Mac Time Machine: Retrieve Files and/or Folders with Finder

By Joe Hutsko, Barbara Boyd

The Time Machine for Mac restore app enables you to use the Finder window to retrieve files, folders, or a combination of both. Just follow these steps:

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

  2. Choose one of the following ways to locate the file or folder from the past that you want to recover by using the Finder window:

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

    • Click a Finder window behind the front-most Finder window. Each time you click a Finder window, Time Machine moves it forward 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.

    To take a peek at the contents of a particular document, picture, audio track, or other file, click it and then click the Quick Look button on the toolbar (see the following figure), which gives you a speedy way to view the contents of your selected file to make sure that it’s the one you really want to recover.

    The file type needs to be one that Quick Look understands. Quick Look can’t read some database applications, such as FileMaker and Bento, nor most CAD documents.

  3. When you locate the data you want to recover, select the file or folders, click the Restore button in the bottom-right corner of the screen, and then proceed to Step 5.

    To select more than one file or folder, hold down the Command key and click each additional item you want to recover.

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  4. If the data you want to recover is nowhere to be found in the Finder windows — or if you change your mind and don’t want to recover backup data — click the Cancel button in the bottom-left corner (or press the Escape key).

    The Time Machine recovery application closes, and you return to the present.

  5. The Time Machine Finder window zooms forward and then closes, safely returning you to a Finder window that now includes your recovered file or folder.

    Consider yourself saved!