by   Arthur Rosel

Tools for Apple's Time Machine


Apple's Time Machine is an exceptional backup solution. Once Time Machine is set up and completes the first backup, it functions continuously and seamlessly to protect the contents of a Macintosh computer's disk drives (hard disk or SSD).


Corruption of the backup files may occur if a running backup process is interrupted or fails to complete. However, problems are usually repaired when Time Machine completes the next incremental backup. As such, Time Machine is an extremely valuable service providing several versions of a disk drive's data over time, with rare need of user interaction or maintenance.


Time Machine may be set up on a mounted local drive or a mounted network share using Apple Filing Protocol (afp://) or Simple Message Block (smb://). VPN access is also possible. However, backups over a VPN are much slower and more subject to backup corruption, especially if the backup fails to complete and/or the VPN disconnects.


Cumbersome aspects of Time Machine are unveiled on exploring or restoring data in the backup files. The graphical user interface (GUI) providing explore and restore functions is slow and limited. However, it provides the best option for directly restoring files and folders to their original locations, recovering a failed device and/or operating system, or transferring disk contents to another computer.

Time Machine's speed and interface make browsing the backup files a time-consuming, tedious process, especially when recovery needs are focused and limited.

Selecting any specific point in time (snapshot) requires a finite amount of time due to the ethereal features of the interface. The appearance and speed of Time Machine's interface has improved a bit since El Capitan (mac OS 10.11), while other issues persist.

Entering Time Machine

When Time Machine is entered (Apple's phrase for the restore process), no other program or computer function is accessible. Snapshots may be explored but not compared since Time Machine only permits the use of one snapshot at a time. That's fine for a critical restore process, but it's excessive when the target is a single file or folder.

After exiting Time Machine, the network backup files remain mounted and attached for up to 30 minutes. See Troubleshooting for further information.

Purpose and Operation

The purpose of TM-Utilities is not to replace Time Machine or to replace its restore process. TM-Utilities is designed to efficiently examine and surgically extract data from the backup files when there are focused and limited recovery requirements.

Versatile Exploring

Like Time Machine, TM-Utilities will allow users to select and explore a snapshot. While Time Machine uses the Finder application to explore a single snapshot at a time, TM-Utilities offers single and multiple column browsers for exploring the directory hierarchy, as well as access to multiple Finder windows displaying multiple snapshots.

Multiple Finder Windows and Snapshots

Multiple Finder windows may be opened at one time. They remain open while another snapshot is selected and explored. All Finder windows are closed when TM-Utilities resets or exits, for safety reasons. Network backup files are also detached and unmounted when TM-Utilities resets or exits.

Flexible Intuitive Restoring

As the backup files are explored in TM-Utilities' browsers, the current file or folder is automatically selected as the source for a restore operation. The default destination is a folder in the home folder named after the snapshot. Thus, TM-Utilities' restore operations are non-destructive, by default, unless the user changes the destination.

Foreign Backup Files

TM-Utilities also allows access to the backup files created by other users or computers, if valid destination information is set and valid credentials (user name and password) are provided.

Destination Information

If Time Machine is set up (not required to run TM-Utilities), destination information is automatically loaded. Destination information may also be entered manually in the Preferences Panel or by reading a Time Machine property list file.

The Preferences Panel appears when starting TM-Utilities if Time Machine is not set up. It is also accessed with the Application Menu.

TM-Utilities can create a Time Machine property list file based on current preferences or native to its host computer. See File Menu for details.


Safety and data preservation are key principles of TM-Utilities. It mounts and opens network backup files in read-only mode. There is extensive error checking throughout the explore and restore processes, and it will refuse to restore the root directory. It will also cancel a restore operation that will consume more than half of free disk space. On exiting, TM-Utilities will close all Finder windows and all windows, files, and shares it created.

TM-Utilities also provides a more reliable and convenient method for deleting the oldest snapshots. See Delete Snapshots for more information.

User Control

TM-Utilities allows the user to cancel the source file analysis and restore operation, which can be quite time-consuming with a deep, complex directory hierarchy. A bar progress indicator is provided for time-consuming operations.

Log Files

Activity and errors are automatically logged to disk. Verbose logging can be enabled in the Application Menu. The plain text log files may be viewed and deleted by accessing the Log Viewer in the View Menu. See Viewing Log Files for more details.

TM-Utilities vs. Time Machine

A feature-by-feature comparison of Apple's Time Machine and Arthur Rosel's TM-Utilities.

TM-Utilities requires macOS Yosemite or later.

  TM-Utilities Time Machine
backup no manual and automatic
local or network
restore non-destructive by default
restore destination $HOME/<snapshot> (default), new, or existing overwrites original location by default (destructive)
recovery manual automatic
speed faster (lower overhead) higher non-media display and response latencies
max # of Finder windows as many as system resources allow 1
foreign access3 yes command line only
create native or current plist file4 yes command line only
read plist file yes native only
folder browsers 3 (including Finder) 1 (Finder only)
folder navigation 3 browsers and quick access to home (any user), root, and previous folders Finder only
folder content filters resource forks only filters all system folders and files
termination closes all windows and shares created5 network backup files stay mounted and attached after restore process6 for up to 30 minutes
network management automatic with optional forced detach and unmount7 automatic8
snapshot deletion safe reliable process
limited to oldest snapshots
GUI9 limited to one snapshot
may hang on subsequent attempts

Available soon on the App Store

macOS Yosemite and later

©2019 Arthur Rosel, Ltd. All rights reserved.