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I love Time Machine because...


...I don't have to think about backups.
Usually hard disk failures and accidentally deleted data happen without thinking. I only start thinking when something that's important to me is no longer there. Time Machine just chugs away in the background, backing up my stuff every hour.

...it's so efficient.
I'm not even aware that it's running unless I happen to glance up at the menu bar at the exact moment it's pushing out a change to my backup and the little clock is spinning for a few seconds. My system doesn't slow to a crawl, I'm not swapping disks, nothing. Backups just happen. It happened while I was typing this post!

...it's got a seriously cool restore interface.
Yeah, Okay, I'm a sucker for cool UIs. Time Machine has one of the coolest UIs I've seen when it comes to restoring files. The animation is first rate and it's not just eye candy; when I needed to get to a version of a file that I had made dramatic changes to I could roll back in hourly increments to the point I needed very, very quickly.

...I have a feeling it's going to save my ass.
I have always been horrible about backing up my personal data at home. At work it's easy - large scale shared systems that backup important data all the time. But there's always an IT guy at the office that worries about that stuff. At home, I'm the IT guy and backups are one of the things I hate thinking about. 

If you have Leopard but are not using a backup system, start using Time Machine right now! Go out and get a cheap USB based hard drive (you can get a tiny 320GB WD Passport drive for $200), plug it in, reformat it to a single Mac OS Extended (Journaled) partition and then point Time Machine at it.

If nothing else setting up an "always on" backup system will ensure the data gods look on you with favor and don't wreak havoc on your hard drive. 

That reminds me - I better trigger my Windows backup!

22 comments:

revil said...

Yeah, I was a big fan of time machine until I ran in to a little problem which caused a space-time rift...

revil said...

whoops, the correct link would be...

space-time rift

Tom said...

It's a lot of technologies combined behind the scenes that makes Time Machine so painless. I keep it on, even when gaming and never notice it. Amazing what integrating useful features like a file change notification process in the OS can allow. Time machine never has to scan the drive for changes, it just asks what changes and backs them up. All the tech for this was mostly built for Spotlight initially, but it's exciting how it's already been repurposed for other things. Can't wait to see what 10.6 brings to the table.

Jeff said...

I'm curious what people think of Time Machine on a laptop. I pack up my new MacBook every day and use it everywhere. I wonder how often I'd be somewhere that I'd want to get out my portable hard drive, plug it in, and let Time Machine do it's thing while I work? What is your experience.

David Alison said...

@Jeff: if I had a small passport drive as my TimeMachine solution I'd take it with me; they are highly portable. Single most important thing for what you want to do is avoid having a bulky power adapter. Keep in mind though that if you are running on battery and you have a WD Passport type drive it will draw it's power from the USB port so your battery time will be reduced. Hope this helps...

Dan said...

I love time machine also. I haven't had to pull back a single file yet but have had to restore a hole drive. It worked flawlessly.

The comfort of just knowing that everything is being saved for you makes any work you do on a mac that much more enjoyable!

bouledeflipper said...

your blog is a great read. it was recommended to me by a friend who is an avid mac user. i got my macbook yesterday, being completely new to the OS. had the exact same issue as you with regards to installing my first application - Firefox :) took a second download attempt to figure out how it installs. keep the posts coming!

shawn said...

Hey David, ran across this through DIgg a couple weeks ago. Yes, time machine will save you at some point. I had to replace a hard drive in my MacBook and I installed OS X and then noticed that they give you an option to restore from Time Machine when entering all your info. I decided, what the hell, let's see what happens. Awesomness happened. Everything on my computer was right where it was before. Even my icons were in the same place on my desktop. I didn't know it could do that and was mighty impressed. So, make sure you keep up with all that, it'll pay off in the end!

David Alison said...

@shawn: That is great to hear! I've already jumped into TM and plucked out a couple of files - nice to hear it can handle everything else too!

Mike D. said...

Another reason why to love Time Machine:

I haven't done any important work on my MBP for the last little while, just sitting in my living room while I watch the Canadiens kick ass; I have only used it for non-work related stuff during commercial breaks at night.

I hadn't realized how long my MBP was away from my office in the next room (and therfore the external drive I use for Time Machine). I got a pop-up today that reminded me it had not been backed up in 10 days. Nice little reminder.

Anonymous said...

Hi David, first post.

I have got 2 Macs, one Mac mini and 1 Macbook. I have got the Time Capsule, Apple's new wireless station with hard drive. I use it both as a wireless bridge and the Time Machine backup. My Mac mini is connected to the Time Capsule via gigabit ethernet, while the Macbook connects wirelessly. Both Macs Time Machine backups are flawless and all working in the background. All just work after the Time Capsule was configured correctly.

I think Time Machine is one of the most important new features of Leopard and should be used by every Mac user.

James Bond 007

David Alison said...

@007: I couldn't agree more. The reason I put two 1TB drives in my new Mac Pro is because one is my deep storage drive and the other is for TM. I love not worrying about it at all.

Anonymous said...

Time Machine and Time Capsule have been an utter failure in my house!! I am now on my second Time Capsule as the "Genius" at the Apple Store said my first Time Capsule must have had a bad hard drive. My second Time Capsule performs in he same useless way the first one did. Time Capsule and Time Machine are nothing but a really good idea that is not ready for prime time. I've been a faithful Mac user since 1988 and I say...DO NOT BUY A TIME CAPSULE AND DO NOT USE TIME MACHINE!!!!!

David Alison said...

@Anon: Bummer to hear about the Time Capsule problems, but I don't think that's a Time Machine issue. I'm using Time Machine on both of my Macs now; the MacBook uses an external USB based MyBook drive and my Mac Pro uses an internal 1TB HD. In both cases it works great. I've recovered files from both systems before without any issue.

If I were you I would make a stink about the Time Capsule problems you had though. 2 consecutive failures is really poor.

Mr Wendell said...

I too had problems with time capsule and my MBP at first, but I figured it out and now everything works flawlessly - lovin it.

For me the problem came as I had used migration assistant to move over all my crap (Unix binaries, applications, settings, files) from my G4 laptop to my new intel laptop. Something I guess disagreed with wireless TM backups (USB drive worked fine however). I also updated the firmware on my Time Capsule.

Now that I reformatted my MBP everything has been great. I love the fact TM backs up on wireless, as I like to wander about my house while working.

Retrieving files has been a godsend - wirelessly to boot!

The fact it is automated and does its thing silently has reduced my stress factor. Instead of one more damn thing to think about (plug in my drive, run my rsync scripts) I now have one less thing. That is how it should be.

Jason said...

Like any good backup system make sure you restore files from TM before anything drastic happens with your mac. Make sure if you are on an intel mac that your external HD has a GUID partion scheme. If not you are not a covered as you would think and you will not be able to so a complete system restore. I found out the hard way.(if you are running a PPC mac than apple partition map will work for you) Every HD out there is formatted and has a partition scheme of MBR. I will apple put some checks in there that would have set up my external HD correctly the first time it asked if I wanted to use this drive for Time Machine.

David Alison said...

@Jason: Thanks for this and the other tip you provided. I get a fairly large number of hits on these Time Machine posts so hopefully it will help others.

stefank60 said...

Time machine sounds fab in theory - plug it in, no set up needed and forget about it. If you have any issues you can always fish out the file(s) you need and restore them .... shame then that the only one time I really needed it to get back some photos from a shoot it had not backed them up, nor the shoot before ... hmmm kinda makes it 100% useless in my book.

David Alison said...

@stefank60: Usually if Time Machine fails to back something up you will see an exclamation point up in the menu bar. At a minimum you should have something in your log that will indicate what the issue was. Happy to help troubleshoot it if you give me more information.

stefank60 said...

Yes please David. Just realised it's even worse than I feared. I uploaded 3 memory cards worth of shoots from last weeeknd into I photo on sunday (or thereabouts) just decided to have another mooch through them and low and behold they are not there - so I thought ah well lets go look in time maching... to my horror the last date, aside from today, in time machine is 09 Oct 2010 !!!!!! Ehmmm whatever happened to backing up every hour ???

I have been massively underwhelmed with mac computing since I bought this thing almost two years ago and now find my safety net I thought was there isn't even there at all ? macs just work ? - I hate mac computing - When this passes away I will defo be going back to PC's .

Would appreciate any help recovering these photos - I suspect I may well have formatted the cards - I never lost images before :(

David Alison said...

@stefank60: A couple of things to look at:

1) is time machine running? If you look in the menu bar you should see a time machine icon. Click it and it will tell you when the last backup was. If there is an error the Time Machine icon should have an exclamation point in it.

2) Open your time machine preferences. It should give you some details on when everything will be backed up and where.

3) Click the Options button and see if you have specific drives or folders excluded from your time machine backup. That may be why it's not backing up those folders.

Hope this helps track down where the problem is.

stefank60 said...

thanks David - tm had been switched off since 09 Oct 10 - how this happened - I don't know - doesn't look like the sort of thing one could do accidentally. Time to diarise a daily check that tM is running.

Thanks again :-)