know how, see the steps in this article. Note: Back up any data on the hard drive before you format it.

Select the new drive's icon on the desktop and choose Get Info from the File menu. Make sure "Ignore ownership on this volume" is not enabled.

Open Time Machine preferences in System Preferences. Slide the Time Machine switch to Off.

In Finder, double-click the current backup hard drive to open its Finder window.

Drag the folder "Backups.backupd" to the new hard drive. Enter an administrator user name and password, then click OK to start the copying process. This may take some time to complete because all your backups will be copied.

In Time Machine System Preferences click "Select Disk…" Select your new hard drive, then click "Use for Backup."

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EMOJO: mojo no longer workin'


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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: tempel on Dec 16, '10 01:17:02PM

Alright. I feel stumped. I think that with Snow Leopard, this method is indeed much better to use than mine.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: bankshot on Dec 16, '10 10:06:06AM

As the previous comments indicate, a simple copy in Finder does work in Snow Leopard, and is Apple's officially recommended method. I have done so successfully, upgrading my Time Machine disk from a 1.5 TB to a 2 TB.

For those still on Leopard, I found this site and the associated comments to be invaluable:
http://rolfje.wordpress.com/2008/09/07/a-bigger-timemachine-without-changing-history/



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: tempel on Dec 16, '10 01:14:48PM

What, the Finder is aware of the hard links used on a TM backup and copies them without duplicating the items? That's great news, I had no idea.

I'll update my article accordingly.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: ebernet on Dec 16, '10 10:08:42AM

I wish there was a way to transfer from a sparse file on a Time Capsule to another drive. I was backing up my Mac Pro to my Time Capsule (I know, crazy idea to begin with) and ran out of space and decided to use the TC for just my laptop, and get an internal 2 TB for my Mac Pro for Time Machine. Well, for the life of me I could not figure out how to do this, I tried all sorts fo tricks, none seemed to work. I ended up giving up and starting over after copy some select files I wanted an old copy of off of my Time Capsule (for example, an old iPhoto Library).
Does anyone know how to do this?



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: david-bo on Dec 17, '10 05:54:58AM

Restore the disk image to the new drive.

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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: ebernet on Dec 17, '10 06:53:45AM

yeah, you can't do that...



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: david-bo on Dec 17, '10 07:56:11AM

Yes you can. I have done it. Several times.

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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: everkleer80 on Dec 17, '10 10:45:07AM

When you say you've done this, do you mean with a TM volume, or just in general? I tried this with my TM volume almost a year ago and if I remember correctly, it was I lot harder than I expected it to be - in fact I'm not sure I ever found a solution. I'm pretty sure this is what I was doing and I even tried restoring through disk util and some command line tools. In the end I think I just started over with my backups.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: ebernet on Dec 17, '10 11:44:47AM

I tried to drag the sparse file image into the restore tab in disk utility, while having the time capsule drive mounted in the Finder, and Time Machine off, and disk utility refused to accept it as a source.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: tempel on Dec 18, '10 04:32:02AM

Yeah, it would help if you could describe which component were involved, exactly.

I do not own a Time Capsule, but I am pretty sure that "Restore" in Disk Utility only works towards directly, non-networked, disks, as it needs access to their partition table. Therefore, TC can't ever be the destination of a Restore, or can it?

OTOH, taking any sparse disk img file as the source should work when restoring to a local disk/partition. Only that this requires the "Scan Image for Restore..." operation in DU first.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: david-bo on Jan 24, '11 07:13:44AM

IIRC, I did it to a firewire volume directly attached to the computer, Time Capsule - yeah yeah, drink the cool aid.

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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: everkleer80 on Dec 17, '10 10:58:31AM

I don't know if it's documented or supported by Apple, but I found out that you can just use a sparse image for your backups on a local drive. As you know, TM will only create a sparse image for the backup if it's on a network volume, but if you just put that sparse image on the root of the drive you use for TM, then TM will automatically use the image for it's backups. The only caveat I've found to this is that to restore from the backup you have to manully mount the image and go to Browse Other Time Machine Disks. I don't restore files that often though so this isn't too big a hassle, and I have been using this solution for about a year now with no problems.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: ebernet on Dec 17, '10 11:46:16AM

Yeah, I don't want to do it in that fashion. I like the integration, for example, I doubt in that manner I'd be able to restore a lost contact from within addressbook.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: everkleer80 on Dec 17, '10 12:17:23PM

You can; I've done it... You still have to manually mount the image and choose Browse Othe Time Machine Disks, but if you do that while Address Book is active then the Address Book TM interface comes up, same as normal. I've even been able to use it to do a full system restore after booting from the SL CD - I forget how that worked but I remember it was fairly easy.

Third party programs like Time Tracker still work too. In fact, I haven't used Time Tracker in a while, but I don't think it required me to manually mount the volume.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: chucky23 on Dec 17, '10 02:27:17PM

"As you know, TM will only create a sparse image for the backup if it's on a network volume, but if you just put that sparse image on the root of the drive you use for TM, then TM will automatically use the image for it's backups."

That is VERY cool, everkleer80.

I've learned two highly useful things on this thread.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: wallybear on Dec 16, '10 02:11:00PM
A simpler method is the use of Apple Disk Utility:

  • Launch Disk Utility, select your candidate new Time Machine volume
  • Select the restore tab on the right
  • Drag the icon of the current TM volume in the Source field
  • Drag the icon of the new TM volume in the Destination field
  • Check the Erase destination option (Note: this will erase existing contents of the new TM partition)
  • Click Restore.

This method works in Leopard and Snow Leopard.
Edited on Dec 16, '10 02:16:01PM by wallybear


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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: tempel on Dec 18, '10 04:18:18AM
I tried this myself yesterday, and can also confirm that this works:

This is basically the same technical method that I had described in my article, i.e. copying ALL sectors of the old disk to the new one, then adjusting the volume size to match the new disk's larger space. Just much, much easier than my version.

I also tried the method described by Apple of just copying the .backupdb folder in the Finder.

My final conclusion:

If anyone wants to replace their Time Machine disk with a larger disk, this technique using Disk Utility is preferrable over the one described in the KB article from Apple, because Apple's technique takes several times longer (e.g. almost a full day instead of just a 4 hours in my case with a full 1 TB backup).

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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: wallybear on Dec 20, '10 06:29:44AM

It's way faster than copying the .backupd folder because choosing "Erase destination" will start a block copy, faster than a file-by-file copy.
And the volume resizing is done automatically by Disk Utility, so this is a one-step process.
But if you need to keep the data already present on the new TM volume DO NOT enable the "Erase destination" option, and TM data will be merged (or use the .backupd folder copy method).



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: poenn on Dec 17, '10 01:35:53AM

I too didn’t know that in 10.6 you now can use the Finder for that. Indeed great news! Even if this hint now longer is a hint, at least it suceeded in letting me know about that change.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: chucky23 on Dec 17, '10 04:53:40AM

Yup. I was unaware of this as well. tempel helped us all out by accident.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: tempel on Dec 18, '10 04:35:02AM

Note: While the Finder copy (surprisingly) works, see my comment on wallybear's, where I point out that for this particular hint it is more efficient to use Disk Utility because it's much faster. Only if, for some reason, the DU process can't be used, I'd go with the Finder copy instead.



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Transfer a Time Machine volume to a larger disk
Authored by: jimphil100 on Dec 21, '10 05:55:31AM

I used SuperDuper! to clone my TM to a larger drive. Piece of cake.



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