Time Machine: Restoring Files to Specific Locations

I really like Time Machine. Like, really really—I’m a big fan. It’s saved my bacon more than once, and I have even used it to recover all of my data after a hardware failure. So you could say I have the warm and fuzzies about it. In this tip, we’ll cover how to choose where Time Machine puts your recovered files as you restore them, thus making a very useful thing even better. Believe me, if I could send Time Machine some love letters, I would. Is that weird?

To access your backups so you can check this out, click on the Time Machine icon in your menu bar and choose Enter Time Machine.

You’ll then be taken to the probably-familiar star field where you can navigate back through all of your previous files by date. If you select a file or a folder and click the Restore button at the lower-right of the screen, you can bring that deleted item (or a previous version of something) back to the here and now.

The default behavior is that Time Machine’ll put whatever you’re restoring back where it came from—which may not be what you’re looking to do. With that method, you may even have to decide if you want to keep the original, the replacement, or both. Well, heck. What if I don’t want to figure that out right this second?

Here’s a useful trick, though—if you select a file within the Time Machine star field and click on the gear icon at the top, you can get all sorts of new options that you may not have known you had. My favorite one is Restore [File Name] to…

If you prefer, the same option is available by right- or Control-clicking on your file within Time Machine.

When you do either of those things, you can select where you’d like to put the backed-up file you’re restoring. OS X will give you the familiar “Save As”–type box to pick your destination.

Easy as pie! Just about as easy as Time Machine makes backing up already. And goodness knows no one reading this tip would be lazy about backing up, right? If you aren’t doing it on a very regular basis, then I advise you to keep the number for a data recovery service close at hand. And maybe a therapist’s, too.