Forum Question: How to transfer Time Machine backups from one disk to another?

Hi Gary,

I have a 320 GB HDD that I’d been using for Time Machine. I’ve just got a 1 TB that I want to now use for backups…how do I transfer the backups from my 320 to my 1 TB….so that I can free up the 320 and use it for other portable transfers?

Comments: 8 Responses to “How to transfer Time Machine backups from one disk to another?”

    10/10/10 @ 9:14 am

    Don’t. It isn’t worth the trouble. Instead, just start using the new drive as a fresh new Time Machine backup. Do the initial backup and start using it regularly. Set the old drive aside for a few days or weeks. Then, once you know you have a good backup going on the new drive, just erase the old one and start using it for something else.
    So the old drive is a backup backup for a few days while you break in the new drive. Chances are you won’t need it, but it is nice to know it is there.

    10/12/10 @ 11:12 pm

    Gary, I’m trying to do what you’re suggesting not to do. I’ve been backing up everything to my 1TB TimeCapsule and have backups back through the beginning of 2009. I’ve filled it up and have purchased a 2TB external drive (Western Diital MyBook). I’ve been trying to transfer the TimeMachine backup from the TimeCapsule to the new drive, but it doesn’t seem to want to work. I’ve been following the instructions given in this description (

    My problem is that I now have two back ups going (along the lines you’ve suggested). I’d like to trash the newer one and reconstitute my TimeMachine on the new external drive. Is this something that just won’t work for some reason? Does it matter that it is on a TimeCapsule rather than just some other drive?

    I’ve followed the steps he’s indicated, but get stuck on his step 3 (unmounting and then remounting the drive). I can’t get the TimeCapsule to do this, i.e., show up as a regular orange drive symbol rather than as the TC.

    I thought perhaps there would be a way to make a disk image of the TC backup and then move it to the new drive. Or to use something like SuperDuper! or CarbonCopyCloner to replicate the information. Should i really just erase all that history? I do sometimes on rare occasions search back for things that I’ve erased or lost.

    Is there an alternative way to archive all that stuff to save it to be accessed in the future? It seems like it would be difficult and confusing to have multiple backup archives using TimeMachine.

    Thanks in advance.

      10/13/10 @ 7:24 am

      Just start with a fresh backup. Remember, these are backups — not archives. A backup is for emergencies, like a hard drive failure. Don’t use a backup as an archive. If you have important files you need to save and access later, they should be saved to another location, not your TM backup.
      The reason that it is not a good idea to try to copy the data between TM backups is there is a lot of it — over a network it would take hours if not days to copy 1 or 2TB of data.
      Just start a new TM backup on the external drive, and stop your backing up to the TC. After a while (days, month, whatever) just erase the TC drive and use it for something else.

    Andrew Raimist
    10/14/10 @ 11:07 pm

    Thanks Gary. You make a good point in distinguishing backups and archives. I guess I’ve tended to think of the TimeMachine as a permanent long-term archive which it really isn’t intended to be.

    I’ll have to give more thought to archiving important material. In general, I’ve been burning things to DVD’s. Do you think that’s an effective method? Is there something easier? Safer? Do you think storing archives in the cloud makes any sense?

      10/15/10 @ 8:47 am

      Using DVDs is OK, and I used to do that. But now hard drives are cheap and just as reliable. I’d use an external drive. If the data was important, I’d do both — an external drive where everything is there and organized as #1, and then DVDs for a fallback. The idea is that you should never have to look at the DVDs, but they are there just in case, maybe stored in another location if the data is important.

    Andrew Raimist
    10/24/10 @ 12:08 am

    I’ve followed your advice and reformatted my new 2TB external drive (Western Digital MyBook). It comes automatically with this WD SmartWare application that oversees everything (security, etc.). WD says that it works seamlessly with Time Machine. Now I’m not so sure.

    I’ve got everything backed up for about the past week from my internal HDD (500 GB) and an external Maxtor HD (500GB). The backup uses approximately 1 TB.

    So yesterday my Maxtor HD dies (knocking sound). Okay, I’ve got it all in Time Machine (about 450 GB with about 190,000 files). I’m trying to re-use my 1 TB Time Capsule as my new external HD. I’ve erased the old backups on it, so there’s plenty of space.

    The problem is that I can only restore about one file at a time (sometimes a few files). If I select a few files, it will typically only restore one back to a folder I’ve set up on the Time Capsule and gives me this error message: “The Finder can’t complete the operation because some data in “Aaron’s-World-2Oct10.jpg” can’t be read or written.(Error code -36)”.

    The weird thing is that the files referenced in the error message is the only one that is restored. The others come through with 0 kb.

    I’ve been researching like crazy problems with restoring, permissions issues and other things. I’m feeling that perhaps the WD SmartWare is stopping the restore process or that there’s some kind of permissions problem. I’m tempted to use a terminal command to change the permissions on files and folders on the WD My Book, but I’m worried that I could screw up my Time Machine backups and be in real trouble.

    Any suggestions?

      10/24/10 @ 8:36 am

      It sounds to me like it is a permissions issue in trying to write the files. Where are you trying to restore them to? Check the permissions of that location. That’s my guess.

    Andrew Raimist
    10/24/10 @ 1:08 pm

    I’m trying to restore them to my 1 TB Time Capsule (that I’m no longer using for backups) which I’m now intending to use as external storage. I have it connected to my MacBook Pro directly using an Ethernet cable.

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