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How to Set Up Time Machine to Back Up to a Networked Windows Computer  February 28, 2016 – 07:23 am

How to Set Up Time Machine to Back Up to a Networked Windows ComputerI've got a Mac laptop and a Windows desktop, and my Windows desktop has a mighty large hard drive begging to be used for my Time Machine backups. Here's how to set it up.

UPDATE: For an easier, more up-to-date version, check out this guide

This process should work on Linux, as well, but I'll focus on the Windows side of the coin.

Step One: Create a Shared Folder on Your Windows Network and Connect to It from Your Mac

One nice thing about offloading your Time Machine backups to your Windows computer is that it doesn't need a dedicated drive at all; you just need a folder that you can mount from your Mac.

First, make sure you have sharing turned on on your Windows machine (search "advanced sharing settings" in the Windows Start menu), and make sure the folder you want to use as your backup is shared. On my Windows computer, the shared folder is at E:\Time Machine.

How to Set Up Time Machine to Back Up to a Networked Windows Computer

Once it's created, you need to mount the folder from your Mac. To do this, open Finder, type Cmd+K, and enter the smb:// address to your Windows shared folder. On my system, that address looks like this:


Windows is the name of my Windows machine on the network, Media is the name of the E:\ drive, and Time Machine is, of course, the name of my folder. You'll need to enter in your username and password for your Windows machine; make sure you save those to your keychain.

Step Two: Enable Backing Up Time Machine to Unsupported Network Volumes

By default, Time Machine won't write backups to just any network volume. (It prefers you buy a Time Capsule from Apple, I suppose.) Luckily this is easy to get around. You can either fire up Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/, paste the following command and hit Enter:

How to Set Up Time Machine to Back Up to a Networked Windows Computerdefaults write TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1

Step Three: Create Your Dummy Backup File

Just to make sure everything's working as it should to this point, open Time Machine in your System Preferences and click the Select Backup Disk button. If you've mounted your Windows Time Machine folder, it should now show up in the list of potential backup disks. Select it, and click Use for Backup.

Now try backing up to your Windows machine (select Back Up Now from Time Machine in your menu bar). If the backup fails at this point, don't worry—we're expecting that. You need to create a backup file (it's a sparse bundle) first, which will require a little more Terminal work. So fire up Terminal, and paste the following line with a few edits customized to your setup:

How to Set Up Time Machine to Back Up to a Networked Windows Computerhdiutil create -size 125g -fs HFS+J -volname "TimeMachine" ComputerName_MACADDRESS.sparsebundle

NOTE: Don't paste that without editing it.

The first thing you want to customize is the number 125g—that's 125GB, which is my preferred size for my Time Machine backup. Pick your preferred Time Machine backup size.

Next, you can customize the text after -volname to whatever you want. I've called it TimeMachine.

Last, you have to customize the sparsebundle name, which consists of your Mac's name (mine's Air), an underscore, and your Mac's MAC address (minus the colons). To get your computer's name, paste this command into Terminal:

scutil -get ComputerName

To get your MAC address, paste the following into Terminal:

ifconfig en0 | grep ether

Strip all the colons from the MAC address, add them to the end of your computer name (separated by an underscore), and then enter your customized command into Terminal. When it's done, you'll have a file (in your Home directory if that's where you're running the Terminal commands from) named ComputerName_MACADDRESS.sparsebundle.

You're almost done.

Step Four: Copy Your Time Machine Backup File to Your Windows Machine

Now you've just got to run one more Terminal command to finish up. Again, you'll want to customize this to fit your setup.

cp -R ComputerName_MACADDRESS.sparsebundle /Volumes/TimeMachine

The sparsebundle file should have the same name as the sparsebundle file you created above, and the Volume name should be whatever you mounted your shared Windows folder as (remember, mine's called TimeMachine, so it's Volumes/TimeMachine.


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