How Time Machine works

Discussion in 'macOS' started by Multipass, Mar 29, 2015.

  1. Multipass macrumors member

    Mar 27, 2015
    Currently I use Time Machine to back up my entire computer (MBA).

    If I was to buy a new computer, or if my current one crashed, and I wanted a clean installation without restoring everything from Time Machine, would I'd be able to pick and choose files from the Time Machine drive?

    For example, if I bought a new MacBook tomorrow, I may want a clean installation and only install a few programs from the Internet. Then all I would need to do is copy my documents from the Time Machine backup drive. Also my iPhoto Library.

    I am just curious if it works that way. Can I copy just a few things manually or do I have to do a full restore from Time Machine?
  2. fenskezen macrumors regular

    Feb 6, 2011
    I was in this exact situation recently. I just bought a new rMBP 13" to replace my aging white early 2008 macbook. I had used time machine to back my old computer up. I did not want to restore everything. I called Applecare and they walked me through the steps. For me it was a bit complicated ( I am not good with stuff like that) but he walked me through it and I was able to cherry pick the files and all of my photos. I wish I could remember what the steps were. I am sure someone here is much more savvy than I.
  3. Multipass thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 27, 2015
    Thanks for the reply. Hopefully someone who knows the steps could help.
  4. hallux macrumors 68030


    Apr 25, 2012
    You can use TM in conjunction with Migration Assistant. Migration Assistant gives you the opportunity to restore apps, system settings and data from another Mac or a TM backup. You can choose all 3 or a subset of the 3. However, when you pick one it's an all-or-nothing proposition for that restoration.

    If you choose data, it will migrate your account over, so you'll want to make that decision when you first boot the system (MA comes up as part of the initial config).

    Here's the Apple Support article on Migration Assistant
  5. Multipass thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 27, 2015
    I thought that Time Machine would let me pick and choose individual files or folders, even let me pick which date I took that file from?

    I'm not sure if I like the all or nothing type of thing.
  6. hallux macrumors 68030


    Apr 25, 2012
    Well, the idea of TM is that it's a backup tool, not a data transfer tool. Apple allows you to use TM as a transfer tool through the use of Migration Assistant, but the idea is that it's a disaster-recovery situation and you'll probably want all your stuff back when you do the restore, hence the lack of selectability when choosing the data to restore.

    You DO realize that if you don't restore all your data from the TM backup it will likely eventually get deleted, right? Doing what you want to do, you're associating the old TM backup with a new Mac, the new Mac will then start using THAT TM backup and will eventually delete old data that doesn't exist on the new Mac as space is needed on the TM drive.
  7. Multipass thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 27, 2015
    Deleting the old backups would be fine with me. I don't particularly care for the "versioning" aspect of Time Machine, but I do like the Incremental thing it does.

    Is there any other backup program that I could use that will give me incremental backups of my data folders on an external USB drive?

    I believe that the free version of Crashplan will do this. Is that a good app to use or are there better?

    Maybe it's just something that stuck with me from my Windows days, but I like doing a clean installation, gettering rid of old programs and stuff I don't use. And I would like to be able to get drag and drop the user stuff that I need.
  8. Taz Mangus macrumors 68040

    Taz Mangus

    Mar 10, 2011
    If you want to narrow down the backup to certain files, in the Time Machine preferences, click on options button and add what you don't want to be backed up. You can browse the Time Machine backup and pick and choose what to restore manually. If you want you can just pick a single file, just drag and drop it from the Time Machine backup.

    Also, it is a good idea to do a secondary backup. I have had a backup drive fail on me so having a secondary backup is helpful. The other aspect is if to keep the secondary backup outside of your house in case of a fire.

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