Is there any way to properly import a Time Machine backup from macOS to Fedora?

Hi everyone!

I’m gently transitioning from macOS to Linux with Fedora after +10 years of macOS, and I am slowly getting my files and habits into order.

I still have a big pain point though: I haven’t managed to import my macOS Time Machine backups to Fedora.

When I plug my backup hard drive, Fedora sees it, and I can navigate through the files, but only partly. The file structure follows the backup timestamps, and within the folders, I don’t have access to all the documents of that timestamp, but only to the ones that have been backed up during the specific back up process. All the other folders and files appear like inactive aliases.

Is there any way I can get a proper folder structure with a full access to my files and migrate them easily, like on macOS?

I have come across:

But they all seem a big geeky for me, and I’m not quite sure about following the steps on my own. I can dive into it if needed, but was wondering if there was not a simpler way to get my files back.

Many thanks ahead for your help!
— Phil

P.S.: I know an option could be to manually transfer my files on my external HD and transfer them to Linux, but I have no more space on my external HD, and that would mean deleting my last macOS backups (or buying another disk).

P.P.S.: Ideally, I would like to transfer those files to a specific tertiary partition (and not to Fedora), since I have a Windows dual boot and would like to access those files from both partitions. (Having in mind I want to encrypt this partition first with Veracrypt, but I don’t believe this will not have any impact here.)

Were the time machine backups full backups or incremental?

If incremental then the earliest full backup and all following incremental backups are required to make up the backup of the full system.

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It seems they were incremental. If so, how can I proceed?
Do you mean I need to import the base backup first?

Then what should I do? I assume it will only import the file versions of that base backup, won’t it?

I Strongly recommend dumpster diving. and deal hunting for Used/Refurbished HDD’s.

You can find Many used HDD’s for good prices. and this allows you to keep them as Cold storage, need for restoring backups and even full disk/bootable images. I have many ranging from 160GB (old drives !) to 8TB’s. For all kind of purposes. it’s a worth while investment.

Incremental Backups are designed to be space and time efficient. Instead of copying all your data every time you back it up, an incremental backup only copies the bits that have changed since the last backup.

  • The most recent full backup or the Base
  • All the incremental backups done since the full backup

As I stated just above your reply. You will need the last full backup plus all incremental backups since in the order they were created

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I read the article and it says that each backup is all files.
Because of the trick of linking to existing copies of files that have not changed.

So it seems that if you navigate i to a backup dated folder you should see all your files. This should be easy for you to confirm.
Then copy out what you need.

I can look at this in more depth tomorrow if you need more help.
My mac uses fedora running samba as a time capsule which i can investigate.

I am just wondering weather you still need access to your Time Machine backups for the purpose of restoring past versions of certain files (that is, not only the very last backed up version).

I am myself also a mac user, and I gave up Time Machine backups long time ago (in favor of iCloud backups of my personal files), out of convenience.

I know this is not really an answer to your question, but rather a practical approach from a different angle. There are lots of incremental backup solutions available under Fedora (both GUI and command-line packages).

Hi everyone!
Thank you all for your answers (@hamrheadcorvette, @computersavvy, @barryascott, @mblasko )!

:thinking: Maybe my technical skills are too low for this kind of exercise, but I still don’t understand how to proceed, apart from using another external HD, like you suggested @hamrheadcorvette (which I might end up doing to save time :upside_down_face:).

  1. When I mount my Time Machine backup, I see a list of datastamped folders like this one:

  2. Now, if I click on the latest one, I cannot open/read most folders, because the backups were incremental and they must have been considered identical to the previous backup.

  3. When I transfer the data from the latest backup, I can get a copy of those files and links, but folders like “Documents” are empty. They end up on my Fedora file system with a little lock, and nothing else.

  4. As for previous backups, I can find files in some folders, and not in others, depending on the incrementation that has been done.

:point_right: So, one approach would be to:

  1. Copy the base backup.
  2. Copy one after the other every backup up to the latest version.

:face_with_monocle: But in that case, I would need to replace the base folders with incremented versions for each folder, since I cannot know in advance when the latest version of the XYZ folder was saved.

:gear: And another approach would be to use one of the tools/scripts I mentioned above:

I have come across:

But I’m not sure to understand how they work. The TMFS one is looking like a good option to be able to read the backups and copy specific files. But I don’t know what specific commands I’m supposed to launch to do so once I have unzipped the file.

Do you have any clue how it might work?

Otherwise, I might just end up buying another HD and copy-paste my files manually. :sweat_smile:
I was just hoping for an easier integration with what is, but understand it’s not always as easy.
Thanks again for all your support!

This is what I would do,

  • Get another HDD/SSD/NVMe to transfer everything you want on Linux to.
  • Once you have that you can use rsync to copy your files to your new Dumpster Diver HDD
  • The rsync -ahP /path/to-my/TMFS /path/to-my/Fedora-Future command is pretty simple and will just copy everything in the structure you have. There are other flags that might help like u but that’s for later.


I would not do any of this without your Dumpster Dive HDD. For fear of losing a backup because of a snafu.

Just to make sure: you don’t have access to the initial Mac that was used for the TimeMachine backups, right?

Otherwise, it seems that what’s left is either to search for specific files manually, when needed (which can be a hassle, as you would need to access all the folders in a reverse-chronological order, until you find the searched file), or to try one of the solutions you have found (which I would only advise if you’re comfortable doing).

I do! I think that I will eventually buy another external HD to do the transfer, looks like it is the easiest and fastest way to go!

Thank you all for your replies and insights! :pray:

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