We have several users in the field with MacBooks.

Because they're not always on the network, they save files locally to their notebooks. Normally I back things up by making quick copies to other media, but with the Macs they have the option to run Time Machine (and the way OS X is designed, they're heavily encouraged to use it.)

Question; for maintaining Macs and data, how reliable and thorough is Time Machine for backup/restoration? Does it just back up the user's home directory, or can it restore the Mac if, for example, the drive fails?

And are there options for "securing" the data like corporate backup software for Windows does, to encrypt the data on the time machine drive?

Also, how well does this work in conjunction with FileVault? Any caveats?


We are using Time Machine to backup all of our Macs. There is a stack of four TB drives for my little island of coworkers.

  • Time Machine reminds you to connect the USB drive if you forget
  • Time Machine and File Valut do not play well together. Folks on the net have gotten it to work, but with caveats and "yes...but" qualifications. I tried it out and in the end turned off FileVault.
  • Time Machine can back applications, etc. For restoration, one uses the OSX installation CDs, which then ask the user if they want to restore from a Time Machine backup. That said, we've had licensing issues with some software when restoring a dead Mac.
  • No 'securing' options.
  • Also, only one time machine per Mac without some issues. (Can't have one TM volume at home, and another at the office.) We've not been able to do it successfully, but others have reported that they do this.
  • Basically the choice comes down to, do you want security in case your Mac is stolen, or do you want backups in case your hardware dies? – Bart Silverstrim Apr 20 '10 at 13:57
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    From what I can find, the caveats of FileVault + Time Machine are that you can't use the Galaxy interface for browsing your backups in Time Machine (must restore individual files from Finder, by mounting your sparse image on the backup drive and manually finding what you want to restore), and the backups are done at logoff rather than every hour in the background. Is there anything I'm missing? – Bart Silverstrim Apr 20 '10 at 15:40
  • My Time Vault file was ~80GB, so I didn't bother trying that approach. When I want to shut down, I want to shut down now. :P If you can manage your user's file valut size, and keep in manageable, then maybe that is an option for you and them. That said, I could see impatient users aborting the backup of FV at shut down. "It would not shut down so I hit held down the power button until it turned off" – Stu Thompson Apr 21 '10 at 5:45

Not sure why Stu thinks you can't have more than one time machine volume. You can: http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20090603163307642

So you can have one drive at the office and another drive "off-site" at home, and rotate them.

As for encryption, note that TrueCrypt is also available for Mac and can protect individual files/directories. You can also use small encrypted sparse bundles.

  • Because we have tried it, and the backups did not work. Did you even read the comments in your link? Or did you just do a quick goole, read the headline, and assume I was incorrect? Are you actually doing this yourself? It is not a straight forward "feel free to plug in to drives and all will be good." – Stu Thompson Apr 21 '10 at 5:40
  • Maybe they didn't work for you, but they did for me. I've tried it. I used two separate external TM drives with 10.6.2. It works exactly as the article summary describes. – ane Apr 21 '10 at 14:23
  • Here is how one of the commenters describes it: 'Authored by: Ilo on Thu, Jun 4 2009 at 11:54AM PDT This has always worked since 10.5.0 I have a disk at home and a disk at work, and carry my laptop back and forth as I commute, always plugging it into the local disk when I arrive. And, yes, I have tested the complete system restore function from these disks. This means automatic "off site" backup never older than 12 hours (but a heavier briefcase).' – ane Apr 21 '10 at 14:24

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