How to Make the Most of Apple Time Machine

by Dan

Mac users have been touting the functionality of Apple’s popular Time Machine utility ever since its initial release. While it’s seen some minor upgrades over the years, its features are quite useful to its target audience. However, depending on how your system is setup, you might be able to utilize Apple Time Machine in a more efficient manner than ever before. 

Understanding The Basic Requirements

Your computer needs to meet some basic requirements before you can begin using Apple Time Machine to backup or restore data. These requirements include: 

. Access To An External Storage Device.

Apple Time Machine requires an external storage device to function properly. This can be a drive connected via USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire. Additionally, it can be used with an external drive connected to an AirPort Extreme Base Station, AirPort Time Capsule or NAS device. 

. The Proper File Format.

Simply having access to an external storage device isn’t enough to backup or recover files via Apple Time Machine. Instead, you’ll need to make sure the file system is compatible with Time Machine. Compatible file systems include Mac OS Extended (HFS+) or Xsan. While it’s possible to backup a drive that has been formatted with the Apple File System (APFS), it’s not possible to save this data to an APFS-formatted drive. This is because Apple Time Machine will automatically format any APFS drives to HFS+ before beginning the backup process. 

. Available Hard Drive Space.

Finally, you’ll need to make sure that your chosen hard drive has enough free storage space to accommodate a Time Machine backup. While this amount will vary depending on your system and your exact usage, a good rule of thumb is to allocate two to four times as much capacity as the data you’re archiving, but it really depends on how often you use your device. Note that this isn’t necessarily the data across your entire disk, as much of the data doesn’t need to be backed up to Time Machine. In some cases, however, this could still amount to a lot of storage space.

Now that you’ve gone through the checklist of basic requirements, you should have everything you need to perform a data backup or restoration through Apple Time Machine. 

Setting Exclusions

As mentioned earlier, a Time Machine backup doesn’t necessarily need to contain the data from your entire system. Thankfully, you can set specific exclusions within Apple Time Machine. Two different exclusions are supported, including: 

. A User-Configured List.

Time Machine makes it easy to set individual exclusions in a user-configured list. In addition, some common system defaults are automatically excluded from Time Machine. 

. An Extended File Attribute.

As an alternative to the exclusions list, you can also set individual file exclusions by using the extended file attribute “com.apple.metadata:com_apple_backup_excludeItem dependencies.” In this case, it’s important to use the “com.apple.backup” string instead of “com.apple.MobileBackup,” as the latter is only compatible with the latest versions of iOS. 

After setting your specific exclusions, you’re all set to make the most out of Apple Time Machine during your next backup or restoration session. 

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