Hacking Apple’s Time Machine

On my quest to learn everything I can about the “locked down” world I like to call OSX, I tried to setup Time Machine.  For those of you that don’t know, that’s Apple’s built-in backup utility.

My situation is somewhat unique, but I found many others on the interwebs trying to solve the same issue.  How to backup over wireless, and how to backup to a NTFS formatted drive or a network drive.  So I scoured the web and found many potential solutions, most of them contained incomplete information however.

The guide that finally pointed me in the right direction is located here.  It’s a surprisingly easy process and should be supported by Apple.  Why should you have to physically connect a drive to a laptop to back it up?  That just seems counterproductive to me.  Isn’t the whole point of having a laptop for mobility?

I’ll outline the steps below for those of you who are weary of clicking on links.

Step 1:

  • Open up Terminal (Applications, Utilities)
  • Enable unsupported volumes by entering the following code:
defaults write com.apple.systempreferences
TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1

Step 2:

  • Mount your network drive (Finder, Go, Connect to Server)
  • On your Mac, open Disk Utility. Click “New Image.” Use the following settings:
  • Save As ComputerName_MACAddress (Must be Ethernet MAC Address and not Airport MAC Address)
  • Volume name can be whatever you want.  I named mine “Time Machine Backups”.
  • Change partition to “No Partition Map”
  • Change Image Format to “Sparce Bundle Disk Image”
  • Custom Volume size. Set the maximum you want to use on your remote location.  Don’t worry if you don’t have the room on your Mac.  I set mine to 200gb, the size of the hard drive on my Mac.  The empty file was a little over 300mb.
  • Save and then move this file to your network drive.

Open time machine and select the network drive you moved the sparsebundle file to.  Time Machine should now backup without any issues.

When you perform the first backup, have a wired connection and turn off your wireless.  My first backup was 50 gigs and took over 3 hours with a gigabit LAN.  I can only imagine how much longer it would take over a wireless connection.

This has been the first of what I’m sure will be many achievements in my learning and (in some cases) working around Apple’s master plan.

About Lee

A simple man, with a very complicated life.
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2 Responses to Hacking Apple’s Time Machine

  1. Tito says:

    Hey Lee, I’ve been hacking at this for a few hours and then I thought of checking your blog only to find the same information that was giving me trouble with an Error 45. The problem I started having is that even though my sparse file had the Ethernet MAC on it, Time Machine kept making a backup sparse w/o the MAC. So I renamed the sparse accordingly, but then it would make the sparse file name “machine name_1″… Alas, I finally found out that the sparse file needed a machine UUID tagged into the sparse file in order for it to work. You need to make a file named “com.apple.TimeMachine.MachineID.plist” with the following xml.


    Of course adding in the machine’s own UUID and then copy it into the sparse file (i.e. cp blah.plist machinename.sparse/). I just did this and I’m backing up right now and it skipped the file creation immediately and started file transfering. I don’t know why our setups are so different, but I figured I should pass the info on if for some reason the original fix stops working.

  2. aceoneworld@gmail.com says:

    I’ve followed all this instructions and my network drive won’t even show up on TM. Help.

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