What Apple’s Time Machine Doesn’t Do

I recently did a full restore of my my Mac from Time Machine, Apple’s built-in backup utility for OS 10.5 (Leopard). I had to undertake this radical step because Boot Camp refused to create a Windows partition, complaining about “unmovable files” that could only be eradicated by reformatting the drive and reinstalling Leopard.

Overall, I found that Time Machine worked well. After reformatting the Mac and reinstalling OS X, I was greeted with an “import your old data” screen which included the option to restore from a Time Machine backup. I browsed to my Firewire drive, picked a restore point, and the Mac spent the next few hours restoring my data. In the end, I had everything back.

Well, almost everything.

  • It doesn’t back up printers or printer settings. After doing the restore, my printers — both for my HP 1020 and Adobe Acrobat — were blown away.
  • It doesn’t preserve your indexes. Anything with one — mail, iPhoto, iTunes — will need to rebuild it. Also, it doesn’t preserve your authorizations in iTunes so it needs to reauthorize itself. Fortunately, it did do that automatically so I didn’t have to go through the annual authorize/de-authorize process.
  • It doesn’t restore you iTunes U music authorizations, but iTunes does call back to Apple to see if this computer should be allowed to play them. I was worried i might have to expire my authorizations on all of my computers to get this Mac working again but it all worked out. (yes, I know this is a prime example of a DRM headache, but I knew that going in)

This was probably the easiest, fastest and most complete restore I’ve ever done, and I’m mostly pleased with the results. Of the things that didn’t come back, the only one that was really problematic was the loss of my HP 1020 printer driver which is a pain to re-install (but it did inspire me to write about that process on Nuketown for future reference).