What is Mac Time Machine?
Time Machine was first introduced by Apple Inc. as a backup feature in macOS X Leopard. It is now available in all Mac computers. Enabling Time Machine for Mac can create incremental backups of all files on any Mac system on a daily, hourly or weekly basis. This allows Mac users to recover important files from an old backup, which may have been accidentally deleted. It also enables them to restore the contents of an entire hard drive, in the event of a system malfunction.
To create backups and restore Mac from Time Machine, users need external storage solutions, such as an external hard drive connected to Mac over FireWire, a USB or Thunderbolt port, or to the USB port of an AirPort Extreme Base Station. Specifically designed for Time Machine backups, Time Capsule by Apple can take wired and wireless backups in its internal hard drive when connected to Mac. Time Machine also works on backup disks shared via a network, provided that those support Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) for file sharing.
How Mac Time Machine Works?
Time Machine can take periodic snapshots of all files on a Mac computer and stores them over an external storage drive that the user has chosen as the Time Machine backup disk. These backups can also be password protected for enhanced security purpose. This backup application automatically takes hourly backups for the duration of the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month and weekly backups for all previous months.
The first Time Machine backup might run for a prolonged period of time, depending on the number of files and file sizes on a particular Mac system. After that, Time Machine takes backup of only files that have changed since the last backup, thus, streamlining the process. Users can also turn off Time Machine by ticking off ‘Back Up Automatically’ to stop automatic backups. In this scenario, they can manually choose the ‘Back Up Now’ option from the Time Machine menu for future backups.
What Users Can do With Mac Time Machine?
Restoring Specific item
If any specific item like a document or an email gets inadvertently deleted, users need to open the documents folder or Inbox. Post that, they need to enter Time Machine from the Time Machine menu. By using the onscreen up and down arrows, users can locate the item, press the Spacebar to preview it, or click on the cloud button to download and view particular snapshots, to make sure they’ve chosen the correct version of the file they want to retrieve. They can then restore the file by clicking on ‘Restore’ button, or copy-paste a specific text if required.
Transferring Time Machine backups
If the current Mac system is found to have impaired functionality, users can restore Time Machine backups of that system to another Mac device by using Apple Migration Assistant. When the new Mac computer is connected with the drive storing old Time Machine backups, users can open Migration Assistant to view a list of chronological backups saved over a period of time. Users can then choose a particular one and click on ‘Continue’ to copy that backup to the new Mac system.
Excluding items from backups
Mac users can add a list of selected files in the Time Machine preferences to exclude them from their backups.
Limitations of Time Machine
Time Machine is widely used by Mac users as a free in-built backup utility. However, it comes with a number of missing features as listed below:
- Time Machine is unable to make bootable copies for backups. This means if the hard drive is damaged, users need to spend a considerable amount of time restoring data to a new storage drive before they can resume work.
- Time Machine cannot record just the changes made within a file. Consequently, even the smallest of changes made in a huge file might compel this feature to create another incremental backup of that whole file. This consumes unnecessary disk space at a quicker pace than expected.
- The schedule of hourly, daily or weekly Time Machine backups is fixed. Without any third-party support, users cannot make adjustments into the schedule. Also, Time Machine can take up to 30 minutes to complete an hourly backup, which makes it a time-consuming process.
- Mac Time Machine does not recognize any Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices (except Time Capsule) if they don’t support AFP file sharing. Besides, it requires Apple-specific HFS+ filesystem for storing backups.
- It is not possible to create any permanent backup with Time Machine. As a backup utility, Time Machine captures the most recent state of the data. As a result, the latest snapshots are prioritized over the older ones. If the backup disk is found full, Time Machine deletes the oldest backups to make space for the most recent ones.
- Time Machine for PCs running macOS can store backups only on hard disk; it cannot work with optical discs like CDs or DVDs. Additionally, users cannot compress files to save storage space.
Time Machine Alternatives
Carbon Copy Cloner
Carbon Copy Cloner is a Mac backup software that works by creating bootable and customizable backups. It enables Mac users to create a bootable clone of the backup drive, and allows them to restore the Mac backup to a new hard drive when required. Thus, it eliminates the need of any additional downloads and installations for restoring Mac computers. With Carbon Copy Cloner, users can backup their important files on a networked drive, or on an external storage platform.
Carbon Copy Cloner comes with a simple interface and provides users with a guided Mac restore process. Additionally, with SafetyNet included, this Mac backup solution can save cached copies of the recently changed or deleted files, which helps users to restore Mac effectively during emergency situations. Carbon Copy Cloner can take data backups on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. In addition, users can customize the backup schedule so that it is performed only at specific times such as at night or on weekends. Carbon Copy Cloner also runs a periodic backup condition checkup to detect damaged backup files and enable the users to replace them, if necessary.
The functionality of Super Duper as a Mac recovery utility is centered on disk cloning program. It creates bootable clones of the Mac hard drive, so that users can have complete backup of the important data, critical applications, user profiles and private settings. Thus, Mac users can run a functional, bootable copy, and restore the Mac system to the original copy if any system issues occur. To enable it on the Mac system, users need to select a target destination drive and start the backup process. Its Copy Script feature allows the end-users choose the specific files they want in their backups.
Super Duper has an easy user interface and enables users to schedule backups as per their convenience. Unlike Time Machine for Mac, Super Duper only saves new elements or changes within a file. Its basic functionalities are offered as a complimentary package. There is also a paid version which unlocks many advanced functionalities such as scripting, smart updates and sandboxing.
Data Backup Mac
As a backup software, Data Backup 3 enables Mac users to make bootable copy of the external backup drive, which helps them keep the Mac system running even if the main drive crashes. Its incremental backup feature copies all the files that have been modified since the last backup, and notifies the users through text or email when the backup process is complete.
Apart from its bootable cloning capabilities, it holds other convenient features — allowing mac users to create a customized backup presets in which they need to drag and drop the file they need in a specific backup set. Additionally, users can also exclude certain files from being backed up, protect the backup with passwords and/or compress those if they want to. Unlike Mac Time Machine, backups can be saved on ATA, networked drives or CD/DVD disks with Data Backup. With both complementary and commercial versions, Data Backup offers a platform which allows Mac users to backup and synchronize their valuable data.
Deep Freeze is a core product offering of Faronics Corporation. Based on the Reboot to Restore technology, Deep Freeze offers solutions to complex system configuration problems encountered on Mac systems and public access computers running MacOS. It enables Mac users to setup and control a system configuration as desired by them, and restore the Mac systems to that predefined state with each reboot. Unlike the backup functionality of Time Machine for Mac, it functions at a kernel level which helps it keep the desired baseline settings preserved within its system. Thus, when the Mac system is restarted, Deep Freeze retrieves the original pristine state of the computer while eliminating all unwanted and malicious changes performed in the previous session. This results in all-time system availability.
Its Reboot to Restore features can cater to the requirements of users with varying level of IT knowledge and expertise, as they just need to restart their Mac computers to ensure complete system recovery. Deep Freeze supports various latest versions of MacOS. Through the Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) integration, Mac users can deploy and manage Deep Freeze and perform various functions like Restart, Wake and Shutdown. It also enables Mac users to create resizable virtual storage spaces, or ThawSpaces, which can be password-protected to prevent unauthorized access. Users can also schedule and automate Apple updates as per their convenience.
Reboot to Restore technology mitigates unwarranted configuration changes and resolves IT issues with a simple yet effective reboot.