You were happily skipping along without a care. Using your beloved Mac till the day your Mac’s internal drive failed.
Or you installed that sketchy App just to try it. And now it’s messing with your Mac big time.
You just want to get back to that happy date and time when all was good with your Mac.
Read on and find out what your options are to restore your Mac back to those good times. When you don’t have a Time Machine backup.
Can I Restore Mac To An Earlier Date Without Time Machine?
No, not without having a Mac backup of some description.
You don’t have to use Time Machine to do your backup. Though it’s the software of choice on a Mac.
But, without a backup of any kind you’ll find your options restricted.
What About System Restore On Mac?
Macs don’t have a system restore option like a Windows PC. That said the restore option on a PC only applies to the main system itself.
It does not restore to a given point in time any of your personal files.
And this means it’s an option if you want to go back to before an OS update. Or before you installed a piece of application software.
But it won’t save you from a failed drive. Or you accidentally deleting your project files. You can double check on this fact yourself by checking this Microsoft article here.
There are some restore options on a Mac, that allow you to go back to an earlier date. And you’ll find them listed below.
Your Mac Restore Options Outside of Time Machine
Bringing Your Files Using Your Mac Programs
Some native Mac software does keep copies of your files. For instance, iMovie, iPhoto and Photos hold their own bins of recently deleted files.
So, if it’s a lost project file in one of those software Apps you’re looking for. Try going into the Application program itself. You may be pleasantly surprised. And find the app could bring back your files from before you deleted them.
Restore Back From Your Mac’s Bin
When you delete a file, your Mac moves it to your Bin.
As long as you haven’t emptied it. You can double click on your Mac’s bin. To open up a finder window.
Highlight your deleted file and right click on it. And then pick ‘Put Back’ from the menu that comes up.
Then you’ve restored back to your Mac. And Time Machine wasn’t involved.
Get Back To An Earlier Date With Your Mac’s Snapshot
If you haven’t an actual backup. But you do have Time Machine switched on on your Mac. You’ll find a nifty little feature.
Your Mac will take local snapshots of your Mac. To your Mac’s internal drive automatically and you don’t have to remember to do a thing.
Your Mac takes snapshots for the last 24 hours. And that means you could reset your Mac 24 hours to yesterday.
You may get lucky and you get a Snapshot that takes you further back in time. I managed to go back a couple of days on my Mac.
Snapshots assume your Mac’s internal drive has room to hold the snapshots.
It’s worth checking.
Go into Time Machine by clicking on your Time Machine icon
Choose ‘Enter Time Machine’ from the menu that comes up.
That opens up a finder window.
On the right hand side of your finder window, you’ll see some arrows.
These arrows step you back to an earlier time and date in the snapshot.
When you’ve found the date/time you want then move to the folder or file you’re looking for. Click to highlight it and then click on the Restore button.
And you’ve moved back a file to your Mac without Time Machine.
Other Ways Of Restoring Your Mac Outside Of Time Machine
All the methods below need you to have an external drive. Or as at least a large enough partition on that drive you can use.
You’ll need a drive that’s not your internal drive. Because if the issue you’ve got is with your internal drive. Then you need your backup separate from it.
You can use a hard drive, ssd drive, flash drive or USB stick that’s large enough to hold your backup.
If you need to get yourself a drive then you can check out the best here.
Restore Your Mac With A Cloned Drive
This way doesn’t use Time Machine to take your backup. You’re using software that’s standard on your Mac called Disk Utility.
You’ll need to boot your Mac into recovery mode to take the Clone copy. But when you’re done. You can use that copy to restore your Mac back to the date you took the clone copy.
Of course you can update the Clone copy as it suits you. With a clone copy you can restore your Mac’s files, system files. And your own personal files from that clone copy.
But it does mean that you have to remember to take regular clone copies.
And have a cloned copy of your drive before you can restore back to that date.
You can find out how to ‘Clone Your Mac Boot Drive To An External Drive‘ by clicking on the linked text. And heading over to the document all about it on the site.
Restore Your Mac With Specialist Application Software
There are quite a few scan and recovery apps that will search your Mac’s internal drive for deleted files.
But they mean you can’t use your Mac until you use the software. Just in case any changes you make to your Mac, overwrites your deleted file. And it’s lost forever.
These software applications come with a cost. Though some are a free to use but you to pay for the restore.
You use the software to scan your drive and then see what files it can recover.
Popular examples are:
- Software like Carbon Copy Cloner
You can use them to take a backup of your Mac without you using Time Machine.
And you’ll need to have taken a backup before you can use their restore options.
Unlike Time Machine which is built into MacOS.
When a new version of MacOS comes out. You’ll need to check there’s a version of that recovery software that runs before you upgrade.
Or wait for a version release of the software for the latest version of MacOS.
Restoring Back To A Particular Date Using Migration Assistant
Migration Assistant is a software tool that will get you back to a certain date on your Mac. But it needs a Time Machine backup to work with.
So as long as you’ve got a Time Machine backup. Migration Assistant will restore you to an earlier date.
You can restore user files only. System and Network files. Applications Only. Or a combination.
Perfect when you’ve messed up a set up files but you do have a backup.
You can check out how to use it here in this article: ‘Restore Your Mac To A Previous Date‘.
And now you have some options on getting your Mac back to a date when you don’t have a Time Machine backup to hand.
Though the safest thing is to have a Time Machine backup. Unless you’re using a paid software app to do your backup for you.
Take your backups regularly and often. Because you’ll never know when something unexpected happens. And you need it pronto.
Take a look at the article below if you’d like some other options on restoring your Mac.
About Simon Irons
As an admin I spend my day helping folks with their Mac issues. From the guy at work, through to unofficial 911 support for family and friends. I swear they have me on speed dial.
For fun I like testing out and playing with new stuff. I think Apple make the best products on the planet.
In my spare time I like to fish and play around with boats.