This week’s backup reminder comes courtesy of Noel Saw, organizer of the East Bay WordPress Meetup.
Full disclosure: I was a hardcore PC (Windows) user for over 10 years. Ironically, I began my computing career with the black and white Macintosh SEs with a gigantic 20-meg hard drive in my journalism classes in high school. As I began my graphic design career, the companies I worked for were still gung-ho about Macs. But as most people grow up and had to buy their own computers, the price delta between Macs and PCs were too great…at least for me. Recently through some haggling and bartering I got my hands on a 15.4″ Mac Book Pro (the previous generation to the latest and greatest).
For me one of the most fascinating things about OS X Leopard (10.5) is the built-in back up tool called Time Machine. It’s an almost-no-brainer set it once and forget it type thing. It does what Apple does best with a simplified user interface and few options, ultimately delivering only what the customer needs—without confusing the hell out of them.
What can you do with Time Machine? Imagine having something automatically backup revisions of the files and folders on your hard drive into “snapshots” that you can restore with the click of a button. Yes, it’s that easy.
Time Machine can be accessed on the menu bar of the OS X interface.
The first thing you’ll need to do is set up a separate hard drive volume just for Time Machine. I think Apple recommends that you have an entire physical hard drive for it and that it not be a partition of a bigger drive. You’ll want to have an external hard drive that’s at least the size of your boot and data drive. Once you pop in a new drive, go to the Time Machine interface and set that drive as your Time Machine backup drive.
As you can see, there’s not much to the Time Machine interface. Once you have the selected backup drive set, there aren’t many other options other than “on” or “off”. Time Machine will automatically detect the presence of your backup drive and start backing up almost transparently in the background without much lag. That’s one good thing about OS X versus Windows: background tasks are much less of an obtrusive drain on your system.
Time Machine takes snapshots of your drive as sessions determined by the the date and time, so backup sets don’t have file names. There’s nothing that prompts you to do anything. Set it and forget it. Amazing, huh?
Say you do want to restore something; how does it work? Click on the “Enter Time Machine” drop down menu. You’ll then see whatever desktop finder window you already have open. So from this one desktop window, you can navigate the contents of your hard drive from the most recent backup.
There are forward and back buttons on the bottom right that will let you navigate chronologically through your snapshots as saved by Time Machine. To restore a file, simply navigate to the folder you want to restore the file(s) from, highlight the desired files and go click on “restore”. Then Time Machine will pull that file out of its magic archive cloud.
It will then ask if you want to overwrite the current file(s) that are there or keep both. Most of them time, to be safe, just select “both”.
In short, Time Machine is an indispensable tool that is sorely lacking as part of Windows’ built in suite. Windows’ built-in backup tool seems so ’90s by this standard.
Yes, well, Sallie reflects a trifle sourly, if PCs all had identical hardware, it would be much easier to make such a tool for Windows. But there are some companies doing their best to rival Time Machine’s simplicity, as we’ll see in future posts.