Restoring an entire drive with Time Machine

When disaster strikes, Time Machine can save the day. In today’s tech world, one of our greatest fears is the loss of a hard drive. But if you have Time Machine backups, you may only lose files you created since the last backup. In many cases, that may be less than an hour of work.

Understanding your options

In this article, we’ll explain how to restore an entire computer – including OS X, applications, network settings, all user accounts, email, pictures, music, movies, fonts, bookmarks… everything that was on the drive. This process will delete everything currently on your computer, then restore from the latest backup. You should only follow these steps if your hard drive or operating system fails and you can’t use the computer. If your computer is still operable, it may be more appropriate to restore particular files or your home folder (with all your files & documents). These options leave the current apps and OS X intact.

It’s a good idea to check the backup drive before you restore. Connect to the Time Machine backup drive (use another Mac if necessary) and you’ll see a Backups folder. Inside are folders for your Mac and each date/time a backup was run. If your Mac contains valuable data and wasn’t backed up for months, data recovery services may be a better idea. After you restore the disk you can’t go back.

Restoring the disk

If restoring a disk is appropriate for your situation, here’s how.

  1. Attach the failed computer to the backup drive with a USB or Thunderbolt cable. Or connect to a file server or Time Capsule with an Ethernet cable if possible. (Wireless restoration can take many hours, possibly days.)
  2. Hold the Command and R keys as you turn on the computer. Keep holding them until you see the gray Apple logo.
  3. Click Restore from Time Machine.
  4. Select the option to restore the disk.
  5. Select the source – usually the latest backup for your computer.
  6. Restore the drive.
  7. Restart the computer. It should start up and all files should be restored to the last backup.

If the restoration fails it could be due to a drive with a physical failure. Call us for an evaluation, or make an appointment at the Apple Store Genius Bar.

Learn more about Time Machine.

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