What’s Time Machine?
Time Machine is backup software provided as part of Mac OS X 10.5 (and 10.6). It backs up EVERYTHING on your hard disk(s). All you need is a place to put it. Typically that’s an external hard drive, such as these from Amazon. All you do is connect the drive. The Mac will detect the drive, ask you if you want to use it for your Time Machine backup, and you say “yes.” That’s it.
You can read Apple’s official Time Machine write-up here.
How do I use it?
For backing up, you do nothing. Everything is automatic. Your entire hard drive will be backed up when you first connect the drive, and from then on Time Machine backs up everything that’s changed in the last hour. If it hasn’t changed, Time Machine doesn’t back it up. That saves space.
Obviously this can’t go on forever, because you’d run out of space on the backup drive. So, Apple stores 24 hourly backups, a month’s worth of daily backups, and weekly backups after that. When you are close to running out of space Time Machine lets you know.
How do I get stuff back?
So, now you want to retrieve an accidentally deleted file. Or your QuickBooks file’s gone bad and you know it worked yesterday, so you want to get that one back. All you do is start up the Time Machine application (in your Mac’s Applications folder), and from there get overwhelmed, and from there call me. I can show you how to get your files back from my command post at Boyce Labs. After you’ve done it once it’s a snap. Regardless of whether you need my help or not, be assured that your stuff is there, backed up.
How do I completely restore my Mac, such as going back to 10.5 after installing 10.6?
Excellent question. First, you start from a DVD such as the 10.6 installer. Then, you look for a menu titled “Utilities.” Then, you choose “Restore System from Backup.” After that, you choose your backup disk (that’s easy– there is probably only one). You then get to choose which edition to back up from. All of your backups are listed, along with the dates and the operating system version. That makes it easy. In my case, I chose the latest 10.5.8 backup, and was off to the races. It was a slow race (3 hours plus) but in the end, I was back on 10.5.8.
Is that all there is to it?
Ah, no. Not quite. I noticed a few little odd things on my restored 10.5.8 machine. First, after restoring, Mail acted as if it was launching for the first time, doing the same import steps that it did when I went from 10.4 to 10.5. Second, my Address Book and iCal and Bookmark synching via Mobile Me needed to be reset. That wasn’t a big deal for me but might throw a beginner off.
The Stirring Conclusion
Get an external disk. Set up Time Machine. There’s no easier way to back up and when you need it, Time Machine will save the day.