Time Machine - Part I: Is it as good as Apple wants us to believe?

Summary:Over the past few days I've had quite a bit of hands on time with Apple's latest OS - Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard." Rather than rush out a review of the OS I've decided to take my time and take a look at individual aspects of the OS. I'm going to begin with the feature that I'm most interested in - Time Machine.

Over the past few days I've had quite a bit of hands on time with Apple's latest OS - Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard." Rather than rush out a review of the OS I've decided to take my time and take a look at individual aspects of the OS. I'm going to begin with the feature that I'm most interested in - Time Machine.

Time Machine - Part I: Is it as good as Apple wants us to believe?
Check out the Time Machine gallery here.

Time Machine is Apple's answer to the problems associated with backing up data. The idea behind the utility is to make the process as quick, simple, and as painless as possible. The easier the backup process is, the more likely people are to use it and the safer their data will be.

Rather than waffle on about Time machine, I’m just going to cut to the point. Is Time Machine as good as Apple wants us to believe it is? In a word, yes. My experiences with Time Machine so far lead me to conclude that it’s not just good, it’s brilliant. It’s fantastic. It’s what I wish every backup tool was like.

So, why am I thrilled with Time Machine? Well, if you press me for specifics, here are the reasons why, in my mind, Time Machine is an absolute winner:

  • First, it’s easy to use. I’m pretty sure that some power users will think that it’s too easy and that there’s not enough control over what’s backed up, but in my mind simplicity is a good thing. The simpler the backup process, the more likely it is to be used. The greater the complexity, the greater the chance that important files are missed and the greater the chance that users will get bogged down.
  • Time Machine - Part I: Is it as good as Apple wants us to believe?
    Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Time Machine isn’t a system killer once it’s running. My main worry about having a backup tool running hourly was that I’d have to break off from what I was doing hourly and wait until the backup had finished or live with a system that was somewhat unresponsive while the backup was being done. With Time machine this just isn’t the case. The effect that it has on the system (and remember folks, I’m using a lowly Mac mini for my tests) is pretty close to negligible as to be unnoticeable. If the performance is this good on a Mac mini, I’m sure that Time Machine would fly on a more robust system such as the MacBook Pro.
  • Finally, it recovers gracefully from problems such as the backup location being switched off mid-backup. Brilliant!

I’ve yet to fully test Time Machine’s restore feature, but if it’s anything as good as the backup facility, it’s going to be a total winner. I’ve carried out some initial testing (I’ll post my findings later) and what I’ve seen so far suggests that Time Machine is the best backup tool that I’ve ever used – I wish that there was a tool that was as good for Windows (there isn’t, I know, because I’ve tested dozens).

Thoughts?

Topics: Data Management, Apple, Storage

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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