Setting up a Time Machine for your Mac

Apple’s built-in backup component is a highly convenient and versatile way for users to backup their machines. Using the Time Machine program on Mac desktops and notebooks allows you not only to backup all of your files, but also to create a snapshot of your machine.

When you create a Time Machine – a hard drive with your data backed up onto it – you can restore your desktop, settings, folders and more to the date of the backup. In addition to this, Time Machine periodically backs up everything on your hard disk silently in the background, providing your hard drive is connected (via a USB cable or Wi-Fi) and has sufficient space, of course.

Setting up Time Machine is really simple. Open System Preferences, and click the Time Machine icon. Then just move the switch from off to on, and plug in your hard drive. If it is blank or mostly blank, and has enough space for all your files, a dialogue box will pop up and suggest the drive be used as a Time Machine destination. If your drive doesn’t appear, you can select a drive manually from a list, or alternatively format it in using the built-in Disk Utility program. Once you select your drive, you don’t need to do anything else – Time Machine will begin backing up your data and continue doing so in the background.

If the thought of having to continually connect a drive to your machine puts you off (especially if it’s a laptop), then Apple sells an AirPort Time Capsule, commonly known as a Time Capsule. This connects your hard drive to your machine over Wi-Fi.

Restoring from your backup is just as easy. Reboot your Mac, and press Cmd+R before the Apple logo to boot into recovery mode. Attach your backup drive via USB or connect over Wi-Fi by clicking the icon in the menu bar, and select ‘restore from Time Machine backup’ in the window. You’ll then be presented with a list of backups in order of when they were created, and after selecting one, your Mac will be restored to that point – files, folders, settings, and everything else.

Time Machine backs up roughly every hour, in the background, so you’ll have plenty of points to choose from. For privacy (and practicality in the case of large files), you can also exclude certain files from being backed up. In addition to this, you can encrypt your backups by checking the box in the Time Machine program, so you’ll only be able to restore your data after entering a password.