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How to restore your Mac computer from a Time Machine backup

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  • To restore a Mac, you can use a Time Machine backup from an external drive to bring back older versions of your computer. 
  • If you’ve activated Time Machine, restoring your Mac to an older Time Machine backup is relatively simple.
  • Keep in mind, however, that it can take several hours to restore your Mac from a backup. 
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There are many ways to backup your Mac computer and restore all of its data: cloud-based software, third-party apps, external hard drives. 

Time Machine is a software that’s built into your Mac, and uses an external drive to save versions of your computer, taken at 24-hour intervals. 

If you’ve activated Time Machine, you’ll be able to restore older versions of your Mac, where it has backed up things like music, photos, and applications.

Here’s what you need to know to restore older versions of your Mac using Time Machine:

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How to restore a Mac from a Time Machine backup

Before you start, make sure that your Time Machine backup disk is connected to your Mac and that it’s turned on.

1. Restart your Mac.

2. If your computer starts in the Finder, you’ll have to open the Migration Assistant, which is located in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder (if it starts in the setup assistant, you can skip this step).


3. Within the Migration Assistant, select the option to restore “from a Mac, Time Machine backup or disk” when it asks how you want to transfer your information. 

4. Select your Time Machine backup and click “Continue” (Note: If your backup disk is encrypted, you may also have to input your password — and you may also have to choose between several different backup versions, which are organized by date and time to help you choose the most recent version if that’s what you want). 

5. Pick the information you want to transfer, like your Applications and other files, then click “Continue.”

Depending on the amount of information that you choose to restore, it may take several hours for you to complete this process and get your Mac up and running again.

If, for some reason, your computer doesn’t start in either the Finder or setup assistant, you’ll have to restore both your MacOS and your files. To do that, immediately after turning your Mac on, press and hold Command and “R” to restart your computer from MacOS Recovery. 

Then, when you see the MacOS utilities window, select “Restore from Time Machine backup” and continue through the prompts, selecting the backup version and save location. Finally, you’d simply restart your computer one more time, and your Mac will be restored.

Related coverage from How To Do Everything: Tech:

  • How to reset a Mac computer to its factory default settings

  • How to uninstall apps on a Mac computer in three different ways

  • How to clear the cache on your Mac computer to make it run more efficiently

  • How to backup an iPhone to iCloud, your computer, or an external hard drive

SEE ALSO: The best Macbooks you can buy

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