Mac’s Time Machine is a free backup utility included with the most recent versions of Mac OS X. While it might be tempting to compare Time Machine with Windows file backup utilities and software, there actually is no comparison. Time Machine has a stunning user interface that takes all the guesswork out of backing up and restoring files.

How Time Machine works

To run Time Machine, you need an external hard drive with at least one terabyte capacity. When you run Time Machine for the first time, the software detects the external hard drive immediately and goes to work. It takes some time to do its first complete backup, but after that you just “set it and forget it.”

How often Time Machine backs up

Strictly speaking, Time Machine is an incremental backup program. When you launch it the first time, it makes a complete copy of your system. After the first complete backup, Time Machine only backs up changed or new files on the following schedule:

Hourly backups

Working quietly in the background, Time Machine backs up your work each hour.

Daily backups

At the beginning of the each 24-hour period, you have yesterday’s latest backup as the system begins a new cycle of hourly backups. The last daily backups are saved for a period of one month.

Weekly backups

When you reach the end of the month, the system keeps last month’s backups in weekly increments.

How Much Data Time Machine Keeps

How many months’ work Time Machine backs up depends on the size of the external drive you use for your backups. For example, if your hard drive has about 80-100 gigabytes of occupied space, you could store nearly three months of backup data on a one-terabyte external hard drive.

How to retrieve a lost file

Time Machine has the easiest and most intuitive restore process on the market. Say you inadvertently lost or corrupted an important file. Follow these steps to restore the file to its original state: (You can even preserve ruined version of the file.)

  • Open the file folder containing the lost or ruined file.
  • Open Time Machine and watch the dazzling display of Mac windows opening in receding sizes in an “outer space” motif.
  • Click on the time bar to the right and open the time window that contains the version of the file you need to bring back.
  • Click on the file and watch it come back to its original location, but in the present.
  • Select the option of either overwriting the current (ruined or corrupted) the file, or saving two versions.
  • Can’t remember where the file was? Use the Spotlight finder and then activate the Time Machine.

So be sure to activate your OS X Time Machine application and include it in your Apple for work or home office toolkit. If you’re looking for help or pointers on your Mac or are considering switching from your aging PC to a new Apple product, contact us.