How to restore a hard drive using Time Machine
When Apple introduced Time Machine with OS X 10.5 Leopard, it became easier than ever to prepare for a data disaster—the only serious effort Mac owners running Leopard or Snow Leopard need to make is to plug in a hard drive. While we hope your hard drive never goes south, if it does actually fail, you'll thank Time Machine for backing up your data.
Time Machine backs up your system settings, documents, and applications, making it easy to not only recover from a failed hard disk, but also to migrate these files to a new computer, or to a hard drive that's faster or has more capacity. Here's how to restore your data from Time Machine.
Step one: Prepare your drive
Unlike some utilities that simply make a bootable clone of your hard drive, Time Machine saves your files, applications, and system settings in a format that can be used to restore this data to a formatted hard drive with OS X already installed.
If you have a new hard drive, or had to erase and repair your old drive, you first need to install Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6 on the drive, using the discs that came with your computer or a retail version of Mac OS X that supports different types of Macs. When the OS installation is done, the system restarts and you're treated to a little tune.
If instead, you've purchased a new Mac and want to transfer your data from an old Mac to the new one, it's a piece of cake. Since the new Mac has a fresh installation of Mac OS X, simply start up the system and the music will start playing.
Step two: Select Time Machine restore
When you've booted off your new installation of Mac OS X (whether on the new computer, new hard drive, or an erased and repaired old hard drive), you'll be guided through the steps to set up your Mac. You'll see a screen titled," Do You Already Own A Mac?" asking if you'd like to transfer your information.
Choose the third option, From a Time Machine Backup. Click Continue.
Step three: Specify a Time Machine backup
Connect the hard drive containing your Time Machine backup via USB or FireWire. The Time Machine backup will show up in a list called Select a Backup Volume. You can also find and restore from a Time Machine backup on your local AirPort network. Select your backup and click Continue.
Step four: Select the information you want to transfer
Step five: Wait
That's it. Your files will transfer over and when finished, your computer will restart. If you chose to copy over all file types, your desktop picture, dock settings and everything else will appear just as they did on your old hard drive.