Backing up your files using Time Machine
I’m a big proponent of data backup. I’ve discussed it with customers. I’ve written articles about it. I’ve lectured my father ad nauseum about it.
So, given my heavy-handed stance on data backup, as soon as the Time Machine feature was announced for Leopard, it was determined that I’d be the one to really look into it and, of course, write up something on it.
But there’s one thing that’s a little embarrassing about this whole spiel. For as much as I keep myself informed about data backup, lecture others about the same, and as meticulous as I am about backing up my work machine daily, at home I really don’t practice what I preach.
So while this may help qualify me in case I ever want to go into politics, for now, it always makes me feel a little awkward when talking about data backup. However, with Time Machine, many of my needs for personal backup are addressed, making it that much easier to live by my own guidelines on data backup.
What are these needs?
So, effectively, Time Machine has everything I've been looking for in a backup program.
Setting it up.
Setting up a drive to use with Time Machine is incredibly straight-forward. In most cases, you simply have to attach a new FireWire or USB hard drive to your computer and you’ll get a friendly pop-up window asking if you want to use said drive for Time Machine. Simply click "Use as Backup Disk" and go.
However, if you’ve hooked that drive up previously and declined the use of it (or if you have another drive that’s being used with it), you may have to go into the Time Machine preference panel and click either the “Choose Backup Disk…” button (if you haven’t set a backup drive yet up yet) or the “Change Disk…” icon. Either way, you’ll be presented with a list of available drives. Simply select one from the list and click “Use for Backup.”
Whether you had it automatically chosen, or you selected the drive manually, Time Machine will begin backing up your hard drive to the external. This can take a while, especially if you have a lot of data to transfer and/or you are hooked up via USB 2.0.
Once the initial data has been copied over, Time Machine will make hourly incremental backups until you disconnect the drive or shut down your computer.
Getting it back.
Retrieving files via Time Machine is a fairly painless process. Simply navigate to the last place you saved that file and click on the Time Machine icon in your Dock
You will be taken to the Time Machine interface. Simply navigate back to the last time the file was backed up, select the item and click the “Restore” button on the left.
But what if you don’t remember where that file was?
If you can’t recall which folder your file was saved in, you can still find it again. Time Machine integrates Spotlight functionality, so you can search both what’s on your drive now and what used to be on your drive. Just perform a new search in a Finder window, then activate Time Machine. Your search will be carried back through all the backups. Once you find where (or is that when?) it was, you can then select and restore it.
What if you need to restore your entire system?
This is possible, as well. Simply boot to your System Install Disk and Select “Restore System from Backup” from the Utilities menu. Once you have selected the Time Machine volume and backup date you wish to restore to, simply follow the onscreen instructions and you’re good to go.
Recommended rig configs.
While you could just make do with old external drives you have laying about the house, what better reason to justify to your boss (or spouse) dropping some extra cash on some hardware? So, without further ado, here are my recommendations, conveniently broken down by effectiveness/price range:
In the weeks leading up to Leopard’s release, there were a number of questions that kept popping up on various message boards or in conversations. So, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll cover them here.