Catalina TimeMachine weirdness (a novel)

I have a 4T external drive with a 2T TimeMachine backup and other files, leaving 200G free.
I installed Catalina, and it wants to back up essentially everything on my drive (~480G). That’s fine, but rather than deleting old backups, it simply says there isn’t enough room on the drive.

My GoogleFoo on this is inadequate.

Anyone know a solution? I’d rather not delete my backup history if I can avoid it.

I have hit this exact issue, no resolution either.

Two backups working fine, a third is showing this issue.

I’ve seen it trying to remove old backups then seems to stop.

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My iMac Pro doesn’t want to back up to my Synology either.
MacBook Pro seems fine with the external at school, but not Synology at home. Not sure about external at home with MBP.

Is the Time Machine backup on a separate partition, or are the other files just around the Time Machine backup file/folder?

I think a partition tends to work better for getting TM to reduce itself.

IMO I’d buy a new drive (Black Friday deals are coming), and move all of my non-TM-backups files to it, and leave the rest of the 4T drive to be wholly consumed by Time Machine.

I realize this is a less-than-ideal suggestion.


That’s a good idea. I’ve always mixed files and TM folder without problems, but I’ve already ordered an 8T drive, so might as well dedicates it to backup, our maybe partition it 7:1 or so.

Mine is on a separate partition on an external HDD.

It was backing up fine on Catalina since install then last Thursday just decided to stop.

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Chapter 2: November, 2019

In other weirdness news, I encountered a catch-22 with TimeMachine.
I have an external 2T drive, that had about 1T of files on it. I removed it from the exclude list for TimeMachine so that it would be backed up to my TimeMachine drives.
I did a lot of file deletions and moving things around.
I wound up with 300G of free space, with about 300G of files left on the drive. Snapshots from TimeMachine were occupying 1.4T of the drive. I decided I wanted to restore about 600G of files, rather than recreating them. I couldn’t do the restore because of the TimeMachine snapshots.
I added the drive back to the Exclude list, thinking the snapshots would be removed. They weren’t. I ran TimeMachine snapshot thinning from CleanMyMac X, to no avail.
Eventually I found that Carbon Copy Cloner has a function that lists snapshots and allows you to delete them. I used that, and the space was freed. I’m now able to restore from a backup.

Edit: Just got an error after restoring 548G of the 746G backup. TimeMachine reassures me that it was an unexpected error. Aren’t they all?

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There are a few bad files on my TimeMachine backup.
DiskUtility was no help. I repeatedly tried to recover files past the bad one and got most of my files restored.

This is not good, and undermines my faith in TimeMachine in a big way.

I ordered a couple of small 4T drives and will use Carbon Copy Cloner to backup my research data to them, rotating them out between home and school.

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Chronosync has solved a lot of problems for me over the years. Might be worth a look as a simple replacement for TM.

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I do own it. I got a little put off by their updates where they find edge cases where your backup might not work.
It doesn’t seem so bad now.

Chapter 3, May 12, 2020

Backup disk is full, and TimeMachine has lost its mind. It says the disk is full (360GB free), and it can’t back up. When I enter TimeMachine, only local backups are shown, as if the 5.5T on the backup disk don’t exist. Heavy sigh.

Edit: looking at the backups on the disk, it looks like TM hasn’t been thinning them very well.

I continue to think that Time Machine is completely broken, and the people for whom it works are the exception to the rule.

Mine has been attached overnight and still says that it’s trying to backup 9GB and only has done 4GB. The progress indicator has not moved in hours.

The other day it said t was 300% into the backup process.

This is a hard drive attached directly to my MacBook Pro.

I’m pretty ready to just give up on Time Machine until a time if/when Apple announces that they’ve re-written it from the ground up, hopefully for APFS.

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It’s super annoying.

I gave up yesterday. I had backups that I could see in Finder back to October, yet TM didn’t show any of them, just the local backups. Went through all the gyrations. I wiped that drive and removed all external drives from TM, but left it enabled. I think that will still give me hourly local snapshots.

I then configured that drive as a destination for Arq, so now Arq backs up to both the attached drive and my NAS.

I also have ResilioSync syncing to the NAS, and just set up HyperBackup to backup those data to a Backblaze B2/S3 instance.

ChronoSync to an external, and twice-monthly CCC backups to externals, and a monthly bootable CCC backup to an external SSD.

I should be covered :slight_smile:

So I’ve been looking at ChronoSync as an extra to / replacement-ish for TimeMachine.
I’ve set it to back up my home directory every hour to keep a history / backup of modified files - is that what you’re doing or is there a better or more refined way to do it?

Yes, for a local backup, Chronosync (CS) syncs my home directory and an external SSD, with “Synchronize deletions” and “Archive replaced files” selected, to an external spinning drive. And my files are backed up to Backblaze.

I also have four (EagleFiler) directories of old records, three of which never change, so I exclude these from my scheduled offsite backups. For these I used the CS Setup Assistant to create a ‘Backup to a Disk Image’ job for each archive. This created encrypted sparsebundles which another CS job uploaded to Backblaze B2. Since I occasionally add files to the fourth EagleFiler directory, I schedule CS to update its sparsebundle and upload the changes to B2 once a month.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been using Chronosync. I would guess at least 14 years and I’m still finding new ways to use it.

The “how to” is out of date, but here is some info on sparsebundles