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How-to: Restoring Mac OS X

written by: Michael Dougherty•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 2/28/2010

In this article we will discuss the steps involved in restoring Mac OS X should disaster strike your Mac. Using the Time Machine utility and making regular backups will keep you from losing too much data.

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    Apple Logo There are many reasons you may want to restore Mac OS X. These include but are not limited to, a hard drive failure, corrupt file systems and cyber attacks. In this article we will assume you have in place a current Time Machine backup plan.

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    In the case of hard drive failure the first step you will need to take is to purchase a replacement drive or have the damaged drive repaired. Once this is done, you can restore Mac OS X using your original Mac OS X install disk and your Time Machine backup disk.

    Insert your Mac OS X install disk, boot your Mac and double click the Install Mac OS X icon.

    In the installer, choose Utilities > Restore System from Backup. At this point you will be asked to select your Time Machine backup volume and choose which Time Machine backup you want to restore (if you have multiple restore points).

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    Mac OS X Time Machine Should you be restoring your system due to a corrupt file system there is one step I would recommend you take before doing a full Time Machine backup restore.

    Included on the Mac OS X install disks is a Disk Utility that, in many cases, can repair a corrupt file system. To access this utility, insert your Mac OS X install disk, hold down the C key as your Mac boots to boot from your optical drive and wait for the system to boot from the Mac OS X install disk. Once the system has booted you will choose your language and then be able to access the menu at the top of the screen.

    Choose Utilities > Disk Utility > First Aid. On this screen you will see options to “Repair Disk Permissions" and “Repair Disk"; you want the second option, “Repair Disk".

    Select the drive you want to repair in the left hand pane and start the repair process. At this point the Mac OS X installer will scan and attempt to repair any problems it finds with the selected disk. If problems are found during the first scan it is always best to run a second scan to verify that the problems have been fixed. If the repair disk utility finds the same problems this is usually indicative of a more serious problem with the disk and it will need to be replaced.

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    Restoring your system from a Time Machine backup under any circumstances will require you to follow the same general steps. These steps, in short, are:

    1. - Insert your Mac OS X install disk.
    2. - Hold down the “C" button during your Mac’s boot process to boot from your optical drive.
    3. - Double click the Install Mac OS X icon.
    4. - In the Mac OS X installer choose Utilities > Restore System from Backup.
    5. - Select your Time Machine backup disk and which Time Machine backup you want to restore.
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    Overall the restoration of a Mac OS X system is a simple process. This is assuming you have planned ahead and have a valid Time Machine backup disk that is fairly current. A little planning ahead can save you a lot of trouble should disaster strike your Mac OS X system.