Mac Time Machine: Recover Data from within an Application

By Joe Hutsko, Barbara Boyd

To use Time Machine to retrieve a specific piece of information from within an app (such as an address card from your Mac’s Contacts app), follow these steps:

  1. Click the Contacts icon on the Dock or on the Launchpad to launch Contacts.

    The Contacts app opens and displays the Contacts window, which lists all your contacts.

  2. Click the Time Machine icon on the Dock or Launchpad (or click the Time Machine icon on the menu bar and choose Enter Time Machine) to run the Time Machine restore app.

    Your Mac’s screen will appear to space out while it launches the Time Machine restore app — into another dimension known as The Time Machine Zone, as shown in this figure.

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  3. Choose one of the following ways to select a contact card (or cards) that you want to restore from a past backup:

    • Click the Backward and Forward arrow buttons near the bottom-right corner of the screen. Click the Backward button to move the Contacts window backward in time to earlier Time Machine backups. Click the Forward button to move forward to more recent Time Machine backups.

    • Click a Contacts window in the stack of windows behind the front-most Contacts window. You can click the Contacts window directly behind the front Contacts window, or one behind it stretching further back in time. Each time you click a Contacts window in the stack, Time Machine moves it to the front of the screen.

    • Move the pointer to the Time Machine timeline along the right edge of the screen. The timeline bars expand to display a specific date. To choose a specific date, click it.

  4. When you locate the contact card you want to retrieve, click it, click the Restore button in the lower-right corner, and then proceed to Step 6.

    To select more than one contact card, hold down the Command key and click each additional contact you want to recover.

  5. If the contact you want to restore is nowhere to be found in the Contacts windows — or if you change your mind and don’t want to recover a backed-up contact — click the Cancel button in the lower-left corner (or press the Escape key).

    Time Machine closes and returns you to the present.

  6. The Time Machine Contacts window zooms forward and then closes, returning you to the Contacts application window, which now includes the recovered contact card (or cards).

    That’s it — you’ve been saved!

You can search within Time Machine to locate the file you want to retrieve from a previous backup by typing in a search term in the search field. You can also use Spotlight Search from the Finder, and then click the Time Machine icon on the Dock or Launchpad. Select the file you want and click the Restore button. The item is placed in its original location.