Start Time Machine backups from Terminal

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Few features in Leopard have gotten as much coverage as Time Machine, OS X’s new automated back-up feature. As you’re probably aware by now, you can start a Time Machine backup in OS X 10.5 by control-clicking on the Time Machine drive’s icon in the sidebar and selecting Back Up Now. For those people who use Time Machine in manual mode, this is a very important command—it’s the only way to run their backups.

However, this also requires that you be at the computer to execute the command. But what if you’re away, and realize you forgot to run a backup before you left? If you’re on another Mac, you can use Screen Sharing (or VNC from a non-Mac) to login to the GUI. But you might not want to run the full GUI for something as trivial as clicking one button in a menu. So here’s a Terminal solution you can use in an ssh session.

After connecting to the Mac via ssh from whatever machine you’re using, just enter this command in Terminal:

/System/Library/CoreServices/backupd.bundle/Contents/Resources/backupd-helper &

Press Return, and your Time Machine backup will start—the ampersand at the end runs the job as a background process, so that you’ll have the Terminal prompt back before the backup job completes. This hint may not be useful to everyone, but I always like to know if there’s a non-GUI method of doing something—just in case I find myself somewhere where I only have command-line access to my home machine.

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