How Time Machine Backups Work When using iCloud

Does Time Machine backup all of your files when you are using iCloud Drive? The answer depends on whether you are using the Optimize Mac Storage function. But even with it on, chances are you are well protected.

Comments: 18 Responses to “How Time Machine Backups Work When using iCloud”

    Kay Fisher
    3 months ago

    I have an extensive backup strategy. Part of it (a small part) is shuffeling two 5TB removable drives between house and off site storage. I have always backed up my Macbook Pro and My iMac Pro to the same disk.
    I get this warning new everytime: Should this computer claim the existing backups on the disk "Backup2 5TB"?
    I always answer yes. Everything seems to be fine. Is this OK?
    Please don't advise me to use separate drives. I also do that.

    Respectfully,
    Kay Fisher

    3 months ago

    Kay: That sounds fine, but I've never seen that message myself. My backup process is not like yours.

    Frank Scully
    3 months ago

    Hi Gary

    What would happen in the case where say "File E" has not been used and is not stored locally and we started using using TimeMachine some time after it was released from the local drive. Then we have a disk crash or lost or stolen computer.
    When we first restore the folder from TimeMachine "File E" will not be present. My concern is that iCloud will interpret that as the file was deleted as it is not there and do the same on the cloud

    3 months ago

    Frank: I cover that in the video. You restore from Time Machine and that doesn't help File E. But it is on iCloud Drive, so it doesn't matter. iCloud Drive would not think you deleted it because you didn't. It would still be available in iCloud on other devices or the web while you waited for your new computer, and then when you connected the new computer to iCloud it would be there without missing a beat. This happens every time someone buys a new Mac, not just when one is stolen or breaks.

    Mark
    3 months ago

    Fantastic Explanation Gary. I could store everything on my local drive and don't really need to do optimize but that's only because I went to the new M1 iMac and got a 2TB drive. But after hearing your explanation, I think I'll just leave it at optimize as I see no great danger.

    Thanks again!
    Mark

    Kathy
    3 months ago

    Thanks Gary for the excellent video. Can you tell me if a New M1 24” iMac running latest OS would have any issue with Time Machine where I would like to use two external HDD drives, one connected all the time, and the 2nd configured in TM but only connected twice a week to create redundant backups? Would TM get confused by this backup strategy? I eject and the 2nd drive before it’s unplugged, but leave it configured in TM. I trust your experience and expertise. Thanks K

    3 months ago

    Kathy: I don't see why there would be a problem. Time Machine is software and it shouldn't matter while Mac model you have.

    Kathy
    3 months ago

    Hi Gary, thank you for your response. Have you seen issues with time machine where the program could get confused in a situation that I described above? Could it possibly wake up the sleeping iMac while it 'searched' for the non connected but configured HDD I wonder? Thanks in advance.

    3 months ago

    Kathy: It is designed to work with more than one drive. Many people have one at home and one at work and setups like that. It won't wonder where the other drive is, it knows it isn't connected.

    Moira Salerno
    2 months ago

    Gary, I have 5 TB external HD used for time machine on iMac I will be getting rid of. Can I access the time machine back up data on my new MacBook Pro? And Can I use that same drive on my new MacBook Pro to start a brand new Time Machine back up? I did not use Time machine to transfer the Data and I had issues using the migration application and most of my Data was transferred via iCloud.

    2 months ago

    Moira: You can plug it in and select the drive and use Time Machine to get a file off of it if you want. You can also erase it and use it as a backup for your new Mac. Of course, once you do that, the old data is gone so make sure you have everything you need. If you still have your old Mac then you can always keep that around for a while too to make sure you have everything you need.

    Moira Salerno
    1 month ago

    Gary, So its sounds like I can't use the iMAC Time Machines external hard drive and keep the backup on it and then start a new time machine backup for the new MacBook pro? Apple said one external drive per computer. This seems like a maybe an Apple software change because few years ago I used one (1) external drive for three (3) Macs we had in the household.

    1 month ago

    Moira: I think it should still work, but I would say it is definitely "best practice" to use one per computer when connected via USB. Do you really need to the old backup now that you have moved to a new computer?

    Moira Salerno
    1 month ago

    Gary, Lol....probably not. I am wondering if there are more people like me that just can't let go of their old back up hard drives and USB thumb drives "just in case" I have a pile of them.

    Frank Scully
    3 weeks ago

    Gary, How does iCloud or any other synch service know that the file was Deleted as opposed to Missing as in the case where a partial restore was done by timemachine or any other backup strategy?

    One more thing I accidentally deleted a file using my OneDrive. Fortunately there is a Recyclye Bin

    3 weeks ago

    Frank: Note that there is a big difference between a "sync service" and a cloud service. Cloud services like iCloud Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and others store files on a remote server and give you access to these files on all of your devices. They are frequently cached locally so you can open a file instantly rather than waiting for a download. But it is always best to think of files as one file in one location that you can access from everywhere.
    Your situation would be unusual and it is hard to judge what would happen because it depends on the details. If you were restoring a Mac and there was an error that caused a partial restore, I'm not sure what would happen. It would depend on the error and the situation. Typically you wouldn't restore a file that is "already there," which would be the case with iCloud Drive. Not sure how OneDrive handles it.
    So there's no good answer because what you are suggesting is a pretty serious error happening (partial restore) in a situation where you wouldn't even do a restore from Time Machine (just log back into OneDrive instead).

    Frank Scully
    2 weeks ago

    Gary: What I meant by "partial restore" was that some files were missing from local backup ( ie files created AFTER local backup was done) .. I am wondering if the better strategy, is to not restore from local backup at all, for folders backed up on iCloud as it should be there anyways

    2 weeks ago

    Frank: I don't think it would make a difference. If the file is in iCloud Drive it will show up on the new machine.

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