iCloud Is Not a Substitute For a Time Machine Backup With Your Mac

Many people decide to skip using a backup like Time Machine to protect the files on their Mac, in favor of simply using iCloud Drive and iCloud Photos. While cloud services are a great way to sync and access your files across devices, they fall short when compared to backing up with something like Time Machine. Learn why you should use Time Machine in addition to iCloud to keep your files and photos safe.

Comments: 31 Responses to “iCloud Is Not a Substitute For a Time Machine Backup With Your Mac”

    Alex
    10 months ago

    Hello,

    Based on your extensive experience and knowledge in particular (thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!) would like to ask you how big the HDD is required for the normal functioning of TimeMachine that we not worry about space? 1TB HDD is OK?

    Best regards

    10 months ago

    Alex: I recommend getting one as large as you can. In general, I would get one twice the total size of the drive(s) you are backing up. So if you just have a 1TB internal and nothing else, get a 2TB. But check prices. If it is just a few bucks more for a 4TB, then why not go with that?

    Alex
    10 months ago

    Thanks for the detailed information and very quick response.

    Best regards

    Mike Ganey
    10 months ago

    Would it make sense in the future to enable Time Machine backups to iCloud? Combine the benefits of both. Right now, I use Backblaze for cloud backups, plus Time Machine, plus iCloud for storage.

    10 months ago

    Mike: One problem is storage space and cost. Most Mac users would then fall into the largest tier of iCloud storage. You and I wouldn’t mind as we are already paying for online backups. But it would be a barrier to entry for others. Another factor that keeps people away from online backups is connection speed and bandwidth limits.

    Brian
    10 months ago

    I’ve found it shocking the number of people who have told me that they used iCloud as a backup. I’ve shared with them the points you’ve made in this video. Now, I can save myself some time and just share a link to your video. Thanks! BTW: the sync between audio and video in your clip was noticeably not very good. I don’t know if it was my iMac or the software you use to create your clips. But, I haven’t notice any issues with videos from other sources.

    Ian Maitland
    10 months ago

    I use Time Machine, iCloud and Google Drive, but apart from loss I fear viruses and ransomware. Does Time Machine provide any protection here?
    I connect a separate back up drive daily just for the time needed for the back up and then disconnect, and do an additional back up of main folders to Google Drive once a month. Do cloud services protect against malware ?

    10 months ago

    Ian: It would depend on the theoretical future ransomware — how it works and what it does, and also what you did to allow it to run on your Mac. It could be that Time Machine offers some protection, but anything is possible. But things like that aren’t a threat if you don’t install software you don’t trust. I don’t see how the cloud protects against malware in any way, other than just being another place where your data is stored. Again, it depends on the malware. The vast majority today is adware and has nothing to do with data loss.

    Charles Smay
    10 months ago

    Gary, Another great Video! Time machne has saved me several times when I lost files. As you suggest I also use a couple of different exteranal storage drives. However I did manage to make a serious mistake with TM files. Am confessing here so perhaps you can warn others. Rather than letting TM delete files, for some dumb reason I durg some to my trash folder. Now can’t delete them. How do you get rid of TM files that are in the mac HD trash?

    10 months ago

    Charles: That’s a tough one. I’m not sure (and not willing to intentionally make the mistake to try it!)

    K Long
    10 months ago

    Gary, I do not use a Mac and ONLY use iPhone and iPad for everything and all is backed up on the cloud, not sure of any other way to backup mobile devices and wondering if you feel this is ok.

    10 months ago

    K Long: Yes, backing up to iCloud is probably your best bet.

    Eckart Goette
    10 months ago

    I am unable to restore a deleted calendar from Time Machine. The calendar app will disappear when going back in time. However, iCloud Drive offers a calendar restore function. Can anyone show me how to restore a deleted calendar from Time Machine?

    10 months ago

    Eckart: Was the Calendar a local one, or one from your iCloud account? If an iCloud one, I don’t know if it was ever “on” you computer to be saved to Time Machine, other than cached data. The same as a website is never on your machine, you are just viewing it.

    Eckart Goette
    10 months ago

    Gary: You are right in that the calendar is from an iCloud account. Thanks for the explanation. That’s why SuperDuper! was no help either. I even tried to in Finder go to ~/library, went back in time and restored an older calendar folder. That did not restore the deleted calendar. But iCloud’s restore function did work. Very little documented help though on this topic.

    Bruce M
    10 months ago

    Another misconception I’ve seen is about cloud backup services, such as BackBlaze (which I use faithfully). BackBlaze is great as “offsite” redundant storage, so if your house burns down with BOTH your computer and TM drive, you still have your data. But you can’t restore a Mac fully (no apps, system files). TM is essential–thanks for covering the topic.

    Janice McLeod
    10 months ago

    I have a MacBook Pro and Time Machine (purchased together) from 2010. My poor, overworked MacBook Pro will soon be replaced with a shiny, new model but I’ve been wondering if my “old” 2010 model Time Machine will be compatible with a current generation MacBook Pro. What are your thoughts? Also if replacing both is your recommendation, any thoughts on Time Machines life span as compared to the MacBook Pro or Desk Top models? Thanks

    10 months ago

    Janice: “Time Machine” is the software that comes with macOS to back up your data. You don’t purchase it. Do you mean an external hard drive or perhaps an Apple “Time Capsule” router? Either one will work with your new Mac.

    Janice McLeod
    10 months ago

    Hi again Gary, yes it would be the Time Capsule Router that I’m referring to, which (yeah) is still working fine. I just wasn’t sure if there maybe compatibility issues given a difference of about 10 years between a 2010 Time Capsule and the 2020 MacBook Pro.

    Janice McLeod
    10 months ago

    Hi again Gary, yes it would be the Time Capsule Router that I’m referring to, which (yeah) is still working fine. I just wasn’t sure if there maybe compatibility issues given a difference of about 10 years between a 2010 Time Capsule and the 2020 MacBook Pro.

    Karl
    10 months ago

    Gary, I really miss the Time Capsule routers, I wish Apple would have continued making them, they were so simple to use. Can you hook up an external drive to a router to get the same benefits as the old Time Capsule routers, does it work as good as having the external drive directly connected to your MacBook? Do you recommend an SSD driver over a regular one? Thanks

    10 months ago

    Karl: Yes, you can and many people do. But your router has to support using external drives over the network like that. I DO NOT recommend using an SSD. It is a waste of money. You don’t need the speed of an SSD to do network backups. Just get a regular HDD. The advantage to a drive connected directly is that it is faster. The advantage to a network drive is it works better with laptops when they can’t always be connected to a drive because you they aren’t sitting in the same spot. So for a desktop just get a USB drive. For a laptop, a network drive has advantages.

    Hilary
    8 months ago

    I’m having a hard time finding the answer to this question…
    I have two Macs – one that I use daily (MacBook Pro with less memory/storage) and one desktop that is super slow but has a ton of storage. So, I was hoping to use iCloud drive/storage to use my laptop as my main computer and allow it to optimize iCloud Storage. But then use TimeMachine and Backblaze as my backup solution only connected to the desktop. But does time machine and backblaze backup icloud? Can’t figure this out.

    8 months ago

    Hilary: If you set up your desktop Mac to NOT “optimize” so that every single file in iCloud Drive is also fully downloaded on your desktop Mac, then any backup you do of your hard drive should include all of your files. For Backblaze you may want to check to make sure it is backing up those files. Just pick a few and try restoring them from Backblaze to see.

    Hilary A Rhodes
    8 months ago

    Hi Gary, thanks so much for the quick reply. Yes, I did that but then I couldn’t see the iCloud folders in my time machine backup – it only showed the Documents folder and other select system folders (pictures, music, etc) – not the folders I created. So do I need to put all my other folders inside the documents folder for it to back all the files up?

    8 months ago

    Hilary: Where were you looking? You shouldn’t look “directly” at the Time Machine backup. Did you try using the Time Machine restore mode? Also, make sure you have that “optimize” option turned off on that desktop machine with plenty of storage space.
    Where are these other folders that you created if not in your Documents folder?

    Hilary A Rhodes
    8 months ago

    I was looking at my external drive time machine backup – not the restore mode, no. The optimize option is definitely turned off. And the other folders are directly in iCloud. I would attach a pic but doesn’t look like I can here.

    8 months ago

    Hilary: So try it. Go to a folder where you want to test. Then enter Time Machine with that folder as the frontmost window. Can you see older versions of files there in Time Machine?

    Hilary A Rhodes
    8 months ago

    Yes. you are correct – it IS backing it up. So now I just need to make sure Backblaze is also backing up those files. Thank you!

    Paul Alan
    8 months ago

    Hello- I am thinking of getting a new iMac. I use time machine for backups, but I don’t want to restore the entire computer from time machine because I only care about my photo library. So if I restore just the photo library from the backup, will iCloud still sync properly since my photos are already in the cloud? I’m worried it will think the restored photos are all ‘new’ and will try to upload them all again creating duplicates and making the sync run for 2 days. Thank you for your thoughts.

    8 months ago

    Paul: If your photos library is already in iCloud, then I would just get the new iMac and log in to iCloud and let your photos library sync. No need to copy it over at all. The only downside would be if you have a large library and your connection is very slow.

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