Time Machine Backup Dependability


Today’s Question: How dependable do you feel Time Machine is for backing up the internal hard drive on a Macintosh computer? Put another way, if you needed to wipe the hard drive on a Mac, would you trust Time Machine to restore the computer without losing any personal data?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I consider the Time Machine backup to be very dependable and have used Time Machine to configure each new Macintosh computer I have purchased based on a backup of the computer I was replacing.

More Detail: Time Machine is the built-in backup feature of the Macintosh operating system, and in my view it provides two key benefits that I think make it very worthwhile use Time Machine to back up the internal hard drive for any Macintosh computer.

The first benefit of Time Machine is that it provides a complete backup of all user files on your computer. This means you can use a Time Machine backup to completely restore a computer. For example, if you buy a new Macintosh computer you can restore from a Time Machine backup of your previous computer to configure the computer with all user data intact. I have used this feature on numerous occasions when configuring a new computer, as well as when I need to erase a hard drive for maintenance purposes and want to restore from a Time Machine backup.

The second benefit is that Time Machine maintains a historical backup of user files on your computer. This includes versions of documents, though the availability of older versions depends upon the storage capacity. For example, let’s assume you that for the past few months you have had an important document on the desktop, and you’ve been updating that document on a regular basis. Then you realize that a few days ago you deleted the document.

In this type of situation, you could simply launch the Time Machine application, navigate to the storage location where the file you want to recover exists, and scroll back in time to the most recent point when the document still existed. You would then be able to recover the file by copying it back to the desktop. This feature would even enable you to recover an older version of a document even if the updated version hadn’t been backed up.

Many readers know that I use GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) to back up my external hard drives, and that I use Backblaze (https://timgrey.me/cloudbackup) for an online (and therefore offsite) backup of my internal and external drives. But I also maintain a Time Machine backup for the internal hard drive on my computer (though Time Machine can also backup your external hard drives if you’d like).