Using Time Machine with an External HD

Time Machine is a great idea, and arguably the greatest feature of OS X Leopard in theory, but what happens when you fuck up your computer and need to restore everything, or an external drive shits the bed, so to speak, and you need to restore only that drive? I had yet to put the idea of Time Machine into practice until I royally screwed up my system and realized that it was time for a full restore on Friday. Well, it is now Sunday afternoon and I finally am back up and running after many headaches. Essentially, I am writing this blog entry with the hopes that what I have learned can help others save many hours of frustration and even fear, as there seems to be limited information available elsewhere online with regards to the issue.

TO USE TIME MACHINE TO CREATE INCREMENTAL BACKUPS OF AN EXTERNAL DRIVE:

1) Make sure that your Time Machine drive has a large enough capacity to backup your system drive AND external drive (obviously).

2) Make sure that your external drive has been formatted using “Mac OS Extended (Journaled).” FAT 32 ships on most drives as they are intended to be used with M$ Windows machines, and even though Mac can technically use the drives, Time Machine backups won’t work properly for some reason.

3) Instruct time machine to back up the drive: Time Machine Preferences > Options > Remove the drive from the “Do not back up list” by selecting the drive and clicking the minus (-) sign.

TO RESTORE YOUR SYSTEM

You have two options, proceed when you know which one pertains to you:

OPTION A: If and only if you have the latest 10.5.6 discs:

1) Ensure that Time Machine has indeed made incremental backups of your system. (To be safe, you should also use Carbon Copy Cloner – a free program – to create an image on another volume.)

2) Insert the OS X disc and restart while holding down C to boot off of the disc.

3) Use the CD’s Disk Utility to reformat your drive(s). DO NOT REFORMAT TIME MACHINE!!!

4) Reinstall the OS, and Restore your system using Time Machine when prompted. To restore your External HD as well, see below.

OPTION B: If you have earlier discs (for instance, I had 10.5.2) you cannot restore by using OPTION A or the restored system drive WILL NOT BOOT (for an unknown reason). Instead, follow these steps:

1) Ensure that Time Machine has indeed made incremental backups of your system. (To be safe, you should also use Carbon Copy Cloner – a free program – to create an image on another volume.)

2) Insert the OS X disc and restart while holding down C to boot off of the disc.

3) Use the CD’s Disk Utility to reformat your drive(s). DO NOT REFORMAT TIME MACHINE!!!

4) Reinstall the OS, but do not transfer files when prompted.

5) Create a new user account that WAS NOT used before. To be safe, you may want to use: “Fake Account” for the user account name and “fake” for the short name.

6) Run software update and install all of the latest updates. This will take a while, but you need to get the system up to 10.5.6 for the next step.

7) After installation is complete, restart your computer and log back into “Fake Account”

8) Using Migration Assistant, restore backup from time machine. The process will take several hours to run. Even if it says “less than one minute remaining…” DO NOT stop the backup until it says that it has completed. My system said “one minute remaining for two hours while it finished copying ~ 40 GB of applications and system data.

9) When Migration assistant has finished, restart, Log into your old administrator account and delete the “Fake Account.” The system should be good to go!

10) To restore your External HD as well, see below.

TO RESTORE YOUR EXTERNAL DRIVE:

This is simpler than anything, though it took me several hours to figure out because I thought you had to restore it in a similar fashion to the system drive (essentially, by using an intuitive GUI). However, such is not the case, and because of this, and the prevalence of external drives now, instructions to do this should be REALLY be included somewhere in the restore process, but they are not.

1) Format (or reformat) the external drive which is to be restored onto using “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”

2) Open the Time Machine Drive and navigate to: Backups.backupdb/your_computer_name/Latest/your_drive_name

3) Simply copy the files from this folder on the Time Machine drive to the new, restored drive. It’s that simple!

Well, that’s it! Let me know if this information helped you, or if I’ve made any mistakes (I will correct them as soon as possible).

Cheers,

Sean.

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