Using Time Machine In OS X

Time Machine IconI’ve been using computers at home since the days of the TRS-80 Color Computer II. And despite all of decades that have passed since then, I haven’t been serious about backing up my data β€” not until this weekend. Oh sure, there were some files that I may have copied to another spot. But for the most part, I was taking risks. In the blink of an eye, thousands of photos, my books, my game projects, applications and many computer resource could have been lost. I understood the danger, but I didn’t really care. It was such a hassle to manage. But with Apple’s Time Machine, the process is simplified.

Life has been good with my Mac Mini. It’s been about 3 1/2 years with the same Mac. During that time, a lot of data accumulated on the little box. How much longer do I really want to push my luck? So, I ordered an inexpensive external USB hard drive from Amazon. I had an extra $50 credit to spend. I selected the Buffalo Stealth 500 GB. (It’s a small black box with a cool blue light.) There are much larger drives available β€” in the terabyte range β€” but I didn’t want to spend too much money. That’s one of the main reasons I didn’t backup my machine earlier. Besides, my Mac Mini lives up to its name. The internal hard drive is only 120 GB. Even with only half a terabyte (a number that was ridiculously huge in the days of my first computer) there should still be plenty of space for an archive.

Once the external drive was recognized by my Mac, it got all excited. An alert appeared. It wanted to know if I wanted to use the external drive for Time Machine. What a good little computer. Of course I do! I didn’t have to fumble with a new software installation. Time Machine is part of the Mac operating system. It’s been that way since a few cats back. At first, I wasn’t too fond of Mountain Lion. But now, things have settled down. I’m feeling more comfortable with OS X 10.8. Time Machine machine is one of the reasons I’m glad that I switched my main desktop computer to Mac.

Time Machine Screenshot

There’s not too much to configure with Time Machine. The main options are off/on and showing the Time Machine icon in the Menu Bar. I enabled the Menu Bar option because it gives me a quick way to access time machine. It also spins when Time Machine is working.

There are some additional options with Time Machine. Directories (or entire hard drives) can be excluded from backup. If your paranoid about someone finding your old browsing history β€” like hours wasted watching videos of cats on YouTube β€” then you might want to exclude the directories where your web browsers store that information. I’m not too worried about that, so I only have one exclusion β€” the external drive itself. This exception was automatically created by Time Machine. It makes sense. There’s not much point in backing up the archive into the archive itself. It might cause a rip in the space-time continuum and/or eat up a lot of extra hard drive space.

I tried deleting the default exclusion, but Apple wouldn’t let me. It seems that this Time Machine has safeguards. :D

There is one other setting and it’s somewhat important. When Time Machine runs out of space, it deletes older backups. The smaller the external drive, the shorter the trip back in time. You can have Time Machine warn you before it deletes an old backup. That’s when you can really start getting obsessive with archiving. Will you need a bigger external hard drive? What about off-site archiving? What if my computer gets hit by a rock from space?

For my usage of Time Machine, I’m not too concerned about extreme situations. My main worries were hard drive failure. My Mac Mini is older now. That increases the risk of the internal disk going kaput! Accidentally screwing up my projects is also a concern. This has happened a lot with Stencyl, which auto-saves the project with each test. I’m having a lot of trouble publishing my next book and next game. I realized that losing my work to a computer issue could make these projects even more difficult. I’m using Time Machine to lessen the chance of random technical problems.