Time Machine almost makes backups fun

OS X Leopard has a fantastic new feature called automated backups. They called it Time Machine and gave it an imaginative cosmic interface but it’s nothing more than a backup service at heart.

Setting up Time Machine was delightfully easy: I started Time Machine and it asked for a location to store backups. I plugged a Firewire drive into the laptop and clicked its icon. I was momentarily put off when I had no choice in the matter of whether to reformat the drive; I thought it meant I would not be able to use the drive normally but I was wrong. I guess it just needed Apple’s journaled file system. Less than an hour later, all of my files were backed up and for the first time in ages, I felt inviolable against data loss.

As long as I leave the backup drive plugged in, Time Machine makes an incremental backup each hour. If I unmount and unplug the drive, Time Machine patiently waits for the next time I attach the hard drive and then quietly resumes its duties.

I tested the file restoration facility by deleting and restoring a few files. You probably saw the interface already, so I won’t recap the Apple hype here. What I found really nice was that I could be looking at a folder in Finder and when I invoked Time Machine (via Quicksilver, which I won’t link here because their server has been down all weekend) that folder was conveniently selected. I also liked that I could see the deleted pictures in Cover Flow mode without having to restore them first. This is much, much nicer than the Windows XP Recycle Bin.

The cosmic interface works well but I don’t like that I can’t resize the Finder window to more than about half the screen. The Time Machine cosmos is an unabashed screen hog. That’s my only complaint and it’s a small one.

Another perk with Time Machine, which Steve Jobs did not deem sexy enough for his demo, is the way the backup archives are mounted. You can browse each hourly snapshot the same way you browse your hard drive, whether you prefer Finder or Terminal or something else. Here are mine:

Time Machine archives

I will spare Apple the “what took you so long” diatribe and just say that it was worth the wait. Thanks, Apple.

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