Transfer Time Machine backups

Reader Charles Franks needs a little more elbow-room for his Time Machine backup. He writes:

I’ve been using Time Machine to back up to a 500GB external hard drive but it’s full. I’d like to get a 1TB drive and use that for my backup. Is there a way to transfer the current backup on the old 500GB drive to the new hard drive?

There is. has a tutorial that shows you how to do this without changing your Time Machine history. I’ll sum up the steps here.

1. After attaching, formatting (Mac Journaled), and naming the new drive, launch Time Machine and switch it off.

2. Unmount the current Time Machine drive by dragging it to the Trash. Remount it by either turning it off and then on again, or mounting it with Disk Utility. You do this so it loses its Time Machine icon and appears with the typical orange external drive icon.

3. Launch Disk Utility, select the old drive, and click on the Restore tab.

4. Drag the Time Machine partition from the old drive to the Source field in the Restore tab. Drag the new drive’s partition (assuming there’s just the one partition) to the Destination field.

5. Enable the Erase Destination option and click the Restore button.

6. Wait while Disk Utility does its job (this can take several hours).

7. When the job is done you’ll see two identical volumes on the Desktop. Unmount and disconnect the one that shows a capacity of 500GB (the old drive).

8. With the new drive mounted, open Time Machine and switch it on. Click on Select Disk and direct Time Machine to the new drive that contains your copied Time Machines backup.

Time Machine should do the right thing and use that drive for its backups. Should you need to restore you’ll find that all your old backed up data is on this new drive.

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