Change the Time Machine Backup Schedule

Feb 2, 2012 - 16 Comments

Time Machine Every Mac owner should be using Time Machine, it’s by far the easiest and most painless backup solution, running in the background and allowing for easy recovery of files or the entire operating system should something go wrong during an OS X update or otherwise. That said, Time Machine is a bit aggressive, and backs up all changes every hour that a drive is connected or within range, this is great for backup purposes but can be a nuisance when it hogs disk I/O and CPU cycles from other tasks. The easiest way to avoid this is to adjust the backup schedule, and we’ll show you how to do this from the Terminal, or with a super easy to use Preference Pane called TimeMachineScheduler.

Manually Changing Time Machine Backup Schedule

Using the command line and defaults write, you can manually adjust the Time Machine backup schedule. This command belongs on a single line:

sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.backupd-auto StartInterval -int 14400

The last number is the time interval in seconds, making hours grouped by 3600 second segments. If you wanted to wait 4 hours between backups, the number would be 14400, and so on. The default setting is one hour, or 3600 seconds, which can be restored with:

sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.backupd-auto StartInterval -int 3600

If you don’t like the command line, or if you want more control over when Time Machine runs, your best bet is the free TimeMachineScheduler app for Mac OS X.

Adjust Time Machine Schedule & Interval with TimeMachineScheduler

TimeMachineScheduler works with Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.6, and allows for simple and precise controls over when Time Machine runs. Just as with the defaults write commands, you can adjust the backup interval, but perhaps most useful is the ability to skip backups between scheduled times. Don’t want Time Machine to run during your peak productivity hours of 9am and 2pm? Set the time period to block in the app.

Time Machine Scheduler

TimeMachineScheduler also lets you restrict backups only to a specified network connection and SSID, which is a great touch for those who use Time Capsules or backups over wifi.

Heads up to The Graphic Mac for finding TimeMachineScheduler

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

16 Comments

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  1. Mike Mc. says:

    I’ve been using Time Machine Editor (http://timesoftware.free.fr/timemachineeditor/) for 10.6 and 10.7. Works well…

  2. Brian says:

    As a MacBook pro owner there is I found out last week a hidden file that portable Macs use to back up when not attached to Time Machine. Can you write an article on this feature and what happens to it after a portable is attached to Time Machine and has finished backing up.

    Thanks

  3. myron says:

    Time Machine is a bit aggressive, and backs up all changes every hour that a drive is connected or within range, this is great for backup purposes but can be a nuisance when it hogs disk I/O and CPU cycles from other tasks.
    Feature :
    Set the interval from 1 to 12 hours.
    • Run the backup manually or automatically also at startup, login or when the daemon has been loaded.
    • Display the status of the daemon, of the backup volume and if the backup is currently running.
    • Automount, an option to mount and unmount the backup volume automatically .

  4. Jenita says:

    Time Machine Scheduler disables the automatic backup function of Time Machine.

  5. Phil says:

    I think that you need to do a restart of the Mac to have this happen? — that is, the command-line version, not sure about the other one.

  6. Giloby says:

    This has changed in Mountain Lion 10.8.

    I had to modify the 3600 in: /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.backupd-auto.plist

    Disabled

    EnableTransactions

    KeepAlive

    Label
    com.apple.backupd-auto
    LaunchEvents

    com.apple.time

    Backup Interval

    Interval
    3600
    MaintenanceWakeBehavior
    Once

    ProgramArguments

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

    RunAtLoad

  7. Theres says:

    Hi
    my problem is, that i’d like to have a backup every 30 minutes, so i’ve tried the option with the modification in the command line, but somehow it is not possible for me to enter my password when it is required… Does anyone know why that comes, or if there’s another way to get the updates more frequently (which is not the case with the presented TimeMachineScheduler)?
    My mac is running on OSx version 10.7.5

    Thanks for the help

  8. sgt schultz says:

    Doesn’t work in ML.
    Options do not exist (eg. run at startup)
    Does not ‘see’ my connected and mounted USB timemachine HDD.
    Options are greyed out and not selectable…

  9. Bob G says:

    Maybe I’ve got the wrong idea, but I downloaded this app hoping that I could schedule once-per-day or once-per-week backups of my Mac server, but it looks like the closest I can get is running a backup once every 12 hours.

    The server only serves a single function, and doesn’t change much. Therefore I don’t really need to run backups twice a day.

    Is there any way to configure to only run once a day, or at longer intervals?

    On a related note, how do you tell Time Machine when it’s okay to overwrite previously-created backup files? If I do back everything up every 12 hours, then after a week I’ll have 14 backups, and I may end up filling my backup drive. I want to make sure free space is always being created by expiring the old backups for overwritability.

    Thanks,
    Bob

    • Peter says:

      Time Machine editor seems to work well for longer backup intervals. Can be configured for hourly, daily, weekly, etc. Try it to see if it fits your needs. The latest version works with OS 10.8.

      http://timesoftware.free.fr/timemachineeditor/

      • mo says:

        Time machine ‘editor’ seems to want to Disable TM to allow it to work…. so, this is acually not using TM at all and using a piece of freeware to manage the backup of all your important archives….!? Am I missing something, but this doesnt seem too robust…. and why Apple refuse to put in some basic functionality is ridiculous…MAC users will just end up like windows users with hacks and workarounds for everything……but I digress…

        SO is TM funtionailty actually being replaced, or ‘edited’?

        • Roy says:

          Mo – Time Machine Editor actually only disables the Apple Time Machine menu bar icon. The times listed for “last backup” in that menu are accurate. Time Machine Editor actually takes control of the Apple Time Machine application, replacing it’s native settings (defaults) to modify the Apple Time Machine functions.

          Same backup system under the hood, just a change of drivers! ;-}

  10. Chid says:

    Bob,
    it looks like you could schedule backups to run only within certain hours… for instance, give it a 2 hour window that it would backup in, and then set it to backup once per 2 hours – then it should only run once per day.
    Haven’t tested this out though.

  11. Mac says:

    Does this same terminal trick (sudo defaults write /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.backupd-auto StartInterval -int 14400) work in Mountain Lion?

  12. Daizy says:

    There are an option available in Mac Operating system through which you can easily schedule your Mac backup. Time Machine is a great backup utility which helps to keep incremental backup. However, Stellar Drive ToolBox has an awesome backup utility called’ clone’. You can easily create backup in the form of image or clone.

  13. Eryeth says:

    There are BIG files on my system that change often (Thunderbird mbox and others)

    So I am excluding them from the hourly time machine setup as they change every minute, it hogs the disk space.

    I’d love to have TWO schedules and setup so I can specify to backup my mail mbox daily rather than hourly.

    Any clue?

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