Recovering files with Time Machine on a Mac

Know how to recover Mac files from a Time Machine backup is very important and provides a solution when a file is missing or a document has been changed in an unexpected way. Recovering files with Time Machine is quick and easy, protecting the owner from both hardware failure and accidents.

Time Machine is the failsafe software built into macOS since the very first version of OS X, which brought major changes and improvements to Apple’s operating system. Time Machine automatically creates backups and restores a missing file or aearlier version of a document is easy.

How Time Machine Works

Instead of simply saving a snapshot of the entire system when the user remembers to back up their drive, Time Machine saves hourly backups and keeps multiple copies of every change made to each file. . This means that it allows for a kind of time travel where earlier versions of files can be accessed. If multiple versions of each file were saved every hour, the size of the backup would quickly become unmanageable. Apple has found a way to only save changes and keep older versions only as long as there is space left to save them. As the space allocated to Time Machine becomes full, the system deletes older copies of files and saves as many new versions as possible.

Screenshot showing how to open Time Machine from the Mac menu bar

Open Time Machine on a Mac

To recover a file from Time Machine on a Mac, open the Time Machine app – you’ll find it in launch pad or the Applications folder. If the Time Machine icon appears in the menu bar, the app can be launched by: Go to Time Machine from the menu. Time Machine’s menu icon looks like a watch face circled by an arrow pointing counterclockwise (to suggest that time is moving backwards), a nice visual representation of the app’s purpose.

Screenshot of Time Machine Timeline on a Mac

Recover Mac files from Time Machine

When the Time Machine app opens, the most recent Finder window is centered on the screen with several faded copies of the window behind it. It is a nice effect that immediately gives the feeling of looking back in time. You can click any of the windows behind the main window to go back to a previous view of the content, but it’s much more convenient to get an idea of ​​the time period you want by using the timeline shown on the right edge of the screen. screen appears. The latest instances appear at the bottom and hovering over a month or day will expand that period to show more detail, making it possible to select a more accurate time. Clicking anywhere in the timeline will display the contents of the current Mac folder at the specified time and date.

Step 1: Locate the file you want to recover, right click on the file or folder and choose Restore to… from the menu.

Screenshot of Time Machine Recover a Mac file or folder

Step 2: A file browser window will appear asking where to save the file or folder, and if an item with the same name already exists there, MacOS gives you options to Stay originalKeep bothor To replace† If both versions are preserved, the older version appends “(original)” to the end of the file name.

Screenshot of Time Machine Select a recovery destination

Step 3: After the file or folder is recovered, it will appear in the destination folder you selected.

Screenshot of Time Machine folder restored

How to use Quicklook for better searching in Time Machine

Sometimes it is not so convenient to be able to choose a time and date when it comes to a certain change in the content. For example, seeing when the second paragraph in a document has been revised and restoring the file from that date can be much more useful than blindly restoring the file saved on April 1, 2022 at 12:34 PM. The macOS QuickLook feature helps you view documents and images simply by tapping the spacebar when an interesting file is selected.

Browsing times and dates with Time Machine and using QuickLook can help you find the correct version of a file. Missing files are even easier to find if you know what folder they are in.

What if Time Machine isn’t turned on?

Time Machine backups are only available if the feature is set up and the backup disk is connected before making changes to a file. It is not possible to recover a file from Time Machine if it was never saved to begin with. In this case, you may want to check if there are any other backups stored. For example, iCloud can be used to store backups, and several third-party solutions exist. If no backups were made, the necessary file may have been shared with an iPhone or iPad and a copy can be sent back to the Mac.

What if Time Machine doesn’t work?

If Time Machine opens but doesn’t allow you to browse to another date, the backup drive may not be available. For a external hard drive, make sure it is connected to the Mac. If the backup drive is connected via Wi-Fi, network issues can interfere with Time Machine operation.

Restoring files with Time Machine on a Mac is quick and painless. Even when troubleshooting is required, it’s often just a matter of plugging in the backup drive. While iCloud is useful for backing up photos and videos from an iPhone, it can lead to higher monthly subscription costs. Time Machine is a good solution for storing backups on a Mac, and it’s free. Apple’s Time Machine makes using a Mac easier, and it’s there to resolve occasional accidents and failures and keep all of the user’s important files safe.

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