Time Machine – Back (up) to school

How many times have I received a call from a total stranger, telling me they’ve lost a folder, or their whole machine, but they don’t have any backups, so can I help?

Me: “Not unless you want your data back.”

Time Machine is Mac’s built-in, automated, backup feature.

Let’s break that down:


Located in the System Preferences, you can configure Time Machine (TM) without any additional software. 2 Things must be done before your very first backup will begin….

1 – Switch on Time Machine (It’s a slider switch, left or right, and in newer versions, a tick box)

2 – Select the external/network drive you’d like to use to store your backups (External drives are best use here, from a speed, reliability and cost perspective)

That’s it. It really is that simple. After 120 Seconds, your first backup will begin, which, unless otherwise specified (more on that later), will backup a single copy of every single file and folder on your Mac’s drive. Take a moment, read it again… EVERY SINGLE FILE. Unless filtered, you will have a backup of any and every file on your drive. This make’s restoring data an absolute pleasure.


TM backs up every single hour, so long as your backup drive is plugged. If your drive is plugged in all day at work, you’ll have a good 8 backups run before you go home. If your drive isn’t plugged in, because maybe you’re in a meeting, or maybe you forgot your hard drive at home/work (naughty), Mac will automatically copy the files that need to get backed up onto a reserved partition, hidden from us mere humans. Sort of a taxi-rank of changed data that needs to get off of your system and into the archives.


MacOS (Apple’s new fancy name for it’s family of Operating Systems on Mac) is clever.

We know this already. But it really is very clever.

Once your first backup has completed (meaning TM now has 1 copy of every single file on your system), TM will now monitor each and every single file and wait for changes. The moment a file is changed (You’ve updated your Excel spreadsheet or received a new email in Outlook), TM will mark that file with a tag, something like “It’s not me, it’s you. You’ve changed. Get onto that backup drive at your earliest convenience”.

Basically, all the files that have got a change, no matter how big or small, will be backed up at the next hourly TM schedule.

In my next post, I’ll delve a bit deeper with TM, and show you some neat tricks and tips on Recovering your data, as well as Folder Filters too.

Cheers for now



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