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How to Restore Data with Mac OS X Snow Leopard’s Time Machine

Mac OS X Snow Leopard power users turn to Time Machine, a feature that makes restoring files as easy as pointing and clicking, to back up their precious data. If you enable backups through Snow Leopard’s Time Machine feature, you can literally move backward through the contents of your Mac’s hard drive, selecting and restoring all sorts of data. Files and folders are ridiculously easy to restore. Time Machine can even handle things like deleted Address Book entries and photos you’ve sent to the Trash from iPhoto!

Because Time Machine should be an important and integral part of every Mac owner’s existence, the Time Machine icon is included in the Dock. (Apple is not messing around!)

Before you can use Time Machine, it must be enabled within the Time Machine pane in System Preferences.

Here’s how you can turn back time, step-by-step, to restore a file that you deleted or replaced in a folder:

  1. Open the folder that contained the file you want to restore.

  2. In a separate window, open your Applications folder and launch the Time Machine application, or click the Time Machine icon in the Dock.

    The Time Machine background appears behind your folder, complete with its own set of buttons at the bottom of the screen. On the right, a timeline corresponds to the different days and months included in the backups that Snow Leopard has made.

    Time Machine can take you back to any backup.
    Time Machine can take you back to any backup.
  3. Click within the timeline to jump directly to a date (displaying the folder’s contents on that date).

    Alternatively, use the Forward and Back arrows at the right to move through the folder’s contents through time. (You should see the faces of Windows users when you “riffle” through your folders to locate something you deleted several weeks ago!)

    The backup date of the items you’re viewing appears in the button bar at the bottom of the screen.

  4. Click the file to restore to select it.

  5. Click the Restore button at the right side of the Time Machine button bar.

    If you want to restore all the contents of the folder, click the Restore All button instead.

Time Machine returns you to the Finder, with the newly restored file now appearing in the folder.

To restore specific data from your Address Book or images from iPhoto, launch the desired application first and then launch Time Machine. Instead of riffling a Finder window, you can move through time within the application window.

Connect an external hard drive and turn on Time Machine. Do it now. Don’t make a heinous mistake.

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