Does anyone use Time Machine for their backups? I’m crazy about backing up regularly, but I have trust issues

I backup my entire computer regularly. For the past few years, I’ve been using rsync which simply copies all files from my main drive to my backup drive.

I’ve thought about getting a RAID for my photos and videos, but I don’t trust it. It’s a “single” point of failure. Yes, I know what a raid is, but do I really trust that Maxtor’s RAID software is bug free? I trust 2 independent drives more.

Time Machine also requires some faith. Are my files really there if I need them? Searching on the web, this gave me a lot of confidence in Time Machine:

Another reason why I love my Mac. This weekend I needed to edit some video in a pinch. The project was going to take about 20 gigs of hard drive space but I was away from my external hard drive and only had about 10 gigs of free space on my laptop. So what did I do? I did what any Mac user would do – I deleted my entire iTunes music folder. It cleared up about 65 gigs of space, and I was able to edit the video and all was well. Then when I got back home I restored all the files with Time Machine, which had automatically backed everything up. That’s how badass I am.

So, anyone else trust Time Machine to backup their files? Any issues or bad experiences?


  1. Chris, have you used Time Machine to recover files or a whole drive? Has it worked?Ram, I use rsync now. i’m looking for something more automatic. and with easier recovery

  2. Paranoia perhaps, but I’m sporting two time machine drives (manual switching every couple days) and rsync of a few key things to a third.

  3. my dad got me time machine for xmas and i think it’s amazing. especially since before i got it, i would imagine these scenarios in my head where i’d be walking home from school, and some 16 year old punk would try to steal my macbook, and i’d have to be like, ok ok hold on really quick while i copy my dissertation onto this usb drive. now, i feel SO much better knowing everything is automatically backed up!!anyway, so far, i’ve never had to recover anything (…knocking on wood…), but my dad’s macbook died last year and he was able to recover everything. WOOO!

  4. I have been using it for a long while, and have done two successful and complete restores from it. But when it comes to the most important stuff, photographs and email, I keep another backup just in case.

  5. I’ve used Time Machine on multiple machines since the release of Leopard. Have restored system disks, user accounts, and more specific/selective sets of files with no major issues. (Whole system restore left some settings unrestored, as I recall, like MobileMe membership and sync settings. The forgotten or omitted settings were few and a minor issue.) One scenario TM failed me on was being able to restore an entire volume which was not the boot volume.One scenario where rsync fails and TM succeeds is wanting to restore a file or directory to the state it had on a particular date. Being a paranoid sort, I also rsync to another drive AND backup selected data (mostly photos) off-site via an on-line backup service.

  6. Hey Sachin,I’ve used Time Machine in the past and I’ve had good experiences, except for one time. The last time I had to restore my HD (about a month ago), it would lock up just as it was finishing the restore process, and I had to use an older backup to make it work. I think the latest Snow Leopard (10.6.2) broke something, and you might not actually be able to recover a 10.6.2 backup.

  7. First thing’s first, a backup is only good as long as you’re doing regular backups. In this way, time machine is awesome – since starting with time machine, I have backed up my computer every hour on the hour for two years. Also, it is all automatic and I’ve never had to think about it. Not too shabby!Also, the time capsule is awesome. Always-on backup storage for all macs in the house, desktop or laptop. A big win!

  8. I’ve used time machine on my mac. In terms of UI, it’s hard to beat. simple and intuitive. unfortunately, the external HD that I back up to is still a single point of failure. But I guess my laptop’s HD *AND* my external HD have to fail simultaneously for me to be totally screwed. If this isn’t enough, you might consider an external HD + time machine, plus something external (e.g., dropbox) for super essential files. Then you’re backed up in triplicate (laptop, external HD, 3r party). If you’re super paranoid, make sure whatever third party you use isn’t sitting over some fault line or in some area prone to natural disaster.

  9. Sachin,I have used TimeMachine to restore stuff a few times and it’s worked for me, but say your disk crashes, can you trust that TimeMachine will restore the whole thing? I don’t know. It hasn’t happened to me.If you are paranoid about this stuff, why not sign up for Mozy or some such?

  10. Currently using time machine to backup my mac. Using an external hardware raid 2GB drive in 1GB full mirror mode and it works awesomely 🙂

  11. I’ve been using Time Machine for almost a year and have used it to recover files, but not my entire HD. Here’s a very annoying problem though: my Buffalo external HD goes into a ‘sleep’ state after a while, and then certain file activities (like a file upload dialog) give me the "beach ball" for seconds while it spins back up. It is so disruptive to my workflow that I have to eject the HD sometimes.Has anyone else run into this?

  12. I use an external hard drive to make a bootable copy of my HD using Super Duper, plus offsite backup with BackBlaze in case of earthquake, fire, burglary, etc. I have restored documents from both locations and they both work beautifully. Redundancy FTW.A RAID NAS would be ideal to back up all the computers in my house though.

  13. My Macbook pro died three weeks ago. Bought a new one, plugged into the time machine and turned the Macbook on for the first time. Once of the setup questions was, in essence, "Are you restoring from a Time Machine" – I chose yes, and a couple of hours later had an exact clone of my dead macbook – all programs, data, settings – the lot. Enormously convenient.

  14. I use SuperDuper to make a bootable backup of my entire hard drive, but after recently helping someone recover their files from a Time Machine archive I have more confidence in the Time Machine solution. A bootable backup is nice, but the versioning that Time Machine does seems useful. I may just start using Time Machine. If my main drive dies, I’ll install a new one, install the OS, and use Migration Assistant to move all my files and apps back over from the Time Machine archive.

  15. I have to add: given its ease of use and archiving capability, it would be a bit criminal to *not* use TimeMachine, whatever else you are using. It took me 15 minutes to connect a 1TB drive to my iMac and set it up for TimeMachine. Since then I have had to do … well, nothing (a 1TB ext HD now costs as low as $100, sometimes less, and you may not even need 1TB).

  16. I’ve been creating weekly backups with Time Machine since I’ve had my Macbook Pro. There have been a few times that I have had to go back and recover some files and I have been very thankful for Time Machine those few times. Time Machine is the best back up software I have ever used. The only thing I wish it could do is backup my bootcamp partition.BTW, I just have a 320 GB HDD that I use for my backups, but I have 4 months worth of backups on it. Get a 1 TB HDD and you should be golden. Better yet, get a Drobo and you’ll be even better off.

  17. I use Time Machine onto an external drive with no real issues. Recently, my iMac’s HD failed and needed to be replaced. Once replaced I restored from Time Machine with no real issues.The only issue was the most recent three events in iPhoto were missing their preview images and, I suppose, missing altogether. A 10 MB image, for example, was simply a black square that seemingly still occupied 10 MB of space. I use Phanfare as an online archive (among other things) so I simply downloaded those three events from there.Other than that one issue, Time Machine worked flawlessly.

  18. I use Time Machine and I like how easy it is to backup, and restore files. Only problem I had was that it failed on me multiple times with my Maxtor external hard drive where all the old backups were gone. Time Machine would hang. Thankfully I didn’t need to rewind time to find any old files. With an upgrade to Snow Leopard all appears to be running smoothly!

  19. @Andrew Halfacre – wow. I think that answers it! Thanks.I use time machine religiously and never had a problem. With the ability to partition drives using it, I will occasionally plug one of the other seagates in the office into my mac and back-up on that for redundancy but….thats because I am a pessimist at heart. I agree with Andrew on dropbox! Love it.I will start using google docs again now as they have recently opened it open to accept all document types on their storage. (Which was a problem for me before.) And that is me covered. ……good discussion Sachin

  20. Initially I thought Timecapsule was the nuts and then when it arrived i felt extra confident in my choice. Then it did nothing for over a year until i i needed to restore my whole account on my Mac.Literally a few clicks later (plus a couple of hours to copy over) it was perfect again.Two weeks ago i was held hostage by the migration assistant in Windows Vista for over two weeks as it failed miserable to copy my account from one server to another.Timecapsule is the nuts. Love this site by the way – Top marks

  21. TM is the best back utility of have ever used, and its built in to the best OS I have ever used. I have lost files before, but what? Timemachine was there to save the day.. I would dedicate one HD to it though, as it eats GB for breakfast.

  22. We use it for the day to day catch all for the macs. I also use 2 matched independent drives for archive of old stuff and rotate and keep one offsite. Use Super Duper or Carbon Copy Cloner for the archive portion. They remember what to back up so you don’t have to.

  23. I’ve had some very negative experiences using it, a couple times I found files randomly went missing and weren’t in the backup history (or whatever its called) when I searched for them. In particular this happened with iTunes songs, photo’s and movies in my iTunes library.Restoring photo’s is a particular pain as they are all saved by camera’s with really non specific names like 100_00_72.jpg, well how would i know to put that name into the search bar? All I know is the photo of my daughter blowing out candles on her cake is missing. This is when I felt really let down by Time Machine and Time Capsule.Performing a system restore was particularly painful too, and it simply refused to restore unless I deleted the OS using disk utility first, then my macbook wouldnt recognise the time capsule unless i restored an OS (which would only be replaced by my back up). For me, I found the whole process completely asinine and time consuming. Not at all what I had hoped for.My strategy now is to use the Time Capsule as a NAS, I manually back up documents and anything of relevance to it using the regular backup utility you get with mobileme. Its clunky but everything i wanted backed up is there and I have the comfort of KNOWING that. I accept I have a window between backups where I’m exposed, but thats my choice and if the machine fails and I lose a weeks worth of work I can reconcile that more easily than discovering Time Machine "just didn’t work", which is beyond my control.As a tip, I have a 1TB hard drive with around 80 – 100 GB free space available at any point in time. Time Machine overwrites old back ups on a pretty regular basis, so backing up my 1TB hard drive to a 1TB Time Capsule may be why files were lost (or overwritten). I would suggest you therefore get at least a 2TB drive to act as the destination for the backups from your main hard disk.So in summary, it worked, but I was far from impressed (or secure as I later found out).

  24. @the_drew Personally I’m surprised you have had these issues. As I’ve done a couple of restores with Time Machine and it was quite painless. Also, do you use any photo management software like iPhoto (which comes with OS X), Aperture or Lightroom. That would make your issues with photos much easier.

  25. Its possible I got a bad unit, its equally possible I wasn’t using it right (though there’s not much by the way of configuration options). Maybe I just had bad luck. I use iPhoto and Aperture.

  26. I just want to know if it’s possible that in case of a crash, you have to install the OS before using Time Machine?I mean like, can’t Time Machine be used to install OS X completely without the OS X DVD, hence the whole system files and library are backed up?I hope someone has an answer.

  27. yes you do have to install a copy of you OS first. 5 vote down check
    When you reinstall your operating system, OS X will ask if you want to restore from a Time Machine backup. just select your TM backup drive and it will install the OS fresh and then restore your data.As long as you haven’t setup any excluded folders, it will copy all of your data in all the places except system folders.You can find the current list of system exclusions at /System/Library/CoreServices/backupd.bundle/Contents/Resources/StdExclusions.plist It is an XML file you can open with any text editor.Mine (Mac OS 10.5.8) looks like this:<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?><!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" ""><plist version="1.0"><dict> <!– paths we do not want to include in a system backup –> <key>PathsExcluded</key> <array>
    <string>/Desktop DB</string>
    <string>/Desktop DF</string>
    <string>/Previous Systems</string>
    <string>/Users/Shared/SC Info</string>

    <!– old tiger location of the Spotlight db –>

    <!– old tiger location of the Spotlight db –> </array> <!– paths we need to include in backup so we can restore disk structure, but don’t want to backup contents –> <key>ContentsExcluded</key> <array>
    <string>/System/Library/Extensions/Caches</string> </array> <!– standard user paths we want to skip for each user (subpath relative to root of home directory) –> <key>UserPathsExcluded</key> <array>
    <string>Library/Application Support/SyncServices</string>
    <string>Library/Mail/Envelope Index</string>
    <string>Library/Safari/</string> </array></dict></plist>via superuser

  28. First thing’s first, a backup is only good as long as you’re doing regular backups. In this way, time machine is awesome – since starting with time machine, I have backed up my computer every hour on the hour for two years. Also, it is all automatic and I’ve never had to think about it. Not too shabby!Also, the time capsule is awesome. Always-on backup storage for all macs in the house, desktop or laptop. A big win!

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