At a Glance
Mac OS X’s Time Machine backup feature can be a life-saver—in your computing life, at least—by automatically backing up multiple versions of important data on your Mac and providing an easy way to find and restore files from those backups. But two regular—and related—complaints we hear from readers are that their Time Machine (or Time Capsule) hard drive has filled up and they can’t figure out why, and that they don’t understand why each Time Machine backup takes so long.
Back in April, I reviewed Back-In-Time, a $29 utility that gives you more control over viewing and restoring files in Time Machine backups. But if your main goal is finding out what’s dominating your Time Machine backups, Soma-Zone’s $2 BackupLoupe is likely all you need.
When you launch BackupLoupe, you see a list of your Time Machine backup volumes (including Time Capsules). For each volume, you see a list of the computers being backed up to that disk; for each computer, you see the date and time of every backup that exists on the Time Machine disk, as well as the total amount of backed-up data for each. (If you’ve got an older Time Machine disk that isn’t automatically recognized, you can add it in BackupLoupe’s preferences.)
Click on a backup and BackupLoupe provides, to the right, a hierarchical, column-view display of just the files backed up by Time Machine at that instance, including the size of each file and folder. In this respect, BackupLoupe is like WhatSize for Time Machine backups. There's even Quick Look support, so you get a useful preview of a file by simply pressing the space bar.
(When you click on a backup, it takes a few seconds for BackupLoupe to scan the backup and determine which files were copied. If you’d rather not wait each time, you can instead tell BackupLoupe to scan all backups at once—a process that can take a while, depending on how many backups you have—and save the results. You can also configure the program to automatically scan new backups each time you launch it.)
Using BackupLoupe’s browser, you can determine if there are large items being backed up that you don’t care about; of so, you can delete those backups from within Time Machine. (For example, a user on VersionTracker.com discovered that Time Machine was backing up a 1.5GB TechTool emergency-recover file every time he booted his Mac. Luckily, I didn’t discover any such culprits on my own Mac.) You can also drag the original items from the Finder into the Do Not Back Up list in Time Machine preferences to prevent them from being backed up in the future.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to delete backups from within BackupLoupe, nor can you drag or reveal an item directly from BackupLoupe’s browser; you have to manually browse to the item in the Finder. Even a Reveal In Finder command would be helpful here. On the other hand, BackupLoupe lets you exclude particular items from future Time Machine backups by selecting items in the browser and then clicking on the Add (+) button in the Excluded Paths drawer.
You can also use BackupLoupe to see what isn’t being backed up. For example, for reasons I can’t explain, my 1.3GB Microsoft Entourage database, which changes constantly throughout the day, is being backed up only occasionally by Time Machine. Something for me to look into.
In addition to the minor issues I mentioned above, BackupLoupe doesn’t automatically refresh to show backups that have occurred since the program was launched; you must quit and relaunch it for it to recognize new backups. I also had one particular backup that BackupLoupe couldn’t scan; selecting it caused the program to lock up. Relaunching BackupLoupe and rescanning all backups fixed the issue.
Still, BackupLoupe is a useful tool, and the developer has been adding new features quickly—the first version was released in late May, and the program has already seen several significant updates.
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