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OS X - Operating System General OS operation information and support

Time machine; reliable backup or no?

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walkerj's Avatar
Member Since: Feb 13, 2005
Location: New Orleans, LA, USA
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Okay first of all I'll preface this by stating that I've drank the kool-aid and have had no problems with Time Machine in the past, however most recently I've had a little problem with getting it to work as seamlessly as advertised. So here we go.

Back when I lived in PA, I set up my spare Mac Mini to be a kind of server with a big-honking 1TB external USB drive hooked up to this and shared such that the other Macs on my home network can take advantage of having this big drive to back up our Macs with Time Machine. Great, no? Well, that worked right well until we moved to New Orleans and have a whole new network and internal setup. I've tried to make it as contiguous as possible, but some things have come up.

Now that we're here I've upgraded to Snow leopard and upgraded Parallels as well.That's fine. With my new Job I have access to make a new Virtual machine with Vista. To make room for this I've used Time Machine to make new backups so I can delete my old VM to make room for my new VM and all should be good, right?

Well, that's what I did. Along with some other stuff like my pictures and other folders (movies, Porn, you name it) and deleted that stuff since it's on the Time Machine backup. As far as I can tell Time machine backups were done as I commanded them. However.

I go to my pictures folder now that everything is backed up. Everything is deleted as I expected (this being at work where I don't have my external drive connected and of course they are not there. So I go home, connect up my external drive but when I 'Enter Time Machine' it seems all my time machine backups I've made are GONE. Nothing but what got backed up this day is available and nothing from before I moved. WTF? Yeah it's like that.

So anyway I find out that I can actually mount the file/folder on the Time Machine drive is something I can access like it's a drive and all my pictures are there, and I can restore my pictures back to my local drive, but where the hades did my 'Time Machine Backups' go? Is there a database or something I missed? I thought this was supposed to be something that was seamless. It would appear that it wasn't all that seamless.

I was able to mount the backup drive as a new disk, open it up, and copy the contents back to my internal drive so I got everything back, but this is not something I would say that a standard Mac user would be capable of doing. I'm thinking that there is a bit of a flaw in this whole Time Machine thing. Not that you're completely Farked here, but it's not all that Apple thinks it might be. Granted I did have a month or so between one TM backup and the next, but perhaps this should be something addressed by Apple. After all they do tout Time Machine as being the be-all and end-all of backup management. Maybe they should address this in future versions.
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Member Since: Aug 25, 2004
Location: New Zealand
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TM is great as insurance for recently lost items or for taking a Mac back to just before a problematic OS update with the help of the install disks.
It is NOT a long term back up option.
The info is in System prefs:
TM Keeps Hourly backups of 24 hours. Daily backups for the past month. Weekly backups for all the previous months.
The oldest backups get deleted when your drive becomes full.

If you leave a month or so between backups TM will have to run a completely new Backup rather than the usual small updates with links. It's made for hourly backups although you might get away with weekly ones.

Best not to muck around with TM backups in Finder, use the App.
Put the TM icon on the Menu bar from System prefs ~ right click it holding down the option (alt) key and you will be able to Browse other TM Disks that are not immediately obvious.

If you change too much TM will decide that you are using a New Mac and will start again..

~ 13" MacBook Air. OSX 10.9 ~ iPad 2 & iPhone ~
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Member Since: Nov 12, 2009
Location: Sydney, Australia
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"If you leave a month or so between backups TM will have to run a completely new Backup" - are you sure about that? It may do a deep traversal, but a completely new backup?

"If you change too much TM will decide that you are using a New Mac and will start again" That's sounding a bit metaphysical, torchy. Can you back that up (pun intended)?

I'm having similar symptoms to walkerj which led me to this post. But I shall post elsewhere.
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Member Since: Jan 27, 2007
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Actually I have to agree here. I think Time Machine is good for the person who backups on a daily/weekly basis and only needs the last few weeks worth of backups. Or for the casual backuper who just wants their data not forever lost if their hard drive fails like mine did recently. TM saved the day for me.

But for those who need to store all their old full hard drive backups for years on end using superduper each time and saving the bootable disk image of the hard drive each backup to a portable hard drive or something might just be a better solution. Mind you then you have the issue of your portable hard drive being burgled from your house but in that case your computer will probably be stolen too.

Just each method of backup is suited for a different person.

And by starting again it just means if like the ammount of difference between your current setup and your latest TM backup if really a lot TM will just backup the lot ad a new backup. The old backups will still be there. Just it'll be a new full HD backup and not just an incremental one. So that's more portable hard drive space taken up and more chance of the oldest backups to be deleted when the portable hard drive becomes full.
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Member Since: Sep 09, 2009
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A lot to agree about!......
I use one external HD, partitioned for time machine backups and a bootable backup as well.
I don't use automatic backups, as I only want backups when I make significant changes to my system.
I use carbon copy cloner periodically as a safe guard to have a bootable version of my system just in case any of the changes that I made that are on my time machine partition come up with problems.
In saying that, quite some time ago before I used carbon copy cloner to make the bootable versions, I went into time machine and as if by magic, I had only my latest backup appearing, and couldn't go further, however when manually going into the time machine backup, I had the last 6 backups to pick and choose what I wanted to bring back to my internal HD.
This has only happened once, but that was enough for me to keep a routine of cloning as well as time machine backups whenever I make those significant changes.
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