How to Restore Mac from Backup?

“Why should I backup my Mac?” is a typical question asked by new users of Apple devices. Making regular Mac OS backups is a reasonable practice for any MacBook Pro/Air, Mac Mini or iMac user. Keeping a data backup someplace safe will prevent you from data loss or corruption that can seriously hinder your work or personal life. Experiencing an Apple device crash can be very unfortunate, especially in the middle of an important project.

How to Restore Your Mac from Time Machine Backup?

If you’re using Time Machine for regular data backups, you can easily restore individual files or recover the whole operating system. If you have the OS X backup file stored in the AirPort Time Capsule or on an external storage device, you can try to restore your data to another Mac. The possibility of moving your files to new Mac is extremely hassle-free with the Time Machine utility.

To make a Time Machine backup, do the following:

  • In the Apple menu, go to System Preferences -> select Time Machine.
  • Click Select Backup Disk -> pick the disk you want to backup.
  • To enable an automatic back up to a specific disk, tick Back Up Automatically

To restore selected files from the Time Machine backup, follow these steps:

  1. Access a specific folder/open a window where the deleted item used to locate. For instance:
  • Open the Documents folder to retrieve the file you mistakenly deleted from your Documents folder.
  • Open an inbox folder in the Mail app to recover a specific email.
  • To restore the earlier version of a document (provided that you’re using the app that saves multiple file versions), access the document and launch Time Machine.

2. After you launch Time Machine, you will see multiple versions of a file that used to locate in a given folder.

restore mac backup
multiple versions of file

3. To search for a file that you need to restore, do the following:

  • View the timeline located on the right side of the screen to find the needed file version by time and date as it is stored in the Time Machine backup.
  • To jump to the latest file version, use the up and down arrows located on the screen or a search field to find the file.

Once you find the needed file, select it and press Space Bar for a preview.

4. Click Restore to put back the chosen item, or click the item while holding the Control key to select other options.

How to Recover Your Mac from Local Backup?

If you keep your Time Machine backup locally on your Mac, do the following:

  1. Reboot your Mac, holding down Command-R. Wait until the macOS Utilities window shows up.
  2. In the macOS Utilities menu, choose Restore from Time Machine Backup to completely restore your Mac. After that, click Continue.
  3. After landing on the ‘Restore Your System’ page, click Continue
  4. Pick the Time Machine Backup file and click Continue.
  5. If you have several files, choose the most recent backup displayed in the app’s interface -> click Continue.

After your Mac is restored, it will restart once again to finalize the procedure.

How to Restore Backup from External Hard Drive on Mac?

In case you have a Mac backup, or a cloned copy on the external hard drive/USB, you can restore from a backup, or create a bootable installer.

  1. Restart your Mac, holding down the Command-R key combination.
  2. Once your Mac boots into macOS Utilities, select Disk Utility -> click Continue.
  3. Choose your Mac's hard drive -> click the Restore tab at the top of the Disk Utility
  4. Next to ‘Restore from’ pick the external hard drive/USB drive where the backup is located.
  5. Next to ‘Restore to’ pick your Mac's hard drive -> click Restore.

    After that, your Mac will restore the backup and then restart when finished. To restore from a bootable backup, reboot your Mac while holding down the Option key and select to restore from the clone on your external hard drive to your local hard drive.

How to Restore Your Mac from Cloud Backup?

Some Mac users prefer cloud-drive backup services like iCloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox and the like. The cloud storage services allow keeping massive amounts of data remotely, so you don’t have to worry about external drives or storage space. To get your backup files in case of emergency, you will need to download the files from the remote servers. Some services (Backblaze) can provide a physical copy of your data on a hard drive. If you choose to buy a paid subscription, most programs will provide a Restore files tool integrated directly into the user interface. So, you will need to launch the remote app on your Mac computer or visit a website.

Unlike Time Machine, iCloud won’t back up your system, but it can back up selected data to the cloud. To set up iCloud, go to System Preferences -> click on iCloud. Next, authenticate with your Apple ID, and select the types of data to back up in the dialog box. After that, your files will transfer to the iCloud Drive, and you’ll be able to access them on the available Apple devices. To enable the automatic iTunes downloads for your music and apps, launch the iTunes app -> select Preferences -> click Downloads -> tick Music, Movies, TV Shows, and Apps.

Restore Cloud Backup
iCloud drive

Apple users get 5GB of iCloud storage space for free. However, this is insufficient for storing significant amounts of data. Consider purchasing a paid iCloud subscription plan at a price of $2.99/month for 200GB, or $9.99/month for 1TB. If you wish to switch to a paid iCloud subscription, click on the Manage button in the bottom-right corner -> select Change Storage Plan.

Using a cloud service to store your Mac’s backup files can be handy if you don’t have a physical copy with a backup. However, using a cloud storage requires a broadband internet connection and time to download the files.

Bottom Line

Making regular Mac backups is essential to avoid data loss. System and file backups allow restoring your data with minimum effort and time spent. To make a backup, Mac owners can use the onboard Time Machine utility, or other third-party applications they see fit. Using Time Machine allows recovering selected files and folders or macOS entirely. Also, there is an array of options for storing the backup files: internal or external hard drives, USB flash drives, AirPort Time Capsule, iCloud Drive or other cloud services.