How to Back Up and Recover a Mac through Time Machine?

First of all, let’s figure out what Time Machine is. This is a built-in Mac computer system for backup, which requires external information storage. It can be an external hard drive linked to the USB port, FireWire or Thunderbolt; macOS Server or a Time Capsule on the network; or an external hard drive connected to the AirPort Extreme base station on the network.

Time Machine settings

time machine settings

Only users with a password can have access to the encrypted backup.

However, sometimes, the system does not attempt to select a disk for backup. In such cases take next actions:

  • Open the Time Machine framework/ go to the Apple menu – System Preferences, and click the Time Machine icon.
  • Click Select a backup drive, choose it, or Add or remove a backup drive.
  • Select the backup drive from the list and click Use disk.

For reinsurance, you can replay the actions and add other backup disk. For instance, one can be used at a private computer, and another – in the office.

Backing up with Time Machine

After setting up, Time Machine automatically creates backup files every hour for the last 24 hours; every day for the last month; and every week for all preceding months. When the disk gets full, the system deletes the oldest backups to make space for fresh data.

To quit the automatic saving, open the Time Machine settings and uncheck Create backups inevitably (macOS Sierra and later versions) or deactivate the system (OS X El Capitan and earlier versions). To run the substitute manually, turn on Create backup now in the Time Machine menu.

To cancel it at runtime, select Stop backing up (or Skip this backup) from the Time Machine menu.

To block extra saving of the files, open the Time Machine settings in the menu, click the Options button, then a plus sign and select the needed object.

Restoring objects

restore file from backup

If you accidentally have deleted some file from the Documents folder, do not worry – it is easy to bring it back. For that, open the window for restoring an object or the Inbox folder in the Mail program for restoring an e-mail message.

Select Enter Time Machine in the system menu or click Time Machine on the Dock.

To find the objects to restore, follow these steps:

  • Use the timeline on the screen bottom to view the objects in the Time Machine backup.
  • Take the up and down arrows on the screen to return to the original window’s contents. There is an option to use the search field in the window and go on the timeline afterward, focusing on the changes in this object.
  • Select an object, press spacebar to preview it and ensure it is the desired one.

The Restore button will show you other options as well.

Recover all data from a backup

To renew the system to a Mac computer, hold the Restore from Time Machine backup utility in the macOS recovery field. Take into account that before receiving macOS and other details of the Time Machine backup, the data from the restored disk is deleted.

To copy only own files, settings, and user accounts, choose the Migration Assistant.

Good to know

  • If you back up to multiple drives, you can change them before entering Time Machine. While holding down Option, select Browse Other Backup Disks in the menu.
  • To use the system for backing up to a storage on the local network, it is worth checking the substitute versions to ensure their current status is good. To do this, press and hold the Option key, then select Check Backups from the Time Machine menu.
  • When you select a disk for backup, its icon in Finder may not coincide with the displayed icon in the Time Machine settings.
  • In OS X Lion v10.7.3 or later, if necessary, you can boot the system from the Time Machine disk. While the Mac is loading, press and hold the Option key. When displaying the Startup Manager screen, select EFI Boot as the boot disk.