Is Time Machine in Mac OS X 10.5 really a good full hard drive backup solution?
October 24, 2007 12:31 AM   Subscribe

Is Time Machine in Mac OS X 10.5 really a good full hard drive backup solution?

I can't seem to find a real solid answer anywhere, so this is to any of you who have used Leopard or have better Google-fu than I.

Currently in Tiger I use SuperDuper to do incremental backup of my whole hard drive nightly to a disk image. This means if I delete something I can open up the disk image and pull out a file, but if my hard drive goes kaput, I can also just perform a full restore of the system from the disk image. It is clear that Time Machine will perform the former part of that for me (and much, much better, I might add), but I can't find any information on the latter.

If I set up Time Machine to use my external FireWire hard drive as a backup volume, and the internal drive on my MacBook dies, will I be able to perform a full image restore of the computer from the Time Machine volume, or is it only good for those times when you accidentally lose a file?

I know Leopard comes out in a mere two days, but I'm trying to be fully prepared by the time Friday rolls around and I would like to know this ahead of time.
posted by joshrholloway to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From Apple's time machine page:
"You can even use Time Machine to restore your entire computer if need be."

From Macintouch's Leopard FAQ:
[Q.] Is a Time Machine backup bootable?
[A.] No, but the Leopard install DVD provides the ability to restore a drive from a Time Machine back-up.

You're using SuperDuper, and as I understand it, the backup image it creates is bootable. This would be one of its advantages over Time Machine. There's more on the differences in the blog of Dave Nanian, SuperDuper's producer. Of course, he may be a bit biased, but there 'tis.
posted by mumkin at 1:15 AM on October 24, 2007

Best answer: The official word via Apple's site is that in addition to the ability to restore files or folders to the state they were in on a previous date, you'll also be able to do a full system restore, but only indirectly. The Leopard install DVD provides the ability to restore a drive from a Time Machine volume:
Time Machine restores individual files, complete folders, iPhoto libraries, and Address Book contacts. You can even use Time Machine to restore your entire computer if need be.


Use Migration Assistant to copy portions of any Time Machine backup to a new Mac, or select “Restore System from Time Machine” in the Leopard DVD Utilities menu. Choose any date recorded in Time Machine to set up your new Mac exactly as your previous Mac was on that date.
So, if you also have your Leopard install DVD, you'll be able to perform a full restore using the contents of a Time Machine volume. I'd tell you more, but as an Apple developer, I'm under NDA until October 26.
posted by RichardP at 1:41 AM on October 24, 2007

I thunk you have your answer, but if you want more information you can check out these threads at TUAW and AppleInsider. I am ordering a new disk to use as a TimeMachine backup, but am also keeping my script that does remote backup over the network.
posted by procrastination at 4:40 AM on October 24, 2007

The advantages of Time Machine are that (a) it is transparent and incremental; (b) it allows you to do spotlight searches into the past; (c) it keeps multiple versions around; (d) it allows you to selectively go back and retrieve specific files that you've accidently deleted.

The advantages of SuperDuper are that (a) it creates a mirror backup of your entire system; (b) you can easily create archival snapshots to save for a long time; (c) it creates bootable disks to simplify recovery from catastrophic failures.

A disadvantage of Time Machine is that it keeps your backup history in a sort of queue. As it runs out of backup space, it drops the oldest versions of things to make room for the new. I believe that by default it keeps the last two weeks of history. So that's pretty good if you figure out quickly that you deleted something by mistake. But it's not like it's a personal version of the Way Back Machine, at least by default.

So they really take two different approaches. I'm happy with Superduper, and I'm not sure that I'm going to bother with Time Machine. I can't think of the last time I've accidently deleted a file and wanted to get it back. But other people will have different usage patterns.
posted by alms at 7:46 AM on October 24, 2007

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