How to Back Up and Restore Mac OS X with Time Machine

Taking a full backup of Mac OS X is the easiest thing that anyone can do. However, you need an external drive with enough storage capacity to take the backup. You can create a partition on the external drive if you want to keep other files as well. For example, If you have a MacBook with 128GB storage and a 1TB external hard drive, you can simply create a partition with 128GB storage on an external drive, and use that for backup. You can keep the backup storage size more if you want, but it’s not very useful.

Try to keep large files, like Movies, Games etc. in a separate partition (do not include with backup). Backup is very useful when you are switching from one Mac to another. You can restore from the backup, and all your system settings, files, and history get restored, even the wallpaper and the large files can be transferred manually.

How to take a full backup of Mac OS X with its Time Machine Feature

  • Connect External Storage Drive to Mac
  • Go to System Preferences (Click Apple logo in Menu bar, and select System Preferences)

System Preferences

  • Click Time Machine

Time Machine

  • Turn on Time Machine Backup option. You will be asked to select the disk/external drive/storage to keep the backup if you are doing it for the first time. Select the disk, and the first backup will start in 120 seconds, and you will see the countdown
  • You can check the option “Show Time Machine in menu bar” to access backup options from menu bar quickly

Time Machine Backup

  • Next time, you can simply click on Time Machine icon in menu bar, and click “Back up Now”


Watch this quick demo video

How to restore a Mac from Time Machine Backup or Transfer all data from One Mac to another

  • Connect the Backup drive to Mac (external drive that has Time Machine backup)
  • Turn off your Mac completely
  • Now press and hold Command (⌘) + R key together, and press the power button to turn on Mac. Don’t leave the key until you reach recovery screen
  • Note : If you can’t reach the recovery screen with Command (⌘) and R key, you will have to create bootable Mac Installer, and then connect the Mac Installer drive in One USB Port and the other drive with Time Machine backup in other USB port. If you have both in one drive, that’s fine as well. Turn Off Mac completely, press and hold the Option key, and turn on Mac with Power key. Now you will see Mac Installer Drive, Backup Drive and Mac’s internal storage. Select Mac Installer, and Press Enter key. Now wait until you reach recovery screen
  • Select Restore From Time Machine Backup when you are at the recovery screen
  • Click Continue

Mac Time Machine

  • Now you will be shown the consequences of restoring. Please read carefully. Your mac’s storage will be erased and replaced with the backup file
  • Click Continue to proceed further

Restore Warning

  • Select Time Machine Backup drive that has backup files (only  the time machine backup drive will be shown in this window)
  • Then Click Continue

Select Time Machine Backup

  • Now you will be asked to select the drive where you want to transfer all backup file. I assume, you will select the Mac’s internal storage to restore from the backup. Select the storage to restore
  • Now follow the screen prompt, and the restoring process may take time depending on the backup size and storage type
  • Note : When you login first time to Mac after restoring it from the backup, you will be asked to enter iCloud ID to have access to those features that requires iCloud verification

Alternative Restore Process

There is an alternative option as well. If you have already run a fresh installation of Mac OS X, there is nothing to worry. Once the installation part is done, you can restore before the first login. In this process, you will need a Bootable Mac Installer.

Connect the installer drive to Mac, turn off Mac, press and hold the Option key, turn on Mac but don’t leave Option key. Now you will see some hard drives on the screen, and you can leave Option key now. Select the Mac Installer Drive, and press Enter key, and then follow the screen’s instruction to install the OS X on your Mac.

transfer from backup

When OS X is installed, you will be asked whether you want to have a fresh start or transfer files from Backup. You need to select the option “From a Mac, Time Machine Backup, or Startup Disk”

What to transfer

Now click Continue, and then follow the screen’s prompt.

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