How to Restore Hard Drive from a Time Machine Backup

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Restore Hard Drive from a Time Machine Backup

Watching your Mac suddenly die can be a heart-sinking moment, especially if you were in the middle of something important and don’t have time to troubleshoot the issue. Fortunately, you can easily restore all backed up data, applications, and settings with Apple’s Time Machine.

Introduced in macOS 10.5, Time Machine is an easy-to-use backup and recovery software application, and you already have it installed on your Mac. Let’s take a look at two ways how you can restore from time machine.

How to Recover Data With Time Machine

Method #1: Recover Files from a Time Machine Backup

The first method to restore from time machine is useful when you lose valuable files but your operating system still works. Instead of restoring your entire Mac, it lets you selectively choose which files you want back, making it a true lifesaver when you find yourself in a high-pressure situation where full system recovery wouldn’t be possible.

To recover files from a Time Machine backup:

  1. Open the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Click the Time Machine icon on the bottom.restore hard drive from time machine
  3. Check the checkbox next to the Show Time Machine in menu bar option. A new icon should appear in the Menu bar.how to restore hard drive from time machine backup
  4. Click on the newly created Time Machine icon in the menu bar and select Enter Time Machine. how to restore hard drive from time machine backup on mac
  5. Navigate to the folder with the missing files and use the arrows on the right to select an older backup of the folder.
  6. Click the Restore button on the bottom to restore the missing files from your Time Machine backup.restore hard drive from time machine on mac

Method #2: Restore Hard Drive from a Time Machine Backup

This method can save you if you can’t restore individual files because you’re experiencing major issues with your Mac that require the operating system to be reinstalled. By restoring hard drive from a Time Machine backup, you can go back to an earlier version of your Mac and recover everything from system files to applications to personal data.  

To restore hard drive from a Time Machine backup:

  1. If your Mac is running turn it off.
  2. Hold Command + R and power it on to access the Recovery Partition. You will know that the boot is done when you see a window titled macOS Utilities.
  3. Select the Restore from Time Machine Backup option inside the macOS Utilities window and click Continue.restore hard drive from time machine in recovery
  4. Click Continue again to move to the next screen, select your restore source (your Time Machine backup drive), and click Continue to confirm your selection.
  5. Select the most recent functioning Time Machine backup and click Continue to begin the restore process.

How to Recover Hard Drive Without Time Machine

Method #3: Recover Files from Hard Drive Using Disk Drill for Mac

Time Machine is a fantastic backup and recovery software application that has saved countless Mac users from permanent loss of data, but there’s one huge problem with it: it doesn’t work unless you manually activate it, and most people never do.

The good news is that not all backup and recovery software applications work like Time Machine. Disk Drill for Mac is one such example, allowing you to recover deleted or lost files from your hard drive even if you don’t have a backup.

However, there’s one caveat you need to keep in mind: Disk Drill for Mac may not be able to recover your files if you wait too long before you use it. Some application or the operating system itself may overwrite them and make them impossible to recover. That said, if you act decisively and don’t wait too long, you should be able to recover most—if not all—files without any problem. 

To recover hard drive without Time Machine:

  1. Download the disk image, double-click it, drag the Disk Drill app to Applications folder, and launch it from there.restore hard drive from time machine backup
  2. Click the Recover button next to the hard drive from which you want to recover your files.how to restore hard drive with time machine
  3. Wait for Disk Drill to scan the hard drive.
  4. Preview the recovered files using the view icon next to them.
  5. Select the files you want to recover and click the Recover button located in the top-right corner of the window.restore new hard drive from time machine

Additional Mac Recovery Options  

Method #4: Restore Your Mac from a Local Backup

Local data backups have their place even in the day and age of easy-to-use data recovery software applications like Disk Drill for Mac. Arguably the biggest advantage of local backups is their simplicity. You simply fire up your backup software, select your local backup, and wait for it to finish restoring your Mac. For the sake of this article, we’re going to assume that you have a backup created using Carbon Copy Cloner.

To restore your Mac from a local backup:

  1. Launch Carbon Copy Cloner.
  2. Select the Restore from disk image option located in the Source menu. Pick your backup disk image.
  3. Go to the Destination menu and select the volume where you want Carbon Copy Cloner to restore the backup image.how to restore hard drive from time machine
  4. Deselect any files you don’t want Carbon Copy Cloner to restore.
  5. Click the Clone button to begin the data restore process.

Method #5: Restore Your Mac from a Cloud Backup

Storing files on someone else’s hard drive has been a viable backup option for some time now. Apple offers its own cloud backup service, called iCloud, giving all users 5 GB of cloud storage space for free. If you’ve taken Apple up on its offer and have your files backed up in the cloud, restoring them couldn’t be simpler.

To restore your Mac from a cloud backup:

  1. Go to iCloud.com and sign in.
  2. Go to Settings.
  3. Click Restore Files in the Advanced section, located on the bottom of the page.how to restore damaged hard drive from time machine
  4. Select which files you want to restore.
  5. Click the Restore button.
 Disk DrillTime Machine3rd Party Backup
Recover files that were deleted from TrashYesNoYes
Preview files before recoveryYesYesDepends on the application
Recover files without a previous backupYesNoNo
Recover files from any internal or external storageYesNoNo

Did You Know?

Apple’s Time Machine was first introduced on January 15, 2008, with the announcement of Mac OS X Leopard (version 10.5), the sixth major release of Mac OS X. Along with Time Machine, Mac OS X Leopard also introduced a redesigned Dock, Stacks, a semitransparent menu bar, and an updated Finder, giving Mac users an even more polished user experience.

FAQ

How to restore a MacBook with a new hard drive with Time Machine?

If you had to replace the hard drive inside your MacBook for a brand-new hard drive that doesn’t contain even the recovery partition, you can still use Time Machine to restore your MacBook:

  1. Hold the Option key and turn on your MacBook on to access the Recovery Partition located on your Time Machine backup drive.
  2. Select the Restore from Time Machine Backup
  3. Click Continue again to move to the next screen
  4. Select your restore source and click Continue to confirm your selection.
  5. Select the most recent functioning Time Machine backup and click Continue to begin the restore process.

How to format a hard drive for Time Machine?

You can backup your files with Time Machine on any internal or external hard drive, as long as the hard drive is properly formatted. To format a hard drive for Time Machine:

  1. Launch the Disk Utility.
  2. Select the hard drive you want to format for Time Machine from the list of available storage devices in the sidebar.
  3. Click the Erase button and choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) to format as a Mac volume.how to restore corrupted hard drive with time machine
  4. Click Erase again to format the hard drive.

How to remove Time Machine backups from external hard drive?

Time Machine backups can be quite large, and you may start to run out of available storage space on your external hard drive very soon. When that starts to happen, you can simply delete old Time Machine backups to free up some storage space:

  1. Click the Time Machine icon located in the Menu Bar and select Enter Time Machine.
  2. Find the Time Machine backup you want to delete.
  3. Click the Gear icon and select Delete Backup.
  4. Enter your password if asked to do so.
David Morelo is a professional content writer in the technology niche, covering everything from consumer products to emerging technologies and their cross-industry application.
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This article has been approved by Brett Johnson, Data Recovery Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Brett has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Systems and Network, 12 years of experience.