How To Change Your Time Machine Backup Interval

Time Machine is Apple’s all-in-one backup solution that takes a snapshot of your hard drive and incrementally backs up any files that have changed since the previous backup. The default configuration is pretty sparse; there’s an On/Off slider, Disk Selection, and an Options area where you can exclude folders from the backup.

You might think hourly backups are a bit excessive. Apple does not give you a convenient way to change the default backup schedule. Luckily this is easy. Here are two ways you can change the hourly backup schedule to one of your choosing.

Modifying the system files

If you just want to change the default interval and not schedule anything fancy, follow this method.

Warning: this tutorial involves modifying System files. As always, be sure to make copies of the original files before changing anything.

1. Navigate to

/System/Library/LaunchDaemons

You’ll see a list of .plist files. Scroll until you see com.apple.backupd-auto.plist

2. Make a copy of this file somewhere else on your hard drive.

3. Verify that you (as an administrator of your machine) can Read and Write to this file. Highlight com.apple.backupd-auto.plist and “Get Info” (Command + I). If you don’t see “admin – Read & Write” or “[your username] Read & Write” you’ll need to add yourself to the list.

4. Open this file with a text editor. Property List Editor doesn’t let me save any changes for some reason.

You'll need to find these two lines in your preference list.

5. In a text editor, find the lines

<key>StartInterval</key>
<integer>3600</integer>

Change 3600 to the amount of time you want between backups in seconds.

6. Save and you’re finished.

Time Machine Editor

Another way to manage your Time Machine backups is the very handy TimeMachineEditor utility. In addition to changing the default backup interval, it allows you to dictate your hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly backup schedules with a very high level of detail.

TimeMachineEditor's configuration window gives you a wealth of options.

Assign the rules you want and then click “Apply.”

TimeMachineEditor is free.

Do you have any other methods you use to increase Time Machine’s functionality? Leave them in the comments!