SET UP TIME MACHINE WITH A USB HARD DRIVE
In the previous section I showed you how to split a usb hard drive into three partitions (three separate logical drives), ready for data backup and general file storage purposes. In this section I'm going to show you how to set up a usb hard drive as a backup device for the Time Machine feature of OS X (Mountain Lion). I will first show you the set up process of Time Machine based on examples in the previous section and then show you how to set up Time Machine from the beginning.
Time Machine on OS X (Mountain Lion) is basically the same as System Restore on Windows 7. They both allow you to take their, faulty/damaged/corrupted, operating system back to a time when everything was working fine with it. It also serves as a File Backup application.
In the previous section I split my usb hard drive into three partitions (three separate logical drives) but for this example I have since put it back to one partition formatted with the Mac OS Extended (Journalled) file system; so it is a one partition, purely apple mac, usb hard drive. A message requester has now appeared (as in the previous section) asking if I would like to use the usb hard drive with Time Machine - In this example (below) I am going to click on the USE AS BACKUP DISK button.
When you click on the USE AS BACKUP DISK button the Time Machine system preference (window) opens with the Time Machine feature automatically activated (switched ON),
which is quite normal. As you look around its window you wil notice the NEXT BACKUP Timer counting down in seonds. This is the amount of time before the initial, big,
backup will start. The backup that saves everything - Subsequent backups only save changed files and newly created files (including system files and your personal files).
There isn't a lot you can do from here apart from wait for the seconds to finish (and the backup to start) or click on the OFF slider (slide button) to deactive (switch OFF) the Time Machine feature (in case you want to cancel Time Machine and therefore the backup). However, if you are going to wait for the backup to start you should make sure the SHOW TIME MACHINE IN MENU BAR setting is ticked (switched ON) as it will give you quicker access to the Time Machine backup files, when needed.
Clicking on the OPTIONS button brings up a window that allows you to exclude certain storage device from being backed up. For example, the usb hard drive used for the Time Machine backup (in this case the usb hard drive called STORAGE) is automatically excluded simply because Time Machine cannot backup the storage device it is actually using for the current backup; and any future backups.
A word of caution here. NEVER enable (tick) the BACK UP WHILE ON BATTERY POWER setting because it's not a good idea to do a backup when a laptop is on Battery Power only. If the battery goes flat while Time Machine is backing up important system/personal files you might corrupt OS X (Mountain Lion) and/or lose important personal files. So make sure that setting is always unticked (disabled/blank).
Once the seconds have passed Time Machine will begin backing up your OS X (Mountain Lion) system files as well as your personal files. This process can take anywhere from 10 to 14 Hours, if not longer, depending on your particular apple mac computer, usb hard drive and number of files to backup. An example of the backup process is shown below.
SET UP TIME MACHINE FROM THE BEGINNING
Assuming you are starting a Time Machine backup from scratch whereby the Time Machine feature has not been activated (switched ON) yet, perhaps because you previously clicked on the DECIDE LATER button when asked if you would like to use your usb hard drive with Time Machine (Fig 2.0 below), the first you need to do is click on the TIME MACHINE system preference (Fig 2.1 below) - It's underneath the SYSTEM heading.
Clicking on the TIME MACHINE system preference (icon) for the first time brings up the Time Machine window with the Time Machine feature disabled (switched OFF) by default (by normal behaviour), especially if you previously clicked on the DECIDE LATER button (Fig 2.0 above). To enable it you simply drag the OFF / ON slider (slide button) to the right, in the ON position. Depending on your security settings you may need to unlock the padlock first in order to grant yourself permission to make changes to the Time Machine feature (i.e. switch it ON). If this is the case for you begin by clicking on the Locked Padlock icon, in the left corner of the window, and then enter your computer's password.
Once the locked padlock icon has changed to an opened padlock icon you can then make changes to the TIME MACHINE system preferences (i.e. switch ON the Time Machine feature and change its settings). In this example there is no need to click on the OFF / ON slider (slide button) in order to activate the Time Machine feature as clicking on the SELECT BACKUP DISK button will switch it ON for you.
Clicking on the SELECT BACKUP DISK button opens a window that asks you to select a disk (usb hard drive in this example) for use with the Time Machine backup feature. Simply select your storage device (i.e. usb hard drive) and then click on the USE DISK button to continue.
Now that Time Machine knows what storage device to use as a backup hard drive it starts the backup process, denoted by the blue Progress Bar (below). As said above; this
initial backup process can take ages (10 to 14 Hours for example) due to the amount of system files and personal files it has to backup up. This is a one-off big backup
though as future backups will only need to back up newly created and modified files (system and personal).
Once again, make sure the SHOW TIME MACHINE IN MENU BAR setting is ticked (switched ON) beforehand. Saying this; you can always switch it on later via System Preferences, so don't worry too much about it here.
When the backup process has finished the Time Machine window will display all sorts of backup statistics, similiar to mine (below), with one of them telling you when the next backup is due. Time Machine works on an hourly basis, which implies you should always keep your usb hard drive plugged in, but I generally advise against this unless you are a company and/or someone who has very important data on their computer. Why? Because in the long run you will be "wearing and tearing" your hard drive and therefore giving it a shorter life. Also, if your computer were to be infected with a virus or other malware a permanently plugged in usb hard drive would be vunerable to infection.
One important statistic here is the part that states: THE OLDEST BACKUPS ARE DELETED WHEN YOUR DISK BECOMES FULL. This means exactly what it says; older backed up data
will be deleted to make way for newer data when your usb hard drive becomes full. It works on a rotation system basically. So always use a massive hard drive as your backup
hard drive. 500GB to 1,000GB is quite a normal sized hard drive to use these days. I have only used a 250GB usb hard drive for these examples but I do actually use a 500GB
usb hard drive personally.
If you want to view your backed up files manually, as folders on your usb hard drive, as opposed to using the actual Time Machine application you can do so by viewing your usb hard drive in the normal way (i.e. double click through the folders). Note: The Time Machine application works in the same way but has a lot more power in terms of it restoring your data and so on. Manually looking through your backed up files via your usb hard drive is not really recommended - You should always use the Time Machine application.
With the above I have used a regular usb hard drive (SeaGate GoFlex ) that can work with any modern day Windows, Linux and Apple Mac computers. In other words, it's not Apple Mac specific. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking you need to buy an expensive (£249) Time Capsule device for example. Apple Mac data can easily be backed up onto a standard usb hard drive too.....for half the price!