Skip to main content

Office of Information Technology (OIT)

UT Arlington
OIT: Office of Information Technology

Work Order · 817-272-2208 · System Status

We are your IT partner!

The Basics of Restoring with Time Machine

System requirements: Mac


Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" introduces a new feature for automatically backing up data on your computer. For more information please visit Apple Support -

Once Time Machine is activated, all free space the Time Machine drive will be used given enough time.  This is the case since Time Machine keeps as many versions of a file as there is space for.  If a computer has Time Machine enabled on a 500 GB drive and backs up data stored on an 80 GB drive, yes the backup drive can be used to store other files, but this will become difficult as the backup drive keeps multiple copies and takes up even more space than the original drive.  It is advised to use a drive that you can devote to backing up and will remain connected to the machine for long periods of time.  In this case, Time Machine provides the convenience of being able to quickly repair mistakes and problems.  However, Mission Critical data should not be backed up by Time Machine alone, and it is the client's responsibility to ensure this data is backed up via another method.  

Please read the entire document before attempting to restore files via Time Machine and make time to practice these steps before you have vital information lost.

How to Get:

  • Mac OS X 10.5.x
  • A drive with enough free space for the items you wish to back up (such as an external hard disk, secondary internal drive, or a flash drive)
  • Time Machine Enabled before documents were lost

How to Use:

  1. Here is a folder which apparently held some work related documents. These documents have been deleted or moved.Empty folder
  2. Perform quick search for a document to see if the file was moved. Spotlight shows no results found for my Flyer document. Search
  3. Time machine to the Rescue!Time Machine can be invoked a few different ways. For one, I can find it in the Applications folder:Get to TMYou might also find the icon in your Dock (or you can drag it there if you don't already have it there).TM iconYou might also see the menu bar icon near the top right of the screen. (Time Machine is the Clock and Arrow icon in the image below)TM Menu IconThe menu bar icon can be enabled or disabled in the System Preferences for Time MachineTM enable Menu Icon
  4. The Anatomy of Time Machine:Anatomy image
    1. Backwards into time... - Click a title bar in the past to bring it to the front.
    2. Recorded History... - Hover the mouse over to see how far the backups go. Here, we just turned Time Machine on recently and only have a few backups. The length of time you will see has to do with how long Time Machine has been enabled and how much disk space is available for Backing Up. Using a small disk or storing other data on the same drive can reduce this time line and limit the amount of preservation Time Machine allows.
    3. Forward and Backward in Time
    4. Cancel - This is how you get out of Time Machine without doing anything.
    5. Time of front most window - This tells you when you are in the time line. Right now, we see that we are at the present state of the folder I was looking for my files.
    6. Restore - The button we hope will save us from lost data. (Read on!)
  5. If I click the arrow pointing into the cosmic background, I will go back in time. It looks like we found something: Found something
  6. The icon looks like a typewriter... I remember a different flyer I made. If I press the space bar, I can open the document in Quick Look just like I can in other Finder windows to get a preview. Quick Look
  7. That looks like something I might want. So for now, I'm going to click Restore and make sure I have that document now. Let's keep looking through Time Machine. Restore
  8. Here's another flyer.docx I found. I want to restore this one too.Another found fileI get to keep both versions or select one over the other. Here, I'll Keep Both.Replace optionsSee how we kept both files? Now lets try to find the rest of my lost stuff!Kept Both
  9. Wow, here are some more files I'd like to save. Selecting multiple items can be done by holding the Shift or Command keys while clicking. (Shift and Command have slightly different ways of helping you select more than one item, so try a few times to get the hang of it.) More stuff found
  10. When I click Restore, I get all my old documents back that I wanted, and now I can get back to work!Restore the rest