Sometimes you need to quickly restore a file from your macOS Time Machine backups without using the pretty graphical interface.
First retrieve the list of all available backups:
When you get an error “No machine directory found for host” it probably means Time Machine is doing a backup or verification at the moment. Try again later.
You can check the status and get an ETA with:
Restore your file:
tmutil restore BACKUP/ORIGINAL_DESTINATION
Note: don’t forget to either wrap the paths in quotes or escape all spaces and special characters!
/Volumes/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb/ComputerName/2017-10-19-064032
The starting path can be different for non-English installations. For example on Dutch macOS the path starts with
Here the start can also be different when you have named you Mac’s disk differently.
So the full restore command becomes:
tmutil restore '/Volumes/Time Machine Backups/Backups.backupdb/ComputerName/2017-10-19-064032/Macintosh HD/Users/username/Documents/my_lost.doc' '~/Documents/my_lost_doc'
Based on: Hacks for Macs