Backup Mac OS X Lion Hard Drive Data Using Time Machine [Guide]

By Sidharth | Apple

Note: This post is about backing up the entire Mac hard drive running the Mac OS X Lion. If want to backup the installer of OS X Lion, then skip over to this post: Backup Mac OS X Lion .DMG file.

Google recently revealed that 3% of hard drives fail in less than a couple of months. And when the hard drive fails to wake up, majority of the PC owners go haywire because they haven’t backed up the hard drive data.

Let’s face it, in general, not everyone has the time to backup data regularly. It’s a tedious process, yes, but it’s always better to backup data before than to regret later for not backing up. So put on a brave face and backup your important data every day. Really, every day?

Don’t worry Mac users, Apple has a solution for you.

Yes, to lose your Mac HD data completely in a blink of an eye is a disaster of epic proportion. And this is where Apple’s exclusive Time Machine app comes into play, and saves you from pulling your hair out whenever your hard drive is corrupted, or you’ve accidentally deleted important files and folders.

Overview of Time Machine For Mac

Time Machine takes automatic backup of your entire Mac OS X hard drive out of the box. Whether you want to backup system files, music videos, movies, songs, TV shows, documents, and everything else in between, Time Machine is always there for you.

The beauty of Time Machine is that it not only keeps a backup of every document, application, but also remembers the way your system looks. Next time you want to restore your Mac with its last months data, you are just a couple of clicks away.

Another Time Machine’s noteworthy feature is that it doesn’t archive multiple version of your Mac hard drive but cleverly does incremental backups.

If your Mac crashes, you can restore everything with Time Machine backup. iMac, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air, Time Machine is bundled with every Mac machine running Leopard (including Snow Leopard) and Mac OS X Lion.

How to Setup Time Machine to Backup Mac HD

When you plug in an external hard drive, OS X Lion will automatically invoke Time Machine, and you’ll be asked whether you want to setup the external HD with Time Machine.

If this is the first time you are about to setup Time Machine, but have no clue where to find this app, then go to the Applications folder and search for Time Machine. You can also launch Time Machine from Spotlight.

Launch Time Machine, and you’ll be welcomed with this message: “You haven’t selected a location for Time Machine backups.”

Click on Set Up Time Machine to invoke the main Time Machine window.

Tick Show Time Machine Status in menu bar if you want to see the progress of your data backup in the top-right menu bar in the form of a circle spinning counter-clockwise.

You can also turn the Time Machine off or on. To exclude files you don’t want to backup, click on Options.

A window slides down listing the hard drive and the folders when you click Options. You can exclude them by clicking the ‘‘ button.

Back to the main Time Machine window: If you want to specify a backup disk — let’s say an internal or external hard drive, for example —  click on the Select Disk to choose the disk where you want to backup your Mac’s data.

Time Machine will list the devices and drives connected to your Mac computer. We have a couple of ways to dump our Mac data, such as the following:

  • Apple’s Time Capsule device
  • Internal hard drive
  • External hard drive

If you want to use Time Capsule to create a copy of your Mac hard drive, connect your Macintosh computer to Time Capsule with an Ethernet cable. Launch Time Machine and select Time Capsule device. You can also use AirPort Extreme Card to setup wireless backup (use AirPort Utility which is bundled with Time Capsule CD — and yes, it is compatible with Mac OS X Lion)

More about Time Capsule. Download Time Capsule setup manual.

If you have the external hard drive connected to your Mac, and you want to use this drive for backing up your data, then choose this as the backup disk. However, if you don’t want to use either Time Capsule or external hard drive, you can always create an internal hard drive for dumping the hard drive data.

You have to partition the hard drive, and use the empty hard drive as the backup disk. I use this method because my iMac has 1TB of storage, out of which I use not more than few gigabytes of space (my movies are stored in a separate computer).

Click on the Use Backup Disk to initiate the Time Machine backup.

Depending on the amount of data stored on your Mac, Time Machine will automatically take backups regularly. However, for your first backup, Time Machine will take a little longer than you’d expect. The backup process can extend from a couple of hours to almost a day, because it’s your first backup.

However, because Time Machine uses incremental backup technique, the next backup will be only of the files that were changed since the previous backup.

About the Author

Hi, I am Sidharth. Full-time blogger. Editor of Blogote. And a self-proclaimed geek!