How reliable is time machine for important files?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by rawdawg, Apr 28, 2011.

  1. rawdawg macrumors 6502

    Jan 7, 2009
    I'm reevaluating my backup strategy. Currently I use time machine for my system and carbon copy cloner for my media. With a larger single drive to take care of both my system's and my media's backup needs I was going to simply have time machine backup both onto the one drive. I would prefer to use time machine but when I examine it's backup folder, it's nothing I can navigate through to find a lost file, it appears like I would have to rely upon the time machine itself to recover something. Is this format repliable? Would there be an instance a clone may be more reliable as a backup since it maintains the actual file structure of the drive being backed up?

    (I have another identical drive to store offsite so please no lectures on having a drive offsite.... Let's please stick to the questions at hand.)
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    It's no more or less reliable than any other backup solution. Assuming you will always be backing up to a machine with Snow Leopard on it (or being installed on it), "reliability" will depend on the mechanics of the hard drive itself.
  3. rawdawg thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 7, 2009
    Thanks for the quick reply. I guess my concern is with the unfamiliarity with the structure of the backup folder itself. Leaves me wondering what may happen if/when technology fails and this becomes corrupt for something.

    I have no idea if this can even become corrupt. Simply I am being carefully skeptical.

    So this technology/software is solid?
  4. DeaconGraves macrumors 65816


    Apr 25, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Based on personal experience, it's reliable (as in, I've never lost a file). I've even reformatted my Mac and restored it perfectly with a Time Machine backup. It's really only a pain when you make changes to a file quite often (in that you have to search through several different versions to find the one you want).

    As you've said, you've got an offsite backup. Which means you've essentially got three copies of your system around (the mac, the time machine backup, the offsite backup). That's about as safe a system as you can ask for.
  5. rawdawg thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 7, 2009
    This sounds reassuring. Thanks.

    I'm sort of obsessed with making sure I don't loss my music collection. I used to back it up with CCC but for ease want to use Time Machine. Guess I have nothing to worry about.
  6. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    It would be better to have more than one backup strategy. Time Machine is fine, but adding a CCC or SuperDuper clone on another drive is better. Also if your music is that important, make a backup and keep it in a safe or offsite.
  7. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    If you go a few levels deep in the Finder, you will find folders with a date as their name, each containing a complete copy of your hard drive as it was at the time of the backup.
  8. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    I would say Time Machine is convenient but it is not a viable "only" backup solution. I have lost everything 3 times using TM to a Time Capsule. This happened twice when my backup destination volume became "corrupted" and Apple blamed this on backing up over Wifi and on having my machine sleep in the middle of a backup. Well duh, if the same company wrote the OS and the backup software, I would think they could figure out how to sleep without corrupting a backup destination volume. :mad: The third time was when the Time Capsule power supply died. Apple replaced it for free but by then my lesson was learned: In short, I use a multi layered backup strategy and while Time Machine is a central part, it will never be my "only" backup.

    I suggest the following...

    From time to time, mount your time machine destination "sparsebundle" file using disk utility. Check it for errors. If it develops errors, don't fret simply delete it and start over. Yes, I just said you should delete your backup. This is how Apple second level support told me to handle a corrupted sparsebundle. Now you see why Time Machine will never be my only backup.

    Get and change TM backup schedule to once or twice daily instead of hourly. This reduces likelihood of corruption and prevents that darn thing from spinning every time you sit down at the keyboard.

    From time to time, copy your Documents folder in its entirety to a firewire drive, network drive or off site backup such as crashplan, or all 3. In OSX, copying a new folder over an older version replaces the entire thing so this strategy does not give the ability to get old files back. You will be able to recover the most recent stuff you backed up but that's it.

    If you subscribe to MobileMe, from time to time, grab your most important files and copy them to your iDisk.
  9. rawdawg thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 7, 2009
    These are great replies. Thanks to everyone who gave their thoughts. And a big thanks to r0k for your long and detailed experience. This was the concern I had and I really appreciate you takin the time to warn me.

    Also, thanks for telling me about the I definitely would like to reduce my backup frequency.
  10. Fishrrman macrumors Pentium


    Feb 20, 2009
    "I guess my concern is with the unfamiliarity with the structure of the backup folder itself. Leaves me wondering what may happen if/when technology fails and this becomes corrupt for something."

    This is EXACTLY why I recommend to others that they DO NOT use Time Machine for backups.

    Time and time and time again -- right here on Macrumors -- I read postings of the essence, "help, my hard drive crashed, and I'm trying to access my Time Machine backup, and it won't mount, etc., etc."

    If they had used one of the "clone" backup utilities that create bootable backups in POFF (plain ol' finder format), they wouldn't be posting those messages. They'd be up and running in a matter of minutes.

    But because of the way TM "packages" its backups, there can be problems in "moments of extreme need". And we see the results right here on Macrumors.

    TM gives the illusion of making backups simple, easy, and "automatic", and, as far as that goes, it does. It's EASY to "backup" with Time Machine.

    What can be DIFFICULT is trying to ACCESS those backups later on when the user is beset with all kinds of problems.

    Yes, it takes more effort and forethought when you use CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper as you backup tool. BUT -- when things have gone all to h*** and you're wondering what to do next, they make it blindingly EASY to get restarted. TM does not.

    That's the difference.
  11. discounteggroll macrumors 6502


    Aug 6, 2006
    Greenwich, CT
    for important stuff I make sure to have multiple copies of it at different locations. TM is good for what it does, but I would not rely on it solely for critical data. Get a couple external/portables and use CCC/disk keeper/etc and encrypt them if necessary, and keep them in safe, separate locations and run when necessary
  12. djsound macrumors 6502a


    Dec 4, 2006
    check out the rating on the apple store. almost every persons has died....not reliable at all
  13. bobr1952 macrumors 68020


    Jan 21, 2008
    Melbourne, FL
    Hmmm--you must mean Time Capsule--not really possible for Time Machine to die since it is not a hardware item. Regardless, I just wanted to add that Time Machine verifies the integrity of the backup every time it does a backup which is why sometimes you will run into the situation where it will be seemingly doing nothing for a long time--will seem to be stuck on "preparing"--for sometimes hours--it has most likely encountered a problem and has lost its way so it is rebuilding its database--just leave it alone and it will fix iteself. I personally love Time Machine--but I also use Super Duper for my hard drive as well--just in case.
  14. djsound macrumors 6502a


    Dec 4, 2006
    My mistake, ya i was talking about time capsule. I would imagine time machine works fine....its usually the hardware that screws up and the software almost always works perfectly. I haven't used it though :eek:
  15. RafaelT macrumors 65816


    Jun 9, 2010
    Lakeland, FL
    My time capsule has worked great for me for the last 3 years. The first year and a half of it's life it lived in my pickup truck working as a wireless access point. Even with all that banging around it is still going strong.

    The HD on my MacBook Pro died about 4 months ago and my time capsule backup saved my ass. I was using filevault at the time and simply copied the file to my computer opened it up and extracted what I needed. Worked great.

    Time capsule is a decent back up solution for most people. The chance of losing the data on your computer and on your time capsule at the same time is relatively small. I would verify every so often that everything is working correctly and being backed up.

    For people who have data that is a little more important and that they absolutely can not risk losing you need a better solution then simply using time capsule.
  16. DustinT macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2011
    I have Time Capsule backing up to a NAS unit on my network. Than I connect a USB to that NAS and take it offsite once a month or so. I feel this is more than sufficient for most of my files

    Also, any critical file lives in either Dropbox or Evernote so a copy is backed up to the internet at all times.
  17. iThinkergoiMac macrumors 68030

    Jan 20, 2010
    TimeMachine is great, but I don't rely on it as my only backup either. I have one 1 TB drive partitioned into two partitions: one is slightly larger than my internal drive, and the other partition is the rest of the TB. I use CCC to clone my internal drive to the 1st partition nightly and TimeMachine backs up to the other partition. This way, if my internal HDD dies, I can boot right off the external and keep going. I use DropBox to back up all my super necessary files as well (I'm up to 5.8 GB without paying).

    And, no, I don't consider my two partitions separate backups because they're on the same physical drive. But, still, it seems an effective solution to me. Even if a fire burns down my residence I still have all my important (small) files on DropBox.

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