How to restore files from Time Machine backup on Mac?

How to restore files and software using Time Machine backup on Mac

Apple introduced Time Machine together with Mac OS X Leopard, this software creates a backup of your Mac's operating system including all files and folders, system preferences, installed applications and other. This tool should be enabled in every Mac computer since it is one of the easiest method to protect your data in case your operating system or internal storage gone wrong. Also, the Time Machine's backup will be really handy option, whenever you consider about replacing the hard disk. What is more, this software might help to transfer data between separate Mac computers as well. Let's make a clear view about this useful application, Apple's Time Machine stores the backup data within external storage device, works with all possible connections, including USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, also supports Apple's Time Capsule and backup disks connected through network.

This application takes periodic snapshots of all your data and applications and store them within external storage. The snapshots are taken hourly, daily, and weekly, as you could imagine this may consume a lot of free space, however when your storage is running out of space, the Time Machine automatically removes the oldest backup files and replace them with most recent, what is more, this application always leaves about twenty percent of free space available. One of the biggest advantage of this software would be an opportunity to restore only some particular missing files, this way you won't need to restore whole operating system like it is performed with various disk clone software. Additionally, if you're using Apple laptop, that is running on OS X Yosemite or latter the Time Machine application, provides another feature called Local Snapshots, these basically creates a backup within internal storage while your Time Machine's drive is not connected. In this article we will cover the methods how to restore files from Time Machine snapshot and complete system backup.


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Recover corrupted or missing files via Time Machine backup

If you have enabled Time Machine application, you will be able to restore all files, this function might be real time saver if your modification resulted unexpected error or accidentally saved over the important information. Time Machine stores the current version of each data, whenever the snapshot were taken. In order to reach files saved within snapshots, first launch the Time Machine application by using Spotlight, press the keyboard shortcut of Command and Spacebar and type the Time Machine. Alternatively, you may go to Applications folder via Finder to launch the Time Machine application. When the application launches you will be able to browse through the list of backups sorted from the oldest to the newest by clicking up and down arrows on screen. When you find the file you were looking for, select and press Spacebar to preview, when you're sure this is the correct file click Restore button. If you can't see the snapshot first click on Cloud icon to download the current snapshot, you will be able to reach and restore files from that particular snapshot even if the Time Machine's external storage is not connected to your computer. If you're seeking for some particular information from the text based file, you may simply select and use copy/paste function to take only required lines.


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Reach backups without connected Time Machine's storage

Sometimes you may encounter with situation, when you are not able to connect your external storage, that you were using for Time Machine backups. Luckily, Time Machine application might help in this disappointing situation as well. Whenever you launch the Time Machine application you will be able to access the last backup snapshot without connected storage device. You will be able to restore any file from that particular snapshot, this might give a hand if you gave the storage to your friend or left in work place.

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Transfer files using Time Machine backup

As it was mentioned above, the Time Machine's backups might be useful in various situation, despite ability to restore the earlier version of your files or complete system restore, it may help to transfer your data from one Mac computer to another. For example, if your old Mac is not working any more and you desire to set up the newly bought, the external storage with Time Machine's backups will be really handy way to achieve all favorite applications, calendar events, and etc. However, if both your computers are still working, you should consider to use the Migration Assistant tool, that transfers your data between two Macs automatically. What is more, this tool is also working with Time Machine's backups, in case you desire to stay with the latest version of operating system, but want all the data from your old computer, the Migration Assistant will add all content from Time Machine's backups to your new Mac.

  • To transfer content from backup using this application, first connect your external storage with Time Machine's backup.
  • Then launch it by using Spotlight, simply press the keyboard shortcut of Command and Spacebar and type Migration Assistant, alternatively you may launch Finder and go to Utilities folder under Applications.
  • Once application started, click Continue and then Select to transfer data from Time Machine backup and click continue once again. You may get prompted to enter password in order to confirm your actions. Enter your account password and then a list with all existing backups in chronological order will pop up.
  • Choose the most recent or any other you desire to use and click Continue. The tool will begin to copy your data, depending on size of backup and speed of both, the external storage and internal hard disk, this  process may take from few minutes to several hours to complete.


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Restore operating system from Time Machine's backup

If you desire to completely restore your operating system from backup you will have to enter the macOS Recovery. This is one of the easiest method to revert your operating system to earlier version, also it may be efficient solution when your computer's software is struggling. In addition, restoring whole operating system will help if your computer gets infected with any virus or malware. In order to access the Recovery menu, connect your external storage with backup files and shut down your Mac, start it up and after startup chime press and hold down Command and R. Keep holding these key until the Apple logo appears, you may release them and wait until macOS Utilities window pops up. From the list of options, choose Restore from Time Machine backup and click Continue. Further, select the volume with your backup file and then select backup file by appreciated date & time and version of macOS. When the process completes, your Mac will restart automatically.


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Boot your Mac from the Time Machine backup

Starting your computer from the Time Machine backup might be really useful while trying to troubleshot your computer's problems. If you're not sure if your operating system is struggling you may test it out by booting your computer from Time Machine backup. In order to boot your Mac by using Time Machine backup, shut down your computer, then hold down the Option (Alt) key to enter the Startup Manager screen, then choose EFI boot as your startup disk.


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