Restore with Apple’s Backup

This is the third and final post in my series on Apple’s Backup software for Mac OS X. The first offered a brief overview and the second described how to use Backup without a MobileMe account. In this article, I’ll explain how to restore your data with Backup.

Backup is a piece of software that Apple offers to MobileMe customers. A predecessor to Time Machine, Backup’s main purpose is to back up data in your home folder, though it can be customized to do more. Of course, even the most flexible backup solution is useless if the restoration process stinks. Fortunately, restoring with Backup is a breeze. Here’s how.

Typical Backup

First, launch Backup as you typically do. Then, select the plan that contains the data you’re after and click Restore. A new window appears. Here you’ll select the backup set you’d like to restore. Next, check the particular content of the restore set you want (see below).

Finally, click Restore Selection. You’re presented with two options. The first lets you restore only missing items. For example, if you’ve got a Backup plan that backs up your Documents folder and you only need a single document, choose this option. You’ll grab the single file and save yourself a lot of time.

Alternatively, if  the entire folder is gone (or even all or most of its contents), opt to replace the existing items. That will restore all files and folders to their original locations using data from that backup, replacing existing items. Here’s a look at the final screen before implementing the restore.

Confirming Activity

If a backup set is particularly large, it could be a bit taxing on Backup, especially on slower Macs. In fact, the app could appear inactive or frozen while processing the backup information. Fortunately, there’s a way to confirm that it’s actually working and not stuck. Here’s how.

First, launch Activity Monitor (it lives in you Utilities folder) and then double-click Backup. Next, click Open Files and Ports. You should see that files are being opened and read by Backup (see below).

Force a Manual Restore

If none of the above methods work, you may have to force a manual restore. First, right-click on the Backup file to reveal its contents and then open the Contents folder. Inside you’ll see another Contents folder. Open that one, too.

You’ll find a file called Backup.sparseimage. Double-click it. A new volume called “Backup” will mount on your desktop. Search inside for the data you want to restore, and simply drag it out of the volume and into the Finder.

Restore to an Alternate Location

Finally, you can opt to restore to a location other than that of the original file(s). To do this, select the Restore to an alternate location check box during the restoration process. A new window appears, asking where you’d like the restored files to be placed.

I’ll conclude my three-part look at Backup with one last trick. Like most contemporary backup solutions, Backup makes incremental backups. That is to say, the first backup of a given data set grabs everything, while subsequent backups only copy what has changed. You can, however, force a full backup at anytime by selecting the set to be backed up and then choosing Full Backup from the Plan menu.

I hope these posts have prompted you to take another look at this oft-neglected software from Apple. It’s actually very useful.