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Using Time Machine in macOS

Users of the macOS may be familiar with using Time Machine on their personally owned computer or have used it previously with some campus-owned computers.  While handy, it is simply not designed for use in an Enterprise IT setting as many server/system security mechanisms exist that are not compatible with it and its ability to properly restore your data. To protect your data from accidental loss, Time Machine is not supported at SUNY Potsdam and new computers will have this functionality disabled going forward.

It should also be noted that Apple has not done any updates or enhancements to Time Machine in many years, making its future uncertain.

For any older machines where the functionality is still enabled, the following considerations and warnings must be observed:

  • Time Machine is only intended as a data recovery service for the computer it is installed on while that computer is functional. This means that a complete system restoration is not possible with our computers, only the recovery of files deleted by accident with the original computer still functional.
  • You should not delete files on your computer and assume they are safe on Time Machine.
  • CTS does not support restoring a Time Machine backup to a new computer. Again, this is a function for a home computer, not computers in a network and authenticated organization that relies upon directory services such as Active Directory.
  • A re-imaged campus computer will not see a previous Time Machine backup. A re-imaged computer will receive a different network identity when it is added back into our systems. This will cause Time Machine to possibly see your computer as a different one, which causes it to restart a backup and ignore previous backups. This is normal and expected, Time Machine is a consumer level service and not designed with corporate networks and systems in mind.

Even though older computers may have this enabled as noted above, it is not supported and users should discontinue its use as soon as a viable option is available (see the next section).


Many of our systems are now cloud based, making local backups unnecessary.  For example, all of your Outlook Email, Contacts, and Calendars are stored "in the cloud."

Microsoft provides each of our users 5TB of storage - enough to backup many computers several times over.  You can use the OneDrive web-page to manually drag and drop files for backup, or install the OneDrive client and set it to automatically sync (and backup) virtually any folder of your choosing. Functionally, these backups are almost the same as Time Machine with the added benefit of being secure and off-site.

Contact the IT Service Desk by calling x4444 or email for help with alternatives for your needs.