Making technology work for you
Time Machine is the Mac’s built-in backup software.
The feature was introduced with OS X 10.5 Leopard, and it’s been there ever since. If you’ve never used it, Time Machine is one of the easiest ways to back up your Mac, and is great for recovering individual files you’ve deleted or restoring your entire hard drive in the event of a catastrophe.
Time Machine works with any hard disk connected to your computer via USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt; it also supports Apple’s Time Capsule and backup disks connected over a network, provided the disks support Apple File Protocol (AFP) file sharing. As long as the disk is available to your Mac, you can use it for a Time Machine backup.
When enabled, Apple’s backup software takes periodic snapshots of all your files and catalogs them on an external hard drive you have plugged in or a Time Capsule you’ve hooked up to your network. It backs up the entire contents of your hard disk hourly, daily and weekly; as the drive gets full, Time Machine will delete the oldest backups and replace them with newer versions.
This is better than your traditional “Copy a bunch of files to a cloud service” or “clone a disk to an external hard drive” because you don’t have to restore your hard drive en masse if you lose a single file—Time Machine can retrieve specific images, folders, and projects from its backup because of its layered snapshot system.
If you’re using OS X Yosemite or later on a laptop and enable Time Machine, you’ll also automatically get a feature called Local Snapshots; this allows your laptop to back itself up once a day (and once a week) while you’re away from your Time Machine drive.
Local Snapshots does take up some of your hard drive with its backups, but if you start to run low, it will automatically purge old backups so that you have at least 20 percent free space on your drive.
Yup. In System Preferences > Time Machine, click the Options button to select any files you’d prefer didn’t make their way onto your backup drive.
Whether you’re having major problems with your current hard drive or upgrading to a new Mac, Time Machine can help you get back to business.
If you’ve had to replace it with a stock drive that has nothing on it—not even OS X—you won’t be able to boot from the OS X Recovery Partition. But fear not, you can get the recovery rolling from the Time Machine backup disk itself: Just hold down the Option key when you start your Mac; you’ll be able to select the Time Machine backup disk as your startup drive, and go from there.