After a few early hiccups and technical glitches, Apple’s Time Machine has become the back up utility we all want and need.
It’s truly set it and forget it, right? Mostly. There are times when I want to poke Time Machine in the nose. If it had a nose.
The problem isn’t Time Machine’s ease of use. What could be easier? Add another hard drive, turn on Time Machine, point it to the new hard drive, and wait.
Or, go away for awhile as Time Machine grinds away, making a backup of your Mac’s hard drive.
I’ve had cause to test Time Machine’s backup capabilities while looking for some files I knew I had but somehow deleted. Other files got upgraded and the old versions were deleted, then needed again.
Those are common scenarios and probably rather common uses for Time Machine. There are plenty of common problems, too, many of which Apple has addressed in subsequent Time Machine updates, and some that require a few work a rounds.
Once I plugged in an external hard drive that Time Machine liked, and it has a reputation for being picky about what kind and size of hard drive works best, it just sits there and makes backups of files every hour. Every hour. Every hour.
Therein lies one of the rubs. Sometimes my MacBook Pro will be left unused for a couple of days and when I fire it up, Time Machine goes into action doing who knows what.
But it does it, it grinds away, slowing down my whole Mac, for an hour or so.
Perhaps it’s catching up on what I didn’t do, if that’s possible. Perhaps it’s reindexing those files that didn’t change. Whatever it’s doing, it does it often, and sometimes that slows down my Mac.
Every hour? Yes. When I’m on my Mac I’m moving around a lot of files, adding and deleting email, downloading files, exchanging files, copying files, duplicating files. The busier I get with files, the busier my Mac gets trying to keep track of those files.
Enter two utilities for Time Machine which aim to do nearly the same thing. Make it easier to get Time Machine to do what you want it to do when you want it to do it.
Change when Time Machine grinds away and backs up files by using TimeMachineScheduler. Time Machine runs every hour and you can’t change the interval by editing the launchd daemon which controls the timing, launchd.plist.
TimeMachineScheduler installs a different launchd daemon which lets you change the interval for Time Machne’s back up schedule. The interface is rather straightforward. A slider bar changes the back up interval from one to 12 hours.
Set the Scheduler to run manually, at startup, or when the Scheduler has been loaded. If all this seems like a tricky way to trick Time Machine, it is, so there are a few caveats. I prefer the manual back up option so I become responsible for when the back up takes place.
Not bad for an application that doesn’t cost anything, right? Don’t like TimeMachineScheduler? No problem. Click the Uninstall button and be done away with it.
All these nifty utilities have one thing in common. Multiple words combined to make one looooong word which describes the utility. TimeMachineEditor also edits Time Machine (two words).
Ease of use is difficult to describe with TimeMachineEditor. It’s too easy. Schedule Time Machine to back up once a day, or at a scheduled time, or once a week, once a month, or every so many hours.
Change settings to have Time Machine back up when your Mac wakes up from sleep. Or, change the setting to make Time Machine back up when you mount your back up hard drive.
Time Machine then grinds away when you want it to, rather than when you don’t. TimeMachineEditor. Not bad for a utility that doesn’t cost anything.
Since they both do about the same thing it’s difficult to determine which is best. TimeMachineEditor is easier on the brain.
Sven-S Porst has an interesting look at all that takes place behind the scenes with Time Machine. Most Mac users don’t care. We simply want it to work, act like it’s working, not annoy us too much, and, very importantly, always have those backed up files ready when we need them.
Other than Time Machine constantly grinding away when I don’t want it to, I have no issues with performance. I scoured Google today looking for more problems that have been uncovered after Time Machine’s first few months on the job, and after recent updates to OS X Leopard.
There’s problems here and there, but not much, which indicates that Time Machine sits there and does what it’s supposed to. Thank you, launchd.
Yes, Virigina, there’s more to Time Machine than meets the eye. There’s Red Flag, a Dashboard Widget which lets you know when Time Machine last did a back up.
That’s handy because Time Machine’s preference pane only tells you when there’s a failure.
iTimeMachine is another Time Machine utility, currently untried. which claims to enable back ups via AirDisks and Network Disks. For some, Time Machine works using Airport Extreme base station, though it’s an unsupported feature prone toward erratic, yet should work with Apple’s new Time Capsule back up hard drive.
The dearth of additional utilities to enhance Time Machine tells us that Apple pretty much did it right. Plug in the hard drive, turn on Time Machine, go away for awhile, and you’re backed up. Of course, there’s plenty of work involved in getting a complete restoration using Time Machine. I’ll record the details of that disastrous bridge when I fall off.
What’s your Mac back up strategy? Do you use Time Machine or another back up system? Share your experience in the Comment section below.