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Can I Copy Data From Time Machine Without Restoring It?

I want to temporarily transfer all the data from my Time Machine external drive to my computer, because I need to use the drive for something else. Later on, I want to move back the data to another external drive and continue using it as a TM backup. Can I just copy the data back and forth like that and will it still be accessible when everything is back up and running?
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Jean-Claude Blanchard

Comments: 11 Responses to “Can I Copy Data From Time Machine Without Restoring It?”

    3 weeks ago

    No. That won’t work at all. With hard drives pretty cheap, I recommend that you buy a second external drive for this task.

    Jean-Claude
    3 weeks ago

    Here’s my problem. I dropped a 3 TB drive on the floor. I have backups of this data on Backblaze and on TM, but not for the last 6 months – I know.. I know… too long to explain :(. So I need to recover this data. The technician needs a « donor drive » which has to be exactly the same as the broken drive. My TM drive is identical to the broken drive so I want to wipe this drive clean to use it as a donor drive. How do I transfer my TM backups to a new drive?

    3 weeks ago

    Jean-Claude: You just really can’t transfer your Time Machine backup. Technically it is possible by cloning to a new drive, but I’ll bet it doesn’t work in practice. But if you have a new drive, then why not just use that for your recovery and leave the Time Machine drive alone?

    Jean-Claude
    3 weeks ago

    The drive I need for the recovery is the drive that has Time Machine data on it. I need to remove this data from the drive before handing it over to the technician.

    3 weeks ago

    Jean-Claude: I’m confused. You say you have two 3 TB drives. One is Time Machine, the other has other data, but it is broken. You need to restore the broken drive. You’ll need to store the data somewhere when it is all over, right? So buy that new drive now and leave the Time Machine drive alone. If you try to move the data on the Time Machine drive you will probably end up having to start the Time Machine backup from scratch. Even if you don’t, the transfer time will be huge — it won’t be worth it.

    Jean-Claude
    3 weeks ago

    I would do that if I could, of course. The drive not working is due to the platter arms. A Donor Drive is needed to swap the platters so that the data can be read from the drive. The problem is the donor drive can’t be any old drive. Parts and serial numbers have to match: https://www.aesonlabs.ca/blogs/how-to-find-a-matching-donor-for-hard-drive-recovery/. The drive I have for Time Machine is identical to the damaged one, so I need to use that one. Hope that makes sense!

    3 weeks ago

    Jean-Claude: That’s unfortunate. So how about this: Get a new Time Machine backup drive. Maybe take the opportunity to get a bigger one if you were thinking about it. Start the new TM backup. Wait a week if you can so you have a week’s worth of updates on the backup, plus older stuff on the old drive. Then sacrifice the old TM drive to this recovery effort. That way you’ll never be without a backup, at least of your most current things.

    Chris S
    3 weeks ago

    If not mechanically damaged load drive into Windows machine and have you tried to run Steve Gibson’s disk repair tool Spinrite as it does not care what is on the drive because it operates at the platern level 0 and 1’s Advantage is you might be able to recover all your data

    LaliRaj
    3 weeks ago

    I am doing manual Time machine every month. Will I be able to delete the oldest backup from the drive?

    3 weeks ago

    LaliRaj: You don’t manually delete old backups. It does it automatically. I recommend doing backups automatically, not manually. And definitely more often than once a month unless you just don’t use your Mac much more than that.

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