Reduce the size of Time Machine Backups

I found this great blog post by Hawk iMedia that details a very simple utility to compress or compact your time machine backups.  If you’re like me, Time Machine is way overkill.  I just want one viable backup that is fairly recent.  Not daily/hourly backups until my entire 3TB backup hard drive is full, as Time Machine will do by default.  So I roll with automatic backups turned off, and just manually backup occasionally.

Anyway, the Time Machine backup file (.sparsebundle) was taking up 1TB on my Time Capsule drive, even though my Macbook Pro only has a 500GB SSD hard drive.  So based on the aforementioned blog post, here is how to reduce the size of your Time Machine backup by compacting or compressing the .sparsebundle file.

Its basically just calling a “hdiutil compact” command on the sparsebundle file.

First, open Finder (or my favorite replacement, TotalFinder) and navigate to the folder where you’re sparsebundle file is located. Or in Terminal you can use the “ls” and “cd” commands to navigate through the folder structure. The “cd ..” command moves up one folder.  Here is what my Terminal commands look like:

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If like me one of the directories or folders has spaces or special characters in the name, this nifty trick will help you navigate to that folder.  Now you also need to be root to run the “hdiutil compact” command, so sudo into root.  You will need to enter your admin password.  You should be aware that if you run the wrong commands in root, it is possible to mess up your system.  However, just type in the commands directly and you’ll be fine.

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And, you’re done!  So easy!  Now, I know that it shows “0 bytes reclaimed” on my system.  But after I ran this command on both mine and my wife’s sparsebundle backup files and got that message, I checked my Time Capsule and found that it was reclaimed 800GB of free space!!  So it definitely works.  Try it out!

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