Use Time Machine to back up or restore your Mac -- October 16, 2015
Time Machine backs up all of your files to an external hard drive so that you can restore them later or see how they looked in the past.
Set up Time Machine
Time Machine is the built-in backup feature of OS X. To use it, you need one of these external storage solutions, sold separately:
External hard drive connected to a USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt port on your Mac
Time Capsule or OS X Server on your network
External hard drive connected to the USB port of an AirPort Extreme (802.11ac) base station on your network
When you connect an external hard drive directly to your Mac, you might be asked if you want to use the drive to back up with Time Machine. Click “Use as Backup Disk.” If you select the option to encrypt, your backups will be accessible only to users with the password.
If Time Machine doesn't ask you to choose a backup disk:
Open Time Machine preferences from the Time Machine menu Time Machine icon in the menu bar. Or choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Time Machine.
Click Select Backup Disk.
Select an external hard drive, Time Capsule, or other storage solution from the list, then click Use Disk.
After you choose a backup disk, optionally click “Add or Remove Backup Disk” to add more backup disks for extra security and convenience.
Time Machine preferences
Back up using Time Machine
After you set up Time Machine, it automatically makes hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. The oldest backups are deleted when your backup drive is full.
To back up now instead of waiting for the next automatic backup, choose Back Up Now from the Time Machine menu Time Machine icon.
To stop automatic backups, turn off Time Machine in Time Machine preferences. You can still back up manually by choosing Back Up Now from the Time Machine menu.
To pause a backup, choose Stop Backup from the Time Machine menu. To resume, choose Back Up Now.
To check backup status, use the Time Machine menu. The icon shows when Time Machine is backing up In progess, idle until the next automatic backup Idle, or unable to complete the backup Can't backupCan't back up.
To exclude items from your backup, open Time Machine preferences from the Time machine menu, click Options, then click Add and select the item to exclude.
Your first backup may take a long time, depending on how many files you have. You can continue using your Mac while a backup is underway. Some Mac computers make backups even when asleep. Time Machine backs up only the files that changed since the previous backup, so future backups will be faster.
Restore from a Time Machine backup
Restore specific files:
Choose Enter Time Machine from the Time Machine menu Time Machine icon, or click Time Machine in the Dock.
Find the files to restore:
Use the timeline on the edge of the screen to see the files in your Time Machine backup as they were at that date and time. The timeline may also include local snapshots.
Use the onscreen up and down arrows to jump to the last time the contents of the window changed. You can also use the search field in a window to find a file, then move through time while focused on changes to that file.
Select a file and press Space Bar to preview the file and make sure it's the one you want.
Click Restore to restore the selected file, or Control-click the file for other options.
To restore everything in your Time Machine backup, use OS X Recovery.
To copy the files, settings, and OS X user accounts in your backup to another Mac, use Migration Assistant.
If a flashing question mark appears when you start your Mac -- October 16, 2015
If you see a flashing question mark on your Mac's screen at startup, it means your Mac can't find its system software.
If the question mark appears for only a few seconds
If your Mac displays a flashing question mark for a few moments but then continues to start up, you might need to reselect your startup disk in System Preferences.
Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu.
Click the Startup Disk icon in the System Preferences window.
Click the icon of the volume you normally use to start up your computer (usually named "Macintosh HD").
Close the System Preferences window.
Your Mac should now start up without the flashing question mark.
If your Mac doesn't start up
If your Mac starts up to a flashing question mark but then doesn't continue starting up, try these steps.
Turn off your Mac by pressing and holding the power button for a few seconds.
Press the power button once to turn your Mac back on. When you hear the startup sound, immediately press and hold the Command and R keys on your keyboard to start your Mac from OS X Recovery. Keep these two keys held down until you see an Apple logo or globe appear.
If prompted, select a Wi-Fi network to connect to the Internet as part of startup.
After the Recovery screen appears, click the Apple menu and choose Startup Disk.
Select your startup disk, then click Restart.
If you don't see your startup disk listed in the Startup Disk window, close the window and try the next sections of this article.
If you don't see your startup disk
If you don't see your startup disk in the Startup Disk window, use these steps to see if your startup disk needs directory repair.
Open Disk Utility from the Recovery window.
In the Disk Utility window, select your startup disk (usually named "Macintosh HD") from the left side of the window.
Click the First Aid tab.
Click the Repair Disk button to verify and repair any issues with your startup disk.
After your disk is successfully repaired, quit Disk Utility.
Click the Apple menu and choose Startup Disk. Select your startup disk, then click Restart. If you still don't see your Startup Disk, try reinstalling OS X on your startup disk.
If you don't see your built-in startup disk in the Disk Utility window, or if Disk Utility indicates there's a hardware issue, your Mac might need repair. Make an appointment with an Apple Genius or an Apple Authorized Service Provider for more help.
If Disk Utility can't repair your startup disk
If Disk Utility finds issues with your startup disk that it can't repair, you might need to reformat it. You should back up any important data on your startup disk before erasing it. Erasing your startup disk deletes everything stored on it, including items in your home folder like your documents and items on your desktop.
Back up your data
If you don't have a recent backup of personal data that's stored on your startup disk, use these steps to try to back up your data.
Connect an external USB, Thunderbolt or FireWire drive to your Mac. The drive needs to be the same size or larger than your current startup disk. It also needs to be a drive that you can erase.
Use OS X Recovery to erase the external drive, then install OS X onto the external drive. Make sure that you select the external disk as the one you want to erase. Don't select your built-in startup disk (usually named "Macintosh HD").
After installation is finished, your Mac automatically restarts from the external drive. When Setup Assistant appears, select the option to migrate your data from another disk. Choose your built-in startup disk as the source to migrate your data from.
When migration is done, complete Setup Assistant. After the desktop appears, confirm your data is present on the external drive.
Reformat your built-in startup disk
After you back up your important data, use OS X Recovery to erase your built-in startup disk and reinstall OS X. Make sure you select the built-in startup disk as the one you want to erase. When installation is finished, your Mac automatically restarts from your built-in startup disk.
If you're unable to erase your startup disk or reinstall OS X, your Mac might need repair. Make an appointment with an Apple Genius or an Apple Authorized Service Provider for more help.
Restore your data
After you erase your startup disk and reinstall OS X, your Mac automatically restarts and Setup Assistant appears. To copy your personal data back to your startup disk, select the option in Setup Assistant to migrate your data from an existing Time Machine backup or another disk. Choose the external drive as the source to migrate your data from and complete Setup Assistant.
What to do before selling or giving away your Mac -- December 26, 2015
Learn how to back up and remove the data from your Mac before selling or giving the computer away
When preparing to sell or give away your Mac, you may want to erase some or all files from its hard drive. But first determine whether you should back up your computer and disable certain features and services. These steps show the recommended sequence of actions:
- Deauthorize your computer from iTunes, if applicable.
- Back up your data using Time Machine or other backup methods for OS X Mavericks or Mountain Lion.
- If you use Find My Mac or other iCloud features on this Mac, complete these steps:
- Back up your iCloud content.
- Choose Apple Menu () > System Preferences, then click iCloud
- Deselect the Find My Mac checkbox.
- Sign out of iCloud. When you sign out of iCloud, you're asked whether you want to remove iCloud data from your Mac. Removing iCloud data in this way makes sure that the data isn't also removed from any of your other devices that are using the same iCloud account.
If you're using OS X Mountain Lion v10.8 or later, sign out of iMessage:
- In the Messages app, choose Preferences > Accounts.
- Select your iMessage account, then click Sign Out.
Reformat your hard drive and reinstall OS X. Follow the appropriate instructions
After you reformat your hard drive and reinstall OS X, the computer restarts to a Welcome screen and asks you to choose a country or region. If you want to leave the Mac in an out-of-box state, don't continue with the setup of your system. Instead, press Command-Q to shut down the Mac. When the new owner turns on the Mac, the Setup Assistant will guide them through the setup process.
How to reinstall OS X on your Mac -- October 16, 2015
If you've erased or replaced your startup disk, you can use OS X Recovery to reinstall OS X.
You might need to reinstall OS X for these reasons:
You see a prohibitory symbol at startup.
You inadvertently installed a version of OS X that's older than what came with your Mac.
You erased your startup disk, or are setting up a new startup disk.
You don't have to reinstall OS X for these things:
If you want to update or upgrade OS X, use the Mac App Store to install updates or to install a newer version of OS X while leaving your personal data intact.
If you see unexpected behavior that happens only in one user account on your Mac, you likely don't need to reinstall OS X to resolve the issue. Try starting your Mac in Safe Mode, or search Apple's support site for the specific symptom or message you're seeing instead.
If you need to reinstall OS X, you can use one of these methods:
Reinstall OS X from Recovery
If have a recent Mac, you can use OS X Recovery to reinstall OS X.
Turn on your Mac.
Immediately after you hear the startup sound, hold the Command and R keys on your keyboard.
Release the keys after the Apple logo appears.
If prompted, select a Wi-Fi network, or connect your Mac to the Internet using an Ethernet cable.
After the Recovery menu appears, select the option to Install OS X.
Follow the onscreen prompts to select your destination disk and install OS X.
These steps reinstall the latest version of OS X that you previously had installed on your Mac. If you want to reinstall the version of OS X that came with your Mac, hold Command-Option-R at startup instead. This starts your Mac from Internet Recovery.
Restore from a Time Machine backup
If you have a backup of your system that you created with Time Machine, you can Restore from a Time Machine Backup to reinstall OS X and your personal files. Selecting this option erases the drive you're restoring to and restores the version of OS X that was installed at the time you created the selected backup.
Restart your Mac. Immediately hold down the Command (⌘) and R keys after you hear the startup sound to start up in
OS X Recovery.
When the Recovery window appears, select the option to Restore from Time Machine Backup.
Select your Time Machine backup disk.
Select the Time Machine backup you want to restore.
Click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions to reinstall OS X and your backed up files.
Erase your drive and install OS X
Generally you don't need to erase your startup disk to reinstall OS X. The OS X Installer is designed to allow you to perform an install in place over the same version or earlier versions of OS X. If you're transferring your Mac to a new owner, you might want to erase your built-in startup disk before reinstalling OS X.
Important: Before you erase and reinstall, back up your important files. If you’re using a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro, make sure the power adapter is connected and plugged in while performing these steps.
You can use these steps to erase the files on your startup disk and install a new copy of OS X:
Before you begin, make sure your Mac is connected to the Internet.
Restart your Mac. Immediately hold down the Command (⌘) and R keys after you hear the startup sound to start up in OS X Recovery.
When the Recovery window appears, select Disk Utility then click Continue.
Select the indented volume name of your startup disk from the left side of the Disk Utility window, then click the Erase tab.
If you want to securely erase the drive, click Security Options. Select an erase method, then click OK.
From the Format pop-up menu, select Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Type a name for your disk, then click Erase.
After the drive is erased, close the Disk Utility window.
If you’re not connected to the Internet, choose a network from the Wi-Fi menu.
Select the option to Reinstall OS X.
Click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions to reinstall OS X.
If you want to reinstall the version of OS X that came with your Mac, or if you need to reformat your entire startup disk, hold down Command-Option-R at startup instead. This starts your Mac from Internet Recovery.
If you have more than one partition (like Boot Camp) and you want to erase the entire startup disk, you can use Disk Utility to remove partitions or repartition your drive. Start your Mac from Internet Recovery, then use Disk Utility to repartition your startup disk before you erase it. Make sure you back up any important data from all partitions before repartitioning a drive.
Upgrade to OS X El Capitan -- December 31, 2015
Use the Mac App Store to install OS X El Capitan on Mac computers that meet the system requirements.
Can your Mac use El Capitan?
OS X El Capitan requires one of the following Mac models and versions of OS X. It also requires at least 2GB of memory and 8GB of storage space
- iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
- MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, Early 2009, or newer)
- MacBook Pro (Mid 2007 or newer)
- MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
- Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
- Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
- Xserve (Early 2009)
- OS X Yosemite v10.10
- OS X Mavericks v10.9
- OS X Mountain Lion v10.8
- OS X Lion v10.7
- Mac OS X Snow Leopard v10.6.8
To find your model, memory, storage, and version of OS X, choose About This Mac from the Apple menu.Upgrade to El Capitan from the Mac App Store
- Before upgrading, it's a good idea to back up up your Mac. Then open the Mac App Store and follow these steps:
- Search for El Capitan on the Mac App Store, or go directly to the El Capitan page.
- Click the Download button for El Capitan. After downloading, the installer opens automatically.
- Click Continue and follow the onscreen instructions.
If you quit the installer instead of clicking Continue, you can open it later from your Applications folder. During installation, your Mac might restart several times. It then performs some initial setup tasks in the background. While those tasks are underway, activities such as using Spotlight or Mail might not seem as fast as they were before.
Don't have the Mac App Store?
If you're using Snow Leopard, check for software updates by choosing Software Update from the Apple menu. After installing all Snow Leopard updates, you'll have the Mac App Store.
If you're using Leopard, upgrade to Snow Leopard, then use the Mac App Store to upgrade to El Capitan.
To get versions of OS X that you previously downloaded from the Mac App Store, click Purchased in the Mac App Store toolbar.
To reinstall OS X after erasing your startup drive, use OS X Recovery
How to get software updates for your Mac -- December 26, 2015
Update OS X and apps that you got through the Mac App Store or from Apple.
Use the Mac App Store
- Open the App Store app on your Mac.
- Click Updates in the toolbar.
- Update each app individually, or click Update All to install all available updates.
- To find software upgrades instead of updates, use Search in the upper-right corner of the window. An upgrade is a major new version of the software. For example, OS X El Capitan is an upgrade from OS X Yosemite or earlier.
Or use Software Update
- The Mac App Store is included with OS X Snow Leopard v10.6.6 and later. If you don't have the Mac App Store, choose Software Update from the Apple menu, then follow the onscreen instructions. Some software updates are also available from the Apple Support Downloads site:
Safari is included with OS X. To get the most recent version of Safari, upgrade to the most recent version of OS X.
Basic Mac Troubleshooting -- December 26, 2015
While Macs tend to be very reliable and require little maintenance things can sometimes go awry. This guide aims to provide some basic steps to resolving the more common problems we see at Mac-Forums. While this guide is by no means comprehensive, hopefully one of the methods below helps to get your Mac back on the right track.
METHOD ONE: QUICK FIXES
- Restart your computer
- This may seem obvious, but many times we’re so used to just letting our computers sleep when we’re not using them, we don’t think much about the occasional need to do a full reboot. Sometimes simply shutting the computer down, turning it off and bringing it back up after 30 seconds is enough to solve a problem.
- Run Software Update
- Apple regularly releases patches and new features through the Software Update system. If it’s been awhile since you’ve run it, now might be a good time.
- Clean Your Caches
- There are several free tools that will do this for you – the most often recommended on Mac-Forums is Onyx. For those who prefer a simpler interface the creators of Onyx have a simplified version they call Maintenance. Even if you don’t have one of those you can still do it manually. Just delete everything in the folders Library/Caches and in Users/*Your User Name*/Library/Caches. When finished reboot.
METHOD TWO: RESOLVING APPLICATION-SPECIFIC PROBLEMS
- Delete the .plist file
- If it is a particular program that is giving you problems delete its preferences (.plist) in ‘Your User Name’/Library/Preferences
- Uninstall and then reinstall the offending application
- If it is a particular program that is giving you problems and deleting the .plist file didn’t help, then uninstall and reinstall the application.
- Important – If the application came with an Installer, it may also have an uninstaller. In these cases, you’ll want to avoid just deleting it or using a third-party removal tool. Often that uninstall utility will have been contained in the original DMG file that the program came packaged in. If you don’t have the original DMG file, it may be a good idea to re-download the program.
METHOD THREE: CORRECTING DISK ISSUES
- Repair Disk Permissions
- Go to Applications -> Utilities and find Disk Utility. Select your system drive (usually called “Macintosh HD”) in the left window pane. Click the First Aid tab in the right pane. Click “Verify Permissions” and then “Repair Permissions” if needed.
- Run Disk Repair
- This can either be done from the First Aid tab in Disk Utility (as described in step 6), but in some cases may need to be done by booting from your System Discs.
- Turn your computer on and hold down the Option key. This will bring up the boot menu. Insert your Mac OS X system disc and after a few seconds, it should appear as a boot option. Choose it and the system should boot from your disc.
- When the Mac OS X installer screen appears, click through it until the Menu bar appears. In the Utilities menu, you should find Disk Utility. Once Disk Utility opens, select your system drive (usually called “Macintosh HD”) in the left window pane. Click the First Aid tab in the right pane. Click Verify Disk and then Repair Disk (if needed).
- File System Check
- Start with the computer powered off. Turn it on and immediately press and hold Command + S. This starts the computer in “single user mode”, which is text-based. When the text stops scrolling down the screen, type:
…and then press the Enter key.
The process should show any corrections it made. If it does find problems, run the command again until it comes up with no further problems. When finished, type exit and the computer should restart.
: CORRECTING FIRMWARE ISSUES
- Reset the PRAM
- Start with the computer powered off. Turn it on and immediately press and hold Command + Option + P + R. Continue holding until you hear the system chime three times.
- Reset Non-volatile RAM
- Start with the computer powered off. Turn it on and immediately press and hold Command + Option + O + F and wait for the command prompt. Type:
…and press the Enter key.
: USING ONLINE RESOURCES TO FIND SOLUTIONS
- Search Mac-Forums
- Mac-Forums has accumulated a wealth of knowledge over time. Chances are that if you’ve run into a problem, someone else has run into that same problem in the past.
- From the main forum window, you’ll find the Search button at the upper-right corner. Simply enter a few keywords (or even an error message) into the search field and you should come up with some results.
- You can further refine your search by using the “Search this thread” button within a particular thread
- Search the Apple Support Knowledge Base
- If none of the previous steps have helped, try browsing over to Apple – Support.
- Once there, you can either browse to look at articles specific to your model, or do a search for keywords to see if there are any articles specific to your problem.
: TYING UP LOOSE ENDS
- Run the Apple Hardware Test
- If you’ve made it this far without resolution, it may be helpful to rule out hardware problems (like a bad hard drive or memory) before taking more drastic measures. The Apple Hardware Test is run in two different ways depending on the type of Mac you have:
- Before you consider reinstalling the operating system
- Mac OS X, like many UNIX-based operating systems, rarely requires a complete reinstall. Those of us that are accustomed to Windows may find this unbelievable, but the truth is, OS X simply doesn’t allow the user to make major modifications to it. Most changes are confined to your “Home” directory.
- So before you try to reinstall the operating system, try creating a new account for yourself. You don’t need to delete the old one just yet – see if a new account still encounters the same issue. If it doesn’t, you can copy over the data from your old home folder and then delete the account.