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How to back up your Mac using Time Machine

Updated on January 3, 2024
Time Machine

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This option is only valid if you purchased a backup or team folder add-on product.

There are few things more terrifying for anyone who uses a Mac regularly than the thought of losing data. Whether it’s every file on your hard drive or just a few important documents or precious photos, it’s a horrible prospect.

That’s why you should back up your Mac regularly. Thankfully, Apple has a brilliant backup tool right in macOS. It’s called Time Machine because it allows you to ‘go back in time’ to when your data was safe. Combined with our network drive, you can backup your files in real time while you work in West Quay Offices.

How does Time Machine backup work?

Once you’ve set it up, Time Machine backs up your data to our NAS network drive. Your Mac will need to be connected to our network while backing up. So if you take your laptop home, the backups will stop, and when you are back at West Quay Offices, backups will resume.

Time Machine keeps hourly backups for 24 hours, daily backups for a month, and weekly backups for previous months. When it runs out of space on the NAS, it deletes the oldest backups. However, because Time Machine only saves the changes made to a file since the last backup, it doesn’t fill up your drive as quickly as you might think. You can also get a bigger space from us if you need it in the future.

As with any backup tool, the first backup will take quite a while because Time Machine has to copy every file on your Mac (except for those you’ve chosen to exclude). But subsequent backups are much quicker.

If you use a laptop running Mac OS X Yosemite or later, Time Machine will also make what it calls local snapshots. These are backups that are stored on your Startup disc and other external drives connected to your Mac. That way, if you need to restore a file and your Time Machine drive isn’t available, you can restore from the local snapshot.

How do I use Time Machine backup?

You’ll need to connect our NAS to your Mac. You can find detailed instruction how to do that in here.

  1. Launch System Preferences from the Apple menu and click on Time Machine.
  2. Click the padlock and type in your admin password.
  3. Click Select Disc and choose the external disc or network drive you want to use to store the backups. If you want your backups to be encrypted, choose that option.
  4. Click Use Disc to save your changes. You may need to take additional steps, such as erasing the disc. Just follow the on-screen instructions.
  5. Check the box labelled ‘Show Time Machine in menu bar.’ That makes it easier to restore files or stop backups.

How do I exclude files from the backup?

If you want to minimize the amount of space your backup occupies, click the Options button. Then click ‘+’ and navigate to files or folders you don’t want to be backed up, for example, your Downloads folder.

In this window, you can also choose to allow Time Machine to run while your laptop is operating on battery power.

Before you start your Time Machine backup,

Before you start your Time Machine backup, you should clean macOS to remove old baggage like outdated files, broken or junky files, which could amount to several dozen gigabytes. Not only will this safeguard your Mac form potential software conflicts, but also your backup will be much smaller and so much faster, too.

How do I restore from Time Machine?

There are two different methods for restoring files from Time Machine, depending on whether you want to recover specific files and folders, or restore your entire Mac from a backup.

  1. To restore individual files, click on Time Machine in the menu bar and select Enter Time Machine. You’ll see a 3D representation of Finder windows, with the front-most window representing the most recent backup and those behind it, older backups.
  2. To navigate, click either on the up arrow to the right of the Finder window or the title bar of a window, or click and drag on the timeline at the right of the screen. You’ll see the time and date of each backup displayed as you bring it to the front.
  3. When you’ve found the backup you want to restore from, click in the Finder window and navigate to the file or folder you want to restore from, just as you would if you were navigating the Finder normally.
  4. Select the file or folder and press the spacebar to invoke Quick Look and preview the file. If it’s the one you want, click Restore. That file or folder will now replace the current version, or if you deleted it, it will be restored.
  5. You can repeat the process as often as you need to for any file or folder you need to restore.

To restore your entire Mac from a time machine backup, you need to boot from the recovery partition.

  1. Restart your Mac and hold down Command-R. When you see the macOS Utilities window, select Restore from Time Machine Backup and navigate to the backup you want to restore from.
  2. Follow the instructions on the screen.
  3. When it’s done and you restart, your Mac will have returned to the state it was in when the last Time Machine backup was run.
  4. If everything was working as it should, that would have been in the last hour before you restored.
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