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Like this article? We recommend Tweaking Time Machine

Tweaking Time Machine

If you're generally happy with the ease of use that Time Machine offers but there are a few things you wish you could change, these tools and tips may be for you. Some of these Time Machine enhancements can be easily achieved using Apple's Time Machine interface; others are fully developed add-on tools that adjust Time Machine operation through a simple utility, and a few require using tools built into Mac OS X or downloaded to adjust Time Machine by altering configuration details (if you're uncomfortable altering configurations as described, stick to the simpler options).

Changing Time Machine's Backup Schedule

TimeMachineEditor offers you the ability to adjust when Time Machine backs up your data. This can be helpful if you want to avoid taxing your system, network, or external hard drive during certain hours. It can also help you stagger backups in your home or office so that all Macs sharing a Time Capsule or other network location at the same time (bogging down bandwidth and slowing everyone’s backups).

Backing Up to a Network File Share Other Than a Time Capsule

There are a couple of options if you don’t have a Time Capsule but still want to back up to a network location (such as another computer, a home or small office network attached storage device, or a non-Apple server in your office). iTimeMachine is a utility that you can use to accomplish this feat. If you’re comfortable working with the Mac OS X command line, you can also use these instructions and scripts to manually set up a network share as a backup location.

Setting Up Only Manual Backups

By default, Time Machine backs up using the schedule Apple baked into it or the one you specify with a solution like iTimeMachine. You can also back up at any time using the Time Machine item in the Mac’s menu bar. But if you want full control of when Time Machine makes any backup, you can disable all automatic backups and only back up manually.

Deleting Files from Backups

One advantage of Time Machine is that you can recover files even if they were deleted last month or last year. But sometimes there are files that you simply know you’ll never need again. Getting rid of those files can be a concern when your Time Machine drive begins to get full. Fortunately, you can delete any files from your backups. Just open Time Machine and locate the files or folders you want to remove (browsing backwards in time if need be), select them, and then click the action button (the one that looks like a gear) in the toolbar of the Time Machine window and select Remove All Backups of that item. A step-by-step visual guide is also available.

Creating a Bootable Time Machine Drive

Time Machine is powerful, but there’s one feature that has always seemed glaringly missing: You need a Mac OS X install disk (or an alternate bootable drive) to recover from a disaster that has rendered your Mac unusable. However, you can create a Time Machine hard drive that also has a bootable version of Mac OS X on it, giving you an emergency drive. You can also throw some hard drive and other diagnostic tools on it (as many Mac technician do) to help troubleshoot and resolve the problem (either with or without performing a complete Time Machine restore).

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