Restoring files hidden in the Library folder (OS X)

When I set up my new MacBook Pro I chose not to use Migration Assistant. This meant that I had to do a fresh install of my non-Apple Applications. Not a problem, except for games such as Call of Duty 4 and Bioshock. For these it would be nice to have the data from when I’d played the games before. As for the joystick manager, the thought of having to map all those controller buttons again – Nooo!

But, you may be thinking, he has a backup of the old Mac. Right? Well yes, I have, but this is where an idiosyncrasy of the Mac OS can cause difficulties. Most games store their game saves, preferences, etc. in each user’s Library folder in a folder called Application Support . In recent versions of OS X the ~/Library folder has been deliberately hidden from casual view ‘for the user’s protection’. So although you can view the Library folder in a Finder window, when you look inside the Time Machine backup it is still not visible. So a simple click/drag of the required files isn’t an option, neither is it possible to navigate to the Library folder using the Time Machine UI.

Luckily you can use Terminal commands to get at the files and copy them. So I thought I’d write up the process for you (because I care). Command text in red. 

The first step is to mount the backup disk. Then open a Terminal window. Use Finder to navigate to the folder. This saves a heck of a lot of typing.  Instead of typing this into Terminal:

cd /Volumes/TM_MacBookAir/Backups.backupdb/Steve’s\ MacBook\ Air/2016-11-30-195052/Macintosh\ HD/Users/steve

simply click and drag the folder (e.g. ‘steve’ in the example below) to the $ prompt in Terminal.

Finder window

The pwd command in Terminal shows you the current directory. Just what we wanted:

$ pwd

/Volumes/TM_MacBookAir/Backups.backupdb/Steve’s MacBook Air/2016-11-30-195052/Macintosh HD/Users/steve


Now change directory to the ‘hidden’ Library folder, then Application Support:


cd Library


cd ‘Application Support’


Put Application Support inside single quotes because there’s a space in the folder name. Alternatively (and better) you could also escape the space with “\” like this:


cd Application\ Support


My Bioshock game data is in a folder called “Feral Interactive” in the Application Support folder, so:

Application Support $ ls -la Feral*

total 16

drwxr-xr-x@  4 steve  staff   136 30 Oct 18:09 .

drwx——@ 76 steve  staff  2584 26 Nov 20:45 ..

-rw-r–r–@  1 steve  staff  6148 30 Oct 18:09 .DS_Store

drwxr-xr-x@  7 steve  staff   238 30 Oct 22:55 BioShock

Application Support $

Use the copy command to copy the folder and contents to a folder in my home directory in the new location:

Application Support $

Application Support $ sudo cp -R Feral\ Interactive/* /Users/steve/Feral\ Interactive

Application Support $

Back in Finder, here’s the result:

finder window

I can now replace the game’s folders in Users/~/Library/Application Support with these.






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