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WWDC: Apple's Time Machine looks to ease backups

The new software will be part of Mac OS X 10.5, code-named Leopard

By Rob Griffiths
August 9, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Macworld - Chances are, you have data on your Macintosh that you're not backing up. Don't feel too bad about it -- if Apple's figures are correct, less than 4% of Mac users perform regular, automated backups. The company hopes to change that with Time Machine, the built-in backup feature that will debut in Mac OS X 10.5, code-named Leopard.

Here's how this new operating system capability will allow you to go virtually back in time.

Time Machine uses a unique interface that turns the rather boring task of backing up and restoring files into something that you may actually enjoy doing. And you may not even have to think too much about the backing up portion of the exercise -- according to Apple, Leopard will automatically back up your files as you work.

But Time Machine doesn't just create one backup -- it keeps a continual chain of backups over time, allowing you to turn the clock back in time to find the file you're looking for.

Time Machine backs up every important file on your Mac -- system software and personal photos, music and documents -- and it does this automatically and continually. (To save space, Time Machine doesn't bother with temporary files such as your browser cache.) This addresses one of the biggest issues with backups: It takes quite a bit of time to set up an automated backup system that successfully backs up your entire machine. As described by Apple, Time Machine aims to make the process so simple that you don't need to take any action, other than have another hard drive or file server available to store the backups.

Backing up and restoring files is not a new idea; lots of software performs this very task. What makes Time Machine unique is its attention to usability. Instead of a traditional series of application windows, Time Machine presents your backups as a series of application windows embedded in a three-dimensional view, complete with a scroll bar that extends backward in time.

You can access Time Machine in any program modified to support it -- most Time Machine sessions will be attempts to retrieve old files and will therefore use the Finder. But any application that has its own separate data store -- Address Book, for example -- can also be thrown into the wayback machine.

To retrieve a lost file using Time Machine, you first use the Finder to open a folder or disk you'd like to examine and then click on the Time Machine button in the Dock. When you do that, your screen changes to a huge stack of Finder windows stretching backward in time. Drag the time-scale slider on the right up to move further back in time, and the window for the selected period flips to the front of the stack, with those that were previously in front of it dropping off the bottom of the screen. It's hard to describe, but amazingly intuitive when you see it in action.

Reprinted with permission from Macworld.com. Story copyright 2012 Mac Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.
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