I finally bit the bullet and performed a test of our Time Machine restore process by reinitializing the solid state drive (SSD) in our iMac and restoring from the Time Machine backups housed on our QNAP NAS server. For background on using a QNAP NAS server to hold Time Machine backups, see my post on setting up Time Machine with a QNAP TS-109 Pro NAS server. Thankfully, the process worked without a hitch and I was able to restore the internal solid state drive (SSD) of our iMac with a recent system backup.
Boot from Snow Leopard Install DVD
- Press Option key during startup to access the boot media options
- Select “Mac OS X Install DVD”
Reformat Internal SSD
Just for the sake of experimentation, I wiped out the content of our iMac’s internal drive. Gutsy? Stupid? Neither. Since we keep all of our important documents and media files on our NAS server, there won’t be any significant loss if this experiment fails. Worst case, I’d have to reinstall the OS, a bunch of apps and apply our configuration settings all over again.
Restore From Time Machine Backup
Ideally, after booting with the installation DVD, all you’d have to do is access Utilities -> Restore System From Backup and select the backup of interest from the network share and start the restore process. However, if you attempt to do this, you’ll see that the Connect to Remote Disk option is greyed out.
Manually Mount Backup Network Share
To work around this problem, I had to manually mount the network share containing your Time Machine backups. I ran across the command line instructions here.
First, I selected Utilities -> Terminal
Next, I created a mount point for the backup share:
Then I mounted the network share via AFP:
Finally, I listed the content of the directory to ensure that the share was mounted:
I verified that a sparse bundle with the name <host name>_<MAC address>.sparsebundle was present.
Perform the Restore
Next I selected Utilities -> Restore System From Backup…
Then I selected Continue… Once the Select From Backup Source window was displayed, it showed an entry representing the Time Machine backup source. I selected the source and clicked Continue.
Next I selected the specific backup from the list of available backups. I chose the most recent backup, but I could have picked any backup.
Then I selected the SSD as the destination device in the Select a Destination window.
The restoration process took about 20 minutes over a Gigabit network connection.
Once the system restarted, I was very happy to see that all of our accounts were available and it looked like all of our apps and documents were restored properly. If we encounter any gaps in the restored files down the road, I’ll post a blog entry.
After the restoration completed, I noticed that only 15 GB of the SSD were consumed as compared to 23 GB prior to reinitializing the SSD. I suspect the difference is due to the ~/Downloads directories and many index and cache files not being included in the Time Machine backups.
Although I understood that Time Machine backups included Mac OS X itself, your applications and most all other files, I had read one post asserting that only Mac OS X would be restored and that any applications you had installed would not be backed up and restored. Based on my experience, this is definitely not the case: all of our applications were restored.
I was confident that this process would work, but you never know until you try it. Now I am confident that we can restore both our iMac and MacBook Pro when a drive fails, we mess up the OS significantly, or some other major issue occurs.
If you have a Mac and you haven’t been using Time Machine, even just backing up to a local, external drive, you should really look into the feature.
I’ve read that Windows 7 has a capability similar to Apple’s Time Machine. I plan to research that a bit and try it out with an external drive on my father’s PC.