Scheduling Time Machine Backups In OS X 10.7 Lion (or earlier!)

OS X Lion seems to have a tendency to bungle up Time Machine schedulers, such as Time Machine Editor. Prior to 10.7 I used it exclusively to set scheduling for our backups as I only want to back up once a week on most of our Macs.  And it worked OK in 10.7 until about 3 weeks ago when it stopped functioning.  Apparently I’m not alone in having this issue, but fortunately there’s a simple workaround that doesn’t require any software other than what came with your Mac.  Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Get  TimeMachine working normally

If you have never configured TM it’s fairly simple.  If you’re using a *nix-based server to store your data you might want to take a look at my guide to getting Netatalk to co-operate with Lion.

Step 2: Turn TimeMachine backups OFF in the System Preferences panel

Simply open System Preferences, go to Time Machine, and slide the big slider button over to the OFF position.  This simply disables automatic backups that TimeMachine normally performs.

Step 3: Create (or download) a script to start TimeMachine

You can do this one of 2 ways:  Either start up Applescript Editor and type out the single-line script and then save it, or download the script at the bottom of this post.  If you’re going to do it manually here’s the simple single line that you have to type:

do shell script "/System/Library/CoreServices/backupd.bundle/Contents/Resources/backupd-helper &"


That’s it!  Now save the file somewhere safe.

Step 4: Add a repeating iCal event

Open iCal and create a new event.  Normally you should make a point to set the time to a period when your Mac will be on, though if it’s not on when the alert comes up it’ll start at the next opportunity, so you don’t have to worry about missing the backup.  Select where it says Repeat and choose an interval that you want, eg. every day/week/month or custom.  Under Alert choose Run Script, select the script you created/downloaded in the last step and this is very important! set the time to ## minutes after, not before.  This ensures that if your Mac isn’t on when the alert is set to run it’ll run when available.  Click done.

That’s it!  Enjoy!!

Start Time Machine Backup