How to setup and use OSX Time Machine [GUIDE]

Shit happens: Although it is rare, even a Mac can crash. And believe it or not, it always happens at the moment you are working on something very important. Let alone all the documents, music and photo’s you stored on your Mac! Here you can read everything about the backup-program included in OSX Lion: Apple’s Time Machine.

What is Time Machine?

Time Machine is the standard back-up program delivered with OSX Lion. Time Machine is an easy and fun to use solution. Apple has put a lot of effort to make the Time Machine intuitive and easy to use for everyone, without any technical terms and other difficult stuff. Apple did a pretty good job, but a little explanation and background-info can never hurt.

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Setting up Time Machine

Time Machine is pretty straightforward to set up. The only thing you need to be aware of is the fact that you need an external hard-drive with the following specifications:

  • USB, Firewire 400/800 or Thunderbolt interface, whatever specs your Mac has.
  • At least twice the capacity of your original hard-drive(s) to be backed-up.

Of course, you can use Apple’s own hard-drive, the Time Capsule. If you have the money to buy this, it is a good (wireless) solution. Otherwise, a good external hard-drive will do the trick also.

Per default, if you attach the external drive to your Mac, a pop-up message will appear asking you if you want to use this new drive as a backup drive. The easiest way to continue is to click on the button: ‘Use as Backup Disk’. After this, everything will be done automatically. That was pretty simple ah?

Ok, what if the pop-up message doesn’t appear automatically? Well, just open System Preferences à Time Machine. Click on the button that says ‘Select Disk’ and find/select your new hard-drive. That’s it!

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Time Machine options

There are a few options available for Time Machine. For normal use, the default is enough. But for those who want some control, here are the options available:

If you want to include or exclude items to be backed-up, you can change the settings. Just go to System Preferences à Time Machine and click the button ‘options’. You will see that other external hard-drives are not included in the backups by default, but you can add them if you want. Here you can include or exclude files, folders or even complete hard-drives, as mentioned before. Click on ‘save’ when you are finished.

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By default, the Time Machine appears in your Mac Toolbar on the right upper corner of your screen. You can change this in the system preferences of course. From this icon in the Mac Toolbar you have a short-cut to the settings and info about the status of your backup. By clicking on ‘Backup Now’, you are able to run an immediate backup. Here you will also find the menu-item: ‘Enter Time Machine’. Read on for further explanation about this one.

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How to restore a single file or folder from the Time Machine?

This is really the coolest part of Time Machine: Click on ‘enter Time Machine’ in the Mac Toolbar and see what happens. Your screen will transform in a real time machine. Every overlapping window in the center is a backup on a certain time/date. You can find the time and date on your right side. When you click on a certain date, Time Machine will go back to that date/time and show the status of your Mac at that chosen time.

If you found your lost file, folder or application, just select it and click on ‘restore’ in the right bottom corner. Time Machine will restore the selected item(s) automatically.

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How to restore your entire computer from Time Machine?

If you just bought a new Mac, don’t forget to make a backup from your old Mac using Time Machine. During the process of setting up the new Mac, the system will ask you if you want your backup to be installed, instead of the full new system. If you click on ‘yes’, then the whole system will be restored on the new Mac and you can work again like before without the hustle of installing all the apps again.

Time Machine is really a good and stable solution for most of your backup needs.

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