Time Machine tips and troubleshooting

Use a network volume

Besides using a Time Capsule device or an external USB or FireWire drive, Time Machine can back up to a network volume. However, Apple has placed a number of restrictions on Time Machine’s network support, most of which involve the computer that’s sharing the hard disk you’ll select as your backup destination.

For starters, you have to partition the drive in the APM or GPT scheme. You must format the volume as Mac OS Extended (Journaled). The computer to which you attach the drive must be running Leopard (client or server). And the disk must be shared using AFP, the default protocol for Personal File Sharing. Set this up by clicking on Options after selecting File Sharing in the Sharing preference pane.

Make sure that the disk is mounted in the Finder on the Mac you want to back up. To check on this, click on a computer name in the sidebar of a Finder window, and look for a message at the top of the window that says Connected As: your user name. If it says Connected As: Guest, click on Connect As and enter the user name and password for the shared volume. Then double-click on the folder representing the disk you want to use for backups to ensure that it’s mounted.

Finally, to tell Time Machine to use the network volume, click on the Change Disk (or Choose Backup Disk) button in the Time Machine preference pane, select the network volume in the list, and click on Use For Backup.

Restore your files

You’ve just realized that an important file is missing. No problem; Time Machine backed it up. Here’s how to restore it. First go to the Finder window where the file used to be. Then click on the Time Machine icon in the Dock. The frontmost window slides to the center of the screen, the background displays an animated 3-D star field, and additional copies of the window recede into the background.

On this screen, click on the back arrow to jump to the most recent backup of that particular folder that was different from the current one. Click on it again to jump to the next change, and so on. Or click on one of the hash lines along the right side of the window, each of which represents a single backup session. When you locate the file or folder you want to restore, click on it once to select it, and then click on the Restore button in the lower right corner of the screen. Time Machine copies the file to the same location in the “present,” returning you to that folder in the Finder.

Restore files from special Apple programs

Apple’s Mail, Address Book, and iPhoto ’08 include enhanced support for Time Machine. That means you can go back in time to find a particular e-mail message, contact, or photograph without having to worry about where the underlying file is actually stored.

To search for an item in Mail, Address Book, or iPhoto, first navigate to a view where the item would normally appear—for example, type a name or keyword into the Search box, or select a particular mailbox or album. Then click on the Time Machine icon in the Dock and navigate to the point in time where the item reappears. Click on Restore to bring it back to the present, or, in Address Book and iPhoto, click on Restore All to copy all your contacts or photos from the time of that backup to the present.

Note that iPhoto places restored photos in a new, untitled album, while Mail places restored messages, notes, and to-do items in a new mailbox called Recovered Items, inside a Time Machine mailbox in the On My Mac portion of the mailbox list.

Restore a whole volume

The 3D Time Machine interface is perfect for finding and restoring individual items, but not for recovering an entire disk. If you need to restore your whole disk from a Time Machine backup, follow these steps.

First, start up from your Leopard Install DVD (hold down the C key as you restart your Mac). In the screen that appears after the language selection screen, choose Utilities: Restore System From Backup. Click on Continue, select your Time Machine backup disk, and click on Continue again. Then select the particular backup you want to restore (most likely the one at the top of the list) and click on Continue. Select your internal disk, click on Restore, and confirm your choice.

Note that Time Machine assumes that the drive to which you’re restoring is blank. If it isn’t, you can erase it prior to restoring your Time Machine backup by choosing Utilities: Disk Utility and clicking on the Erase Disk button on the Erase tab.

Time Machine’s new best friend

If you’re looking to make Time Machine work even more invisibly, skip hooking up an external hard drive and instead try the Time Capsule, Apple’s new companion hardware for Time Machine. This little white device ($299 for 500GB or $499 for 1TB) combines an 802.11n network access point (equivalent to an AirPort Extreme Base Station) and a sizable hard-disk drive, which means that you can back up all the Macs in the house wirelessly. The Time Capsule is particularly useful for laptops, as it can back them up wherever they are as long as they’re connected to the network. And because the device is preconfigured to work with Time Machine, the only setup required to get your backups going is to select the Time Capsule as the destination in the Time Machine preference pane.

Beyond acting as a backup device, the Time Capsule allows you to share USB printers and devices including your iPod or Apple TV. Windows computers and Macs running OS X 10.4 (Tiger) can access the Time Capsule as a wireless hard drive. The device features dual-band antennas for 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequencies. It has one USB 2.0, one Gigabit Ethernet, and three Gigabit LAN ports. Time Machine offers Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA-2), 128-bit WEP encryption, and a built-in NAT firewall that supports NAT-PMP for Leopard’s Back To My Mac feature.

[Joe Kissell is the senior editor of TidBits and the author of the e-book Take Control of Mac OS X Backups (TidBits Publishing, 2007).]

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