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Only works where Spotlight is enabled
Authored by: bankshot on Jun 21, '13 11:02:53AM

First, a little addendum to this hint: to find all files and folders that have been excluded this way, the following command works (perhaps there's a way to do it in the Spotlight gui, but just typing the term into the search box didn't work):

mdfind "com_apple_backup_excludeItem ="

The above finally helped me figure out an issue with this tmutil hint that has been plaguing me for several weeks. On one of my volumes, I would consistently get the following error message when doing tmutil addexclusion /path/to/file:

Insufficient privileges to change exclusion setting.

I tried running the tmutil addexclusion command as root (using sudo) and tried some other things, but no matter what, it got the same unhelpful error anywhere on that volume. I had resorted to manually adding the attribute using the xattr command.

Fast forward to today when I was investigating another Time Machine error - I discovered that it had been randomly failing to backup or stopped backing up large portions of my iPhoto library (my iPhoto library resides on a large external disk - the same volume in question). I used the mdfind command to verify that the affected files/folders weren't being excluded, and noticed that no exclusions on the affected volume showed up at all - not even ones that I had manually added.

The lightbulb went off, and I remembered that I had disabled Spotlight on this volume (figured it wasn't worth it since I was going to be mostly storing large, non-searchable data on it). I reenabled Spotlight and suddenly the tmutil addexclusion command worked. Additionally, the next Time Machine backup finally included my entire iPhoto library for the first time (good thing I didn't need that backup before now!).

So the moral of the story is, never disable Spotlight on a volume you want to backup with Time Machine. It will prevent the tmutil addexclusion command from working, but more importantly, it will prevent Time Machine from making a complete backup of that volume (perhaps I should submit a separate hint about this second part since it's pretty important!).

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