MacInTouch Reader Reports

Backup: Time Machine

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Apr. 22, 2009

item.90920

Joe F

A reader said that it was taking TM 18 hours to delete old backups to make room for new ones. There is something wrong with your system. TM just started deleting my older backups last month, and I've seen no noticable change in how long it takes for TM to complete my backups.

For reference for anyone wondering what size backup disk to use. I'm backing up a 220 GB MacBook Pro to a 320 GB disk, and it took just over a year for the back up disk to fill up to the point were TM started deleting old backups. I'm probably a fairly typical user with a 10,000 photo Aperture library and no video editing. The MBP disk only has about 30 GB of free space, and the only thing I exclude from my backup is the VMWare Fusion disk image.

item.90923

MacInTouch Reader

DV Henkel-Wallace asks about "pruning" old Time Machine backups (and his suggested approach does sound like a bad idea - not sure whether that would be bad for the filesystem approach used to track this).

Here's a simple way to prune: choose a (very large) file or folder which may have changed frequently and for which you don't need the older versions. For example, VMWare/Parallels/VirtualBox virtual machine files may be taking up a lot of space for multiple versions, and you may not need those previous versions. Movie files that were watched once and tossed out are another example; podcasts and the like too. For those that have reburned their entire iTunes Library into higher bitrates, you may want to "prune" the lower bitrate versions, again, for example.

You can discard previous versions by entering Time Machine (the space explorer interface), selecting the file or folder in the Finder-like window, then using the tool menu to "Delete all copies of ...". This should delete all of the "vestigial" copies of that file, which for a virtual machine can be huge. Used carefully, this should allow even heavy users to extend the life of their Time Machine volumes significantly (that is, until you run out of space entirely and Time Machine has to start doing the work for you).

I found that deleting a bunch of previous versions of VMWare virtual machines this way freed up 60 GB or so, which should keep me going for a bit longer without running out of space on that drive.

PLEASE: this does not delete your original, this does not delete the most recent backup in Time Machine, but you will no longer be able to go back and retrieve those previous versions again. So use this carefully on files you are certain you are not likely to need again. (And be careful and test it on something innocuous first, in case I'm wrong).

I haven't tried, you may be able to go part-way back in time (say a month back) and delete only the ones prior to that date, which would allow a bit more control if true.

item.90955

Allan Webb

To clarify my previous comment, in light of posts since:

Time Machine will not even attempt to backup your Entourage database if Entourage is open. So those who have mentioned small hourly backups despite having large Entourage databases, your database probably isn't getting backed up because it's open. Word to the wise.

Second, I used slightly incorrect terminology. The image type to use if you want to be able to incrementally backup your Entourage database is sparsebundle (which also happens to be the same type that Time Machine itself uses when you're backing up over the network to a shared drive).

The sparsebundle format allows for backing up just the "bands" of data that have changed. I've seen confirmation that this works for Entourage database files on the MacEnterprise list.

item.90962

Michael Clifford

Thanks for all of the wonderful suggestions about Time Tracker. It appears that most of the data comes from the Firefox places.sqlite database, which is what Firefox 3+ stores its bookmarks data in. That's about 62 MB. I'm running an alpha version of Firefox, and that gets updated daily, which adds another 7.2 MB. iPhone backups can be another 10 MB. I also download a large number of podcasts automagically, and that adds another 7-10 MB. So the main culprit is Firefox. (Note that I do not back up the Firefox cache.)

item.90963

Steven Wicinski

Could the issue someone reportedly has with Entourage's database backup with Time machine be due to the version of Entourage being used? I could see earlier versions of Office not being updated to work with the new underpinnings of Leopard and thus causing the issue.

Apr. 23, 2009

item.91066

Marc Rhodes

I have a MacBook Pro. I do not keep it plugged into an external hard drive or use Time Capsule. Every few days I plug it into an external hard drive and do a Time Machine backup.

I noticed that the backups seemed to be too short; it was not backing up enough stuff. I also noticed that when I browsed the backups, stuff was not showing in the most recent backup that WAS showing in the "now" view.

I started reading on the web and noticed that several people commented that their first backup after a reboot was usually bigger than those before the reboot.

I also found out there was an fseventsd process which apparently implements the fsevents facility that Time Machine uses to know what to back up.

While noticing these files apparently missing from the backup view my machine had been up for 23 days. fseventsd had a process ID of 27 which meant it had been running since shortly after the machine was rebooted.

So I did this sequence:

* Time Machine backup where 18mb (mega) or so was backed up.

* Open Activity Monitor and quit fseventsd. It restarted immediately with a much higher process ID.

* Do another Time Machine backup.

* This time Time Machine spent much longer in the Preparing phase. Looking at the system.log with Console I saw it said "Node requires deep traversal..." This time the backup was over 15gb (giga).

So is this some unique problem peculiar to my machine? Or is restarting fseventsd a necessary part of a sound Time Machine strategy on a machine that is not rebooted often?

Apr. 24, 2009

item.91074

Grandy Pollo

Marc Rhodes sez:

I have a MacBook Pro. I do not keep it plugged into an external hard drive or use Time Capsule. Every few days I plug it into an external hard drive and do a Time Machine backup.

If you are going to do periodic backups then use Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper, incremental backup with delete (anthing old on the target is deleted to make the target and the source equal) and clone the whole lot every day.

The delta backups don't take long and you at least have a fully bootable clone with all content you can clone back to a new drive in an emergency, or boot from for diagnostics, etc.

TM is really designed for its purpose, e.g. hourly delta backups of selected directories to recover lost files or inadvertent deletes.

If the point is to have a rescue copy then cloning is a smarter way to do that. CCC will run on a schedule, so I clone the boot drive and an iTunes drive every day, taking only minutes each time.

item.91105

Kynan Shook

For Marc Rhodes: there should be no need to restart fseventsd. The purpose of that process is to keep an eye on file system activity, and note which files change. Then, when Time Machine runs, it can ask what files changed since it last ran - and only those files get backed up. Spotlight uses the same basic thing to perform its indexing, though I'm not sure whether it's using the public fseventsd API, or a private version with slightly different behavior.

When you restart fseventsd, it has no idea what happened while it wasn't running. So, next time Time Machine runs, it has to decide on its own what was changed. The main side effect should be that the backup takes an unnecessarily long time.

Now it is possible at least for Spotlight to miss some data - I saw some tests where somebody created many, many files at a very rapid rate - Spotlight sometimes couldn't keep up, and would miss a few. This was in 10.4, before fseventsd existed, so that may or may not still be an issue, and even then, it might only apply to Spotlight and not Time Machine.

In my own experience, it's not necessary to reboot or to restart fseventsd, although my setup is different from yours (a G5 with 2 hard drives). My backups are typically around 1 MB each, however that's partly through some very careful exclusions for Time Machine backups - I'm backing up my 500 GB hard drive to a 250 GB one, so I exclude large media files and many unimportant files and folders that change frequently. I'd suggest keeping an eye on things - if you think it's really not picking up on files that it should, file a bug with Apple (bugreport.apple.com). However, I think rebooting or restarting fseventsd is a poor workaround, if it even completely solves your problem. Have you tried plugging the backup drive in more often?

Apr. 25, 2009

item.91124

Vince Heuring

Grandy Pollo says,

If you are going to do periodic backups then use Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper, incremental backup with delete (anthing old on the target is deleted to make the target and the source equal) and clone the whole lot every day.
The delta backups don't take long and you at least have a fully bootable clone with all content you can clone back to a new drive in an emergency, or boot from for diagnostics, etc.

The problem with this approach is that the first time you have file corruption the corrupt file will overwrite the good one. With Time Machine you can always go back to the uncorrupted version. This is *particularly* useful when something gets corrupt in the OS itself. Without TM you will need to reinstall the entire OS, possibly with an Archive and Install.

item.91136

David Charlap

Kynan Shook wrote: "there should be no need to restart fseventsd. The purpose of that process is to keep an eye on file system activity, and note which files change. Then, when Time Machine runs, it can ask what files changed since it last ran - and only those files get backed up. Spotlight uses the same basic thing to perform its indexing, though I'm not sure whether it's using the public fseventsd API, or a private version with slightly different behavior."

Here's an overview of the FSEvents technology.

In a nutshell, the FSEvents tech consists of three parts:

- A kernel module that notifies user-space applications whenever something in the file system changes. This module does not buffer its events, so code accessing it must respond quickly in order to keep up. Spotlight uses this mechnism to know what to index.

- A daemon (fseventsd) which monitors the kernel module's output and tracks the changes at directory-level granularity.

- A database that records the output of fseventsd (with timestamps), so applications don't have to be running all the time in order to detect changes.

The FSEvents API accesses the database. Apps can query (or be notified) of changes at directory-level granularity. When a directory changes, the app must examine its contents to find out exactly which file in that directory changed.

When you restart fseventsd, the stream of information in the database is interrupted. Apps can't get reliable information about changes that happened before the restart. This is why Time Machine takes a very long time - it has to read every file on all your hard drives in order to be certain about what changed. If it didn't do that, it might end up failing to back up some files, which would be much worse.

item.91155

Jennifer Cluse

Thank you, Grandy Pollo, for your Timely (ouch) advice. I was about to explore Time Machine, but see that it can't work for us floaters, like Marc Rhodes.

A word of caution regarding 'incremental backups with delete': If you have the bad habit of correcting your own file names, or moving files into more 'orderly & logical' arrangements (as I do, too often), don't even THINK about incremental back ups.

You finish up with multiple slightly-different almost-duplicate files in different places, and in my burnt-fingers experience with the two apps you mentioned, they are not up to the close_to_impossible task of working out which file to remove from where, so they tend to all get left in.

It certainly was difficult and time consuming trying to sort the incremental backups mess when I recently had to do a total-disk multi-partion restore from sets of BU data made at various times & dates with one or the other of the two apps.

I have finally settled on a full clean wipe and backup of data, done whenever I know I shan't be using the Mac. (I know, logically I should fire up the beast late at night and have it do the work then, but in my experience there is usually some stupid question which interupts proceedings and progress. Unfortunately the little 'Ok OK' tool from System 9 didn't make it across to 10. It would hit the OK button automatically after a two minute delay.)

Apr. 27, 2009

item.91174

Stephen Hart

It's not Time Machine vs Carbon Copy Cloner. It's Time Machine *and* Carbon Copy Cloner. The two together -- backing up to different drives, of course -- are an excellent backup solution, each filling different niches.

I generally have at least two clones, usually two weeks and a month old in addition to Time Machine running all the time.

item.91175

Tracy Valleau

I make my living with my computer, and have multiple clients, so backups are important. I found TimeMachine to be (far) less than 100% reliable, so my technique, FWIW is to use Super Duper with three removable drives: one drive is backed up daily; one weekly and one monthly.

Using this technique, even if a file is corrupted, I'm able to recover it from one of the previous backups. The only place that fails is if I don't notice the corruption for over one month, which has never happened.

This is not my only backup solution, and I have over a dozen removable drives, which also use, in various ways, with DataBackup from Prosoft. Some of these are clones; some are incremental backups; some are client folders and so on.

(And, yes, I tried Retrospect, and yes: it was a painful experience: dog-slow and ... well - you can read the Retrospect topic here on the site. My experience was as poor as the others.)

item.91179

T Piwowar

Thanks to David for a nice overview of fseventsd.

Does anybody know of a utility that will display the contents of the binary-formatted log files in the .fseventsd directory? This would be a great way to track changes made to a Mac. Spotlight's censored results are just too untrustworthy.

item.91187

Goran Turner

This has probably been dealt with before, but I need help. I have 4x1TB internal drives, each set up to handle different (as unrelated) matters. When I try to set up the Time Machine (to run on an external 1TB drive) it informs me that it requires 2.7TB of disc space. I only want to back the start up drive that has about 400GB used up out of 1TB. How do I do that?
In the meantime I am using Carbon Copy Cloner.

[If we're understanding correctly what you want to do... you can go to System Preferences -> Time Machine -> Options and add files, folders, and whole volumes to the list of items that are not to be backed up. -MacInTouch]

item.91197

David Fink

I don't understand the problem Jennifer Cluse has had (see Apr. 25 for her details) with 'incremental backups with delete' as done by Carbon Copy Cloner and by SuperDuper. I don't see that either program has any problem when you rename a file--they simply see a new file (the renamed file) and add it to the backup and a deleted file (the file as originally named) and delete it from the backup. Similarly if you move a file they see a new file (the file in the new location) and a deleted file (the file in the original location). In either case, your file system has only one version of the file when the backup program runs, and the backup will then have only one verson of the file--the backup will be an exact duplicate of the source.

She says,

"It certainly was difficult and time consuming trying to sort the incremental backups mess when I recently had to do a total-disk multi-partion restore from sets of BU data made at various times & dates with one or the other of the two apps."

All I can surmise is that she had moved files from one partition to another but had backups of the individual partitions that were made at different times, so the backups did not represent the current state of her partitions; e.g., backups were made of partitions A and B, then file X was moved from (and deleted from) partition B to partition A, and a new backup was made of partition A but not of partition B. Then her backups will have a copy on each of the two partitions, but that is not the fault of the backup programs.

I can't think of a similar way to mess up backups by renaming a file or moving it within a partition, other than stopping the backup program before it has completed backing up a partition.

item.91201

Peter Newman

Jennifer Cluse wrote:

"A word of caution regarding 'incremental backups with delete': If you have the bad habit of correcting your own file names, or moving files into more 'orderly & logical' arrangements (as I do, too often), don't even THINK about incremental back ups.
You finish up with multiple slightly-different almost-duplicate files in different places, and in my burnt-fingers experience with the two apps you mentioned (SuperDuper and CarboCopyCloner), they are not up to the close-to-impossible task of working out which file to remove from where, so they tend to all get left in."

Since I use SuperDuper all the time, I passed on this comment to Dave Nanian of ShirtPocket, who created SuperDuper. Here's his response:

"Boy, that's entirely untrue, Peter. SuperDuper -- or more specifically, Smart Update -- couldn't care less if files had been renamed or moved, as long as there's sufficient space to actually reconcile the drives."

item.91218

Seth Elgart

Vince Heuring wrote:

The problem with this approach is that the first time you have file corruption the corrupt file will overwrite the good one. With Time Machine you can always go back to the uncorrupted version.

That's true, which is why I recommend both approaches. I do Time Machine backups *and* SuperDuper! backups (TM and SD). TM gives you incremental backups, allowing you to get a two week old version of a file so you can get back that brilliant paragraph you wrote but have since deleted. SD, on the other hand, is for a complete drive copy. If my drive dies and I get a new one, I'll just fire up SD and have a quick, easy, and painless restore of exactly what I had at the time of my last backup.

Both types of backups are pretty much necessary. It's not that one is better than the other, it's more that you'll be 100% guaranteed to need both of them at one time or another.

To make thing even better, I have a Time Capsule as well. This makes my backups happen without human intervention. Every few days I then do a SD backup to one of two portable hard drives I have saved for that purpose. If I need a file from two weeks ago, I can get it back in moments via my TM backups. If disaster strikes, I have two complete SD backups available, one of which is offsite.

I can't even tell you how many times this strategy has saved my bacon. I've used TM dozens of times to get files back. When my laptop was stolen, I had a complete clone of my system that was only a single day old (and another one a few days older than that, just in case).

If you use a computer, backups are required.

item.91221

Grandy Pollo

The main problem with the original post was the apparent need to only do something on occasion and an inference there is only one drive to use, which, given the dirt cheap prices of external drives today, is a shame and really a needless one.

If you have one drive and do something once a week then a clone is the best advice, not because Time Machine is inherently lousy but if not connected all the time it may not capture everything and, it is a PIA to use for a clone when you need one.

I think it is safe enough to assume that the "file corruption" is going to be apparent within a week. After many years and running 3 Macs all the time in my environment this "file corruption" has yet to happen. Among what must be maybe a million files you'd think one would and it hasn't and probably won't.

In my principal environment my Mac Pro and iMac both have multiple drives, each uses Time Machine for its intended use (hourly/daily file backups in case of inadvertent delete) *plus* a CCC delta clone done nightly and a core clone done prior to any major OS change. So I have the current version, a uncorrupted backup between revisions, a clone and Time Machine.

Drive space is cheap. What he needs is a fully bootable drive in known good condition to clone back, boot from etc., and *also* a Time Machine external drive bought by sacrificing maybe 15 Starbucks.

item.91224

Andy Law

I've been running Time Machine from my intel-based iMac for over a year now. External disk is a WD 1TB affair. All has been spiffy up until a week or two ago.

Now, although the backups seem to be running OK and I can dip backwards and forwards through the catalogues of snapshots in Time Machine's interface, the menubar item and the Preferences panel show the Latest Backup to be "--" (two dashes).

I *am* paranoid so this *is* starting to worry me. Has anyone else seen this behaviour or got suggestions as to things I can do to fix it? For the record, Disk Utility reports no problems with either the external or the internal disks.

Apr. 28, 2009

item.91259

David Dixon

I am seeing exactly the same thing with TimeMachine as is Andy Law. Oldest back up "--",
Latest backup "--".

It seems to be working, in that it backs up hourly or so, and I can enter the backups and go right back to my oldest backup. I'm just worried this is the harbinger of something more serious. BTW, I use a partition on a 6TB Drobo set-up.

item.91260

David Dixon

Well, I just found the answer to Andy Law's problem, which mirrored my own, on the Apple discussion boards:

1. Open Time Machine in System Prefs

2. Click "Change Disk" and select "None" as the Backup

3. Immediately reselect previous backup disk (and slide the "Off/On" tab back to "On"

4. A backup will be run automatically, and then the "--" will be filled once more with the correct information.

item.91261

MacInTouch Reader

I had an unsettling experience with Time Machine. I mistakenly moved an entire folder of photos to the Trash and began emptying the Trash. The folder is over 250 GB, so I was able to stop the emptying while the Finder was counting files to be deleted. Still, I thought it best to restore from a Time Machine backup in case any files were deleted prior to canceling.

I left the Mac with Time Machine reporting 17 hours to restore the files. Upon returning 20 minutes later, the restore was apparently complete and Time Machine was performing its usual hourly backup. The partially restored Photos folder was only 39 GB in size, and Time Machine had apparently deleted the remainder of the 250 GB from its backup. Because of the size of the Photos folder, Time Machine is only able to keep one backup of it, so my backup was lost.

Fortunately, I had used SuperDuper! to manually clone the Photos folder drive about a week earlier, so I was able to restore our photos and only lost the most recent week of edits. I have no idea why Time Machine stopped the restore at 39 GB, and I was disappointed that Time Machine's subsequent action was to delete the remainder of my backup.

As a result of my experience I will make very sure that I turn off the hourly backups before I perform a Time Machine restore. Glad I wasn't using Time Machine as my sole backup.

item.91274

John Baltutis

Anyone who uses Time Machine and expects it to restore a corrupted boot volume, but hasn't ever restored it to a volume, [should] follow the steps outlined in Time Machine-Time Machine Help->Recovering your entire system. Betting on the [out]come and expecting it to work is gambling.

See the many postings at http://discussions.apple.com/forum.jspa?forumID=1227, wherein people have problems.

Best strategy is to have a bootable backup/clone made with Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper!, in addition to the TM backup. This allows instant verification by booting into the backup/clone, without necessitating restoration, which is a significantly longer process than restoring a viable bootable backup/clone.

item.91278

Dave Kitabjian

Regarding Time Machine reliability, I was also concerned. I started using TM in February 2009 as a Retrospect replacement. I ran a test last night that confirms that TM is not backing up my Desktop at all. The script is a bit like this:


cd ~/
find . | sort > ~/home_actual.txt

# after mounting the network TM disk image...
cd /Volumes/Backup\ of\ Dave's\ MacBook/Backups.backupdb/Dave's\ MacBook/Latest/Macintosh\ HD/Users/<username>

find . | sort > ~/home_timemachine.txt

diff ./home_actual.txt ./home_timemachine.txt > home_diff.txt

Most of the differences appear to be cache files, but the exclusion of Desktop is glaring.

I should clarify that the only exclusion I have specified is "System Files and Applications".
Apr. 29, 2009

item.91286

David Jarsky

for Marc Rhodes:

Another way to force a "Deep Traversal" for Time Machine is to reboot once into Safe Mode. You can then reboot normally and the next time you back up with Time Machine, it will do a complete scan to determine what needs to be backed up, rather than relying on fsevents.

You can learn more about Safe Mode here:
  http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1564

item.91289

David Dunham

Re:

I ran a test last night that confirms that TM is not backing up my Desktop at all

I don't have any insight, but in case people worry about the scope of this problem: I just navigated to my Time Machine backup and opened my Desktop folder, which was indeed full of files. You might want to check /Library/Preferences/com.apple.TimeMachine.plist to be sure -- not everything in ExcludeByPath and SkipPaths seems to be shown in the System Preferences UI.

item.91297

Stephen Hart

John Baltutis wrote:

"Anyone who uses Time Machine and expects it to restore a corrupted boot volume, but hasn't ever restored it to a volume, [should] follow the steps outlined in Time Machine-Time Machine Help->Recovering your entire system. Betting on the [out]come and expecting it to work is gambling."

It's also good to keep in mind that an alternative to restoring is to use Migration Assistant, which recognizes Time Machine volumes.

[I tried using Migration Assistant last night to initialize a new laptop from a drive that contained both a clone partition and a Time Machine partition from another laptop. I apparently misunderstood something in Migration Assistant's user interface, and it proceeded to copy the entire 90+GB Time Machine backup folder onto a new folder on the new computer, which already had an operating system installed. (The original system contained less than 30GB total.) -Ric Ford]

item.91298

Matt Neuburg

Re:

Most of the differences appear to be cache files, but the exclusion of Desktop is glaring. I should clarify that the only exclusion I have specified is "System Files and Applications".

There is no "System Files and Applications" Time Machine exclusion. Exclusions are performed in the Options dialog of the Time Machine pref pane.

item.91323

Marc Rhodes

To Dave Kitabjian: Could you try quitting fseventsd (or restarting), doing another Time Machine backup, and then running your compare script again?

I would be very eager to see if your results are similar to what I observed.

item.91326

MacInTouch Reader

Dave Kitabjian wrote:

Most of the differences [in TimeMachine backup] appear to be cache files, but the exclusion of Desktop is glaring.

The quick answer is don't store files on the desktop. I vaguely recall some technical reasons beyond TimeMachine not backing them up.

[There are several reasons to avoid keeping files on the Desktop, including Finder performance degradation (vs. folders) and extra potential for damage by badly (or maliciously) coded programs (cf. Intuit bug that wiped out desktop files). -Ric Ford]

item.91337

Andy Law

To confirm, David Dixon's solution to the missing backup times worked for me too.

item.91343

MacInTouch Reader

Ric Ford writes in a comment that there are various reasons not to keep files on the Desktop. I don't understand what he means by "Finder performance degradation (vs. folders)." Could someone explain this phenomenon to me? Also, is it okay to keep *folders* on the desktop containing files? Or is the desktop only a place for volumes?

item.91346

Bradley Price

TM doesn't back up the Desktop? Not so over here - my Desktop folders are backed up like all the rest. I exclude certain temp directories that tend to get huge while working, but otherwise defaults.

I use TM on 3 Macs, they all work the same.

item.91348

Gregory Weston

Regarding the performance issues associated with a messy desktop:

"There are several reasons to avoid keeping files on the Desktop, including Finder performance degradation (vs. folders) .... -Ric Ford"

Odd phrasing. I think you meant that there was an impact relative to keeping items in folders elsewhere, but it could be read like "files on the desktop are bad, but folders on the desktop are fine." The explanation for the performance impact, which I'm sure has already been noted in MacInTouch's reader reports, is that every desktop icon is a full-fledged window, taking the same resources as every other window to maintain. Prior to OS X they were a much lighter-weight structure.

Apr. 30, 2009

item.91344

David Farrow

A French company, Tri-Edre, has a program that will let you browse your Time Machine archives without using Apple's Time Machine interface:

"Time Machine is a great basic backup tool. But your options for locating and restoring data are quite limited. Back-In-Time gives you total flexibility in discovering and recovering your data to any location on your Mac."

http://www.tri-edre.com/english/backintime.html

$29 U.S.

item.91353

Gilbert Kennedy

Time Machine does not back up the iPhoto Library if iPhoto is running!

I found this out when restoring my iPhoto Library a couple of days ago. All pictures from the preceding week were missing in the restored Library since I had had iPhoto running in the dock all week.

I have had several sessions with AppleCare about this over the last couple of days and tried everything they suggested, including erasing the Time Capsule disk, using another account to back up, archive and install the OS, repairing access permissions, etc. At no time did Time Machine back up the iPhoto Library if iPhoto was running. Every time iPhoto was not running the back up worked as expected.

The Apple Care personnel I spoke with were not familiar with this problem, but when all options were exhausted one of them tried it on his computer. Lo and behold, the iPhoto Library was not backed up on his computer either. He finally found some internal Apple notes on the problem and said it would likely be fixed in 10.5.7.

So, make sure that iPhoto is not running while Time Machine does its job - if the iPhoto Library has been changed.

item.91356

MacInTouch Reader

As clarification for Ric Ford's comment, Gregory Weston writes

"every desktop icon is a full-fledged window, taking the same resources as every other window to maintain."

Sorry, I'm confused. I have many hard drives on my LAN, plus I frequently mount iDisks.

Are Ric and Gregory saying that the number of *icons* I have on my Desktop at any given time is a performance liability?

If yes, then what is the best practice?

This seems like personal computing circa 1989...

[I just did an experiment with a new MacBook. Adding 100 copies of the same file to the desktop added about 6 seconds to login time, as the Finder redrew the icon 100 times. Adding 100 copies of an empty folder to the desktop added only a second, if that. -Ric Ford]

item.91370

Dave Kitabjian

I said:

Most of the differences appear to be cache files, but the exclusion of Desktop is glaring. I should clarify that the only exclusion I have specified is "System Files and
Applications".

Matt Neuberg said:

There is no "System Files and Applications" Time Machine exclusion. Exclusions are performed in the Options dialog of the Time Machine pref pane.

Matt, there is a well-hidden feature of TM, and I'll paste it below.

"You can exclude all system files from Time Machine's backups, but it's not exactly obvious how to do so. Open Time Machine's System Preferences panel, click on Options, click on the plus sign, select the /System folder in the dialog box, then click Exclude.

When you do so, an additional dialog will appear, asking if you wish to exclude all other system files and applications, or just the chosen folder. Click Exclude All System Files, and a 'special' item is added to the list to this effect."

http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20071030165031868

May. 1, 2009

item.91381

MacInTouch Reader

As brain-dead as it sounds, every icon on the desktop is in fact a small window. If you have 100 icons on the desktop, you have 100 windows allocated. With a couple gigs of memory it may not be all that significant, but it's definitely an overhead.

item.91386

Stephen Hart

Gilbert Kennedy wrote:

"Time Machine does not back up the iPhoto Library if iPhoto is running!"

This is likely to be an issue with Time Machine not being able to backup any open document. And the iPhoto library may be seen as a "document" because it's a package. This could be problematic for any situation in which you keep a document (or package) open all the time.

item.91387

Robert Mohns

A MacInTouch Reader asks:

"Are Ric and Gregory saying that the number of *icons* I have on my Desktop at any given time is a performance liability?"

Sort of. Mac OS X doesn't really have the concept of a desktop layer to draw icons onto. The way desktop icons are handled is ... get ready for this ... little windows. Each icon is a little custom window of its own, drawn behind every other window. (The desktop is yet another one, actually.)

For proof of this, install the Xcode developer tools and fire up Quartz Debug. From the Tools menu, choose Show Window List.

Here's a screenshot of my current Finder window list. Each of those little windows you see in the list is an icon on my desktop. Each one requires memory to buffer the image of, and is one more item for the window manager to keep track of.

So, the more icons on your desktop, the more memory consumed by the window manager and the less available to your applications. If you have lots of RAM (say, a couple of gigs) the effects will be negligible, but if you have a system with little memory (say, 256 MB) and a really cluttered desktop, cleaning it up might help out.

Ric also mentioned his test of 100 files on the desktop slowing login by 6 seconds. This is probably caused by icon previews (which are "on" by default). Turning them off for your desktop will speed login.

item.91394

Stephen Hart

Dave Kitabjian pointed out the hidden way to exclude System files, which I've used in the past.

I hope his original question is answered: why is his Desktop missing from his Time Machine backups.

I can see files on my Desktop back in time either by entering Time Machine while on the Desktop (in which case, Desktop is already chosen) or by clicking on Desktop in the Sidebar after entering Time Machine.

item.91396

Gregory Weston

A MacInTouch Reader wonders:

"Sorry, I'm confused. I have many hard drives on my LAN, plus I frequently mount iDisks. Are Ric and Gregory saying that the number of *icons* I have on my Desktop at any given time is a performance liability?"

Yes. Not a large one per icon, but they'll add up.


"If yes, then what is the best practice?"

If it feels good, do it. My advice: Don't keep huge numbers of things on your desktop. Reserve it for disks if you're into that sort of thing (I've *recently* stopped) and a few things that you're actively and frequently working on. File the rest. Use Spotlight (which is much faster in 10.5 than 10.4) or another search utility to get the stuff you use less often so you don't have to dig through folders. And, apparently (see below), do use folders on the desktop if you must keep a large amount of stuff close at hand.

Ric notes:

[I just did an experiment with a new MacBook. Adding 100 copies of the same file to the desktop added about 6 seconds to login time, as the Finder redrew the icon 100 times. Adding 100 copies of an empty folder to the desktop added only a second, if that. -Ric Ford]

Abstractly there shouldn't be a difference. Windows are windows. My best guess (and it is purely a guess) at the discrepancy is that the folders were just normal folders, all using the same icon pulled from /System once, while the file chosen for the test had an embedded icon which was noticed and reloaded for each item.

And since custom/embedded icons in files - especially in the 10.5 era - are much more common than custom icons on folders I guess I can go along with the idea that folders will in general be less problematic on the desktop than a random assortment of files.

item.91404

Colleen Thompson

Gilbert Kennedy wrote

"Time Machine does not back up the iPhoto Library if iPhoto is running!"

While that is news to me, it's not surprising. I remember back when I used Retrospect, it would never back up any open document. It makes sense, especially with databases; if the database is changing during a backup, you can get tables out of sync. This is why there are recommendations to quit programs like Lightroom before doing any kind of backup.

That said, it's good to know about this. It's also a good general practice to quit programs and not let them run for days on end. IMHO.

item.91424

Dave Kitabjian

Marc Rhodes said:

"Could you try quitting fseventsd (or restarting), doing another Time Machine backup, and then running your compare script again? I would be very eager to see if your results are similar to what I observed."

Marc, thanks for the tip! Per your suggestion, I forced quit fseventsd:

4/30/09 12:02:25a com.apple.launchd[1] (com.apple.fseventsd[2255]) Exited: Killed

Then, when I forced TM to do a backup, it appears to have forced a "deep traversal":

4/30/09 12:07:55a /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[2298] Node requires deep traversal:/ reason:kFSEDBEventFlagMustScanSubDirs|kFSEDBEventFlagReasonEventDBUntrustable|

So far so good. But after that completed and I re-ran my "audit" script, it still showed Desktop contents as not present in the backup. Perplexing and unsettling.

May. 2, 2009

item.91439

Stephen Hart

Colleen Thompson wrote:

"It's also a good general practice to quit programs and not let them run for days on end. IMHO."

The problem with iPhoto is special, in one sense. You not only have an app open, but also a window with a "document" (I don't know how many files are active when iPhoto is open.) Note that when you close the iPhoto window, the app quits.

So to prevent Time Machine from backing up iPhoto, you have to either have the iPhoto window open behind other windows all the time, or minimize it into the Dock. (That's generally a good reason *not* to minimize file windows, IMO.)

Other apps, in which any given document is independent of the app, shouldn't cause any problems by being left on all the time. One minor exception is that many apps use a little CPU even if they're in the background and with no file open.

item.91461

Gilbert Kennedy

Re: My April 30 post on "Time Machine does not back up the iPhoto Library if iPhoto is running!"

Thanks for the comments.

There is, however, a further twist to the story. Time Machine preferences indicate, while a back up is in progress, the number of bytes to back up including the changes in the iPhoto Library even when iPhoto is running. Console/All Messages indicates, after the backup is finished, the actual number of bytes backed up, which is less than the number in the preferences if iPhoto was running. There seems to be a discrepancy here.

AppleCare said that the iTunes library is backed up even if iTunes is running. I have verified it since my iTunes directory is on the "do not backup list".

May. 4, 2009

item.91497

Fred Kotler

Re: Time Machine Backups of iPhoto

I was surprised to read reports over the last few days that TM was not backing up changes while the iPhoto application was open. So I decided to conduct some experiments. My machine has OS X 10.5.6 and iPhoto '08 v7.1.5. (If you are going to experiment yourself, I suggest first creating a new iPhoto library and populating it with only a few photos. Make sure your original library is fully backed up, preferably on a clone volume.)

My results:

1. TM does back up changes to photos even when iPhoto is running.

2. If you restore from TM using the restore button, regardless of how many photos you choose to restore, TM only restores the original of the selected photos. Editing changes, keywords, ratings and notes are NOT restored.

3. If you restore from TM using the Restore All button, the entire library is restored including all editing changes, keywords, ratings, notes and albums.

item.91519

Jerry Freilich

This whole discussion dances around the anomalous (and, in my opinion, inappropriate) behavior of iPhoto. I have always felt that Apple is completely wrong in having iPhoto quit when its window quits. This runs counter to every Mac convention going back to the earliest days of 1984. Is it really possible that someone needs to remind the engineers at Apple that the Mac's success is based on a genius design and is not simply some arbitrary mode of operation? Apps should run independently of any windows they may create.

item.91522

Colleen Thompson

On the subject of TM backups of iPhoto if iPhoto is running:

My MacBook is running 10.5.6 and iPhoto 09. I opened iPhoto, displayed the picture library, and added one picture (by duping the last picture). Then I told Time Machine to do an immediate backup, leaving iPhoto open.

When it was done I used iPhoto to "browse backup". The newly added picture was there in the backup. Opening Time Machine showed the same thing (iPhoto's "browse backup" apparently just launches Time Machine.)

We could conclude from this that Gilbert Kennedy has something else going on with his system that interferes with his iPhoto backups, except he said the Apple tech found the same thing.

Maybe we need more data points to clarify what actually happens. Anyone?

May. 5, 2009

item.91555

Gilbert Kennedy

I am running all the latest software on my MBP. I don't have any exotic or even unusual applications, I did do a archive and install, and I have tried backing up with a little-used user account with a miniscule iPhoto Library, and TM still does not back up the library if iPhoto is running. The TM backs up on to a 500 GB Time Capsule.

After having added pictures to the library, quit iPhoto, and backed up the Console/All Messages log always contains the entry:

"/System/Library/CoreServices/backupd[2330] Node requires deep traversal:/Users/gilken/Pictures/iPhoto Library reason: kFSEDBEventFlagContainsChanges|kFSEDBEventFlagMustScanSubDirs| kFSEDBEventFlagReasonFSEvent|kFSEDBEventFlagReasonMissedReservation|"

which sounds like iPhoto may not manage its library correctly.

item.91537

Gregory Weston

Jerry Freilich comments:

"This whole discussion dances around the anomalous (and, in my opinion, inappropriate) behavior of iPhoto. I have always felt that Apple is completely wrong in having iPhoto quit when its window quits. This runs counter to every Mac convention going back to the earliest days of 1984. Is it really possible that someone needs to remind the engineers at Apple that the Mac's success is based on a genius design and is not simply some arbitrary mode of operation? Apps should run independently of any windows they may create."

The Mac UI and user expectation of computer behavior have changed greatly and continuously in the last 25 years. In 1984, launching a program on the Mac was a fairly expensive (in terms of impact on the user experience) operation. Programs that quit when their window is closed have been a small, but real, portion of the Mac user experience since System 7. Technically longer, but with MultiFinder optional before that the experience was much less common.

For any given app, this is largely a philosophical and subjective issue for anyone who doesn't have the resources to really test what's being talking about, and I'm going to disagree with Mr. Freilich's final sentence if it's intended as a blanket statement. I would suggest there are both real and prospective apps for which the user's act of closing the window (stress "the") is a valid signal that they are done with the app. I'm not a frequent user of iPhoto, but in the brief exposure I've had to it, I think it may fall into that category. I only recall it having one "real" window and no program functions that make any sense if that one window is not open.

If a program's interface is embodied in a single window *and* the only viable user action in the app when the window is closed is to reopen the window *and* the application can launch reasonably quickly (I'm definitely not sure how iPhoto is in that regard) I don't personally have a problem with the app exiting when that window is closed instead of sitting in the background consuming even nominal resources.

Regardless of all the conditions I place on my own comfort with that behavior, the correct answer is testing. If Apple showed iPhoto to 1,000 Mac users and 80% of them expected it to quit when they closed the library window, then IMO quitting when the user closes the window is the right thing to do.

item.91546

Stephen Hart

Re: iPhoto quitting when its window is closed...

Over the years, Apple has had a number of apps that quit when you close the window. I believe this began with Desk Accessories back in OS 4. Because RAM was in such short supply, Desk Accessories were very limited apps, and they quit when the window was closed.

Later, some apps continued to be conceptually like Desk Accessories, and they too would quit when the one window was closed.

Here's a (huge) Apple file with the following statement.

Apple Human Interface Guidelines: Windows

"In most cases, applications that are not document-based should quit when the main window is closed. For Example, System Preferences quits if the user closes the window. If an application continues to perform some function when the main window is closed, however, it may be appropriate to leave it running when the main window is closed. For example, iTunes continues to play when the user closes the main window."

item.91564

Matt Rosenberg

Jerry Freilich's interpretation of Apple's user interface standards seems like holding onto a principle for the sake of principle, ignoring any practical issues. Why would you want to leave the iPhoto application running without any windows open? If we decide iPhoto needs to behave like the majority of Mac apps, closing the iPhoto window should close (i.e. save and remove from memory) the photo library. iPhoto takes practically no time to launch -- it's loading the library that takes time. So you wouldn't gain anything from that perspective, unlike with Microsoft or Adobe applications.

iPhoto has no function without an open library (and therefore an open window), so why would you bother leaving it running? It's not designed to work with more than one "document" (library) at a time, so there's no use for Open or Save items in the File menu. How would you go about re-opening your library after closing it? Click the iPhoto icon in the Dock? Isn't that already what we do?

As long as iPhoto library files are always altered immediately when changes are made -- and this appears to be the case -- Time Machine will have no trouble backing up while iPhoto is running. Whether the application itself stays open or not is irrelevant.

May. 6, 2009

item.91595

Mark Lewis

Re: Jerry Freilich's comment that "Apps should run independently of any windows they may create."

That convention has been ignored for many years. Instead of restoring it, all apps should have a preference choice that allows the user to determine if an app should quit when it's last window is closed, or allowed to keep running.

item.91603

Jeff Leigh

One quirk about apps keeping their focus is that you can copy/move files on the desktop while it is in the background, but if you get a popup about overwriting files it will be displayed behind any active windows. And since clicking on the desktop doesn't bring all of its window forward you have to click on the desktop icon or use the app switcher to bring all the popups forward.

item.91627

David B.

This is no longer relevant to the Time Machine topic, but...

I actually get annoyed when a "single-window" app doesn't quit when I close its window. Imagine if System Preferences hung around doing nothing after its window was closed. Ick.

The one exception I've found is Toast. Sometimes I want to abandon my current project and start another one, and am always surprised to see Toast quit when I close the project window. I expect there's a good reason for it, and that other users like it just fine. Personal preference is, well, personal, after all.

item.91655

Michael Mckee

Matt Rosenberg said:

Why would you want to leave the iPhoto application running without any windows open?

For me it's because I've had a couple of decades of habit built up around closing windows and having the program still available. With this one program behaving like a Windows app, I have been extremely frustrated by automatically hitting cmd>w to get the window out of the way only to have to wait for iPhoto to start up. If you're using iPhoto as part of a workflow that includes other applications, that's a real pain.

With a large library, iPhoto takes a noticable amount of time to open. I find the lack of interface consistency annoying enough that I don't use iPhoto. Adobe Bridge is clunky but it at least doesn't quit on close.

May. 7, 2009

item.91679

Steven Wicinski

Matt Rosenberg posited

"iPhoto has no function without an open library (and therefore an open window), so why would you bother leaving it running? "

I don't know, but the exact same thing can be said about Address Book, and yet it stays open. What's the point of leaving mail open if you close the main mail window? But does it close? (Seriously, don't know, don't really use it). I have no problem if Apple wants to come up with arbitrary rules. But all we want is for Apple to follow those rules consistently.

But I agree with Mark Thomas. Why should one have to wonder what the "Close" button is going to do? Lack of consistency just breeds more inconsistency.

item.91693

Paul Ainsworth

Matt Rosenberg said:

Why would you want to leave the iPhoto application running without any windows open?

I leave iPhoto and iTunes running on my iMac without windows open so that my Macbook and my appleTV can access their shared libraries without taking up screen space or cycles on the IMac.

item.91694

Jeff Schaffer

I think Paul Ainsworth's comment about keeping iPhoto/iTunes sharing running is a very good point! Maybe the solution should be modifications to the iPhoto and iTunes preferences. If "Share my library" is checked, enable a radio button choice to select one of: "Always share your photos/music" or "Share your photos/music only when iPhoto/iTunes is running"

item.91695

Jeff Schaffer

Add to my previous post about enhanced iPhoto/iTunes preferences:

That way as far as the UI is concerned, sharing becomes independent of whether or not the program is running.

item.91697

David Charlap

Steven Wicinski wrote:

"What's the point of leaving mail open if you close the main mail window?"

Simple. It will periodically check the server for new mail and alert you (by bouncing and badging the dock icon) when messages arrive.

The "correct" design really depends on the nature of the app. When a single-window-app's window is closed, is it in any way useful? And if it quits, how fast will it take to restart?

An app that is useless with a closed window, and that restarts quickly (like System Preferences) should quit-on-close. An app that may be useful when closed (like iTunes, which can play audio, share files and download content in the background) shouldn't quit-on-close.

iPhoto is in an uncomfortable middle-ground. It really can't do much when its window is closed (although it can serve files for other iPhoto users on the network), so you could make a strong argument for quit-on-close. On the other hand, it does a lot of database work at start/stop time - relaunching is not what most people would consider a "fast" operation, which argues against quit-on-close.

item.91700

Stephen Hart

Steven Wicinski wrote:

"The exact same thing can be said about Address Book, and yet it stays open."

Address Book does not quit when you close a window, true. But if you bring Address Book to the foreground, the window reopens. Mr. Wicinski may have a point here; I don't know what Address Book may be doing in the background.

"What's the point of leaving mail open if you close the main mail window?"

What is Mail doing in the background? Checking for new mail, of course. Most users, I suspect, have Mail set to check for mail every 5 minutes (or whenever). Mail signals the user when new e-mail comes in. This is essential for many.

"I have no problem if Apple wants to come up with arbitrary rules. But all we want is for Apple to follow those rules consistently."

Apple does follow the rules. The rules (as Apple writes them) do not state that every application should behave the same way when a window is closed.

Paul Ainsworth wrote: "I leave iPhoto and iTunes running on my iMac without windows open so that my Macbook and my appleTV can access their shared libraries without taking up screen space or cycles on the IMac."

Mr. Ainsworth may have meant that he would *like* to leave iPhoto running in the background with no window open. He can't, though, because it quits when the window is closed.
The workaround is to either minimize the iPhoto window into the Dock or to Hide iPhoto.

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