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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 5th December 2010

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Verify Time Machine backups

You probably have lots of valuable files on the hard disk drive in your Mac, such as digital photographs you have taken, digital videos you have shot, documents, music bought from the iTunes store and so on. What would happen if there was a problem with your Mac and the hard disk drive corrupted the files or failed completely and the system wouldn't boot? What if your MacBook is stolen?

Of course, the solution is to create backups, lots of them. Backing up is very easy, but it is tedious and you need the right hardware. This means that it doesn't get done as often as it should, but let's assume that you are a conscientious user that makes regular backups. Now here's a question: How do you know they work? You've got Time Machine and a USB drive and it says it has backup up your files, but has it really? How can you tell? An important part of backing up is to test the backups and make sure that they work. Here's how to verify Time Machine backups.

Time MachineIn typical Apple fashion, it is actually very easy to verify to carry out this essential task, but also as is often the case, it is not so obvious how to access the feature and it is hidden. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Click Time Machine in the System section and tick the box that says Show Time Machine Status in the Menu Bar. Close System Preferences and click the Time Machine icon in the menu bar. It enables you to start a backup immediately or it shows the status if it has already started.

Now hold down the Option key and click the Time Machine icon in the menu bar. The menu is slightly different this time and there is an option to verify Time Machine backups. Select it and the backups will be checked to ensure that they can be read back and are error-free. It's an essential task and you don't want to leave it until you actually need to restore a backup before you test whether it actually works.

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