Restore From Time Capsule Title Image

Your Time Capsule is a great little box that lets you back up all of your files in one place.

You’ve lost a file. Or had to have your beloved Mac repaired.

You need to get everything back to normal. And restore from your Time Machine backup on your Time Capsule’s hard drive.

There are two main ways to recover your files back to your Mac.

The first way is to restore your entire Mac computer from Time Capsule. You can bring back all your files, settings and applications.

The second way lets you restore individual files. Such as photos or documents from your Time Capsule using Time Machine.

Simply follow our step by step guide. And learn how to restore your Mac from Time Capsule. We’ll show you how easy it is!

Restoring Your Mac From An Airport Time Capsule

When you’re restoring your whole Mac. The way you go about it depends on which operating system you’re using.

Restore From Apple Time Capsule On MacOS Big Sur

Do you need to reload your Mac’s operating system?

If not. Then you can skip this section and jump down to the next heading. And get on with restoring.

If yes.

Under Big Sur your MacOS has to be rebuilt and reloaded separately from your user files.

First you put your Mac into Recovery Mode. You do this while you’re rebooting your Mac by:

On Mac Intel you hold down Command + the R key.

On Apple Silicon you hold down the power button.

Until you see the Apple logo.

Click on your Mac’s admin user and put in the admin password.

From the menu that comes up next you choose “reinstall MacOS”.

Reinstall MacOS

This will erase and reload your operating system.

Don’t worry.

You’ve all of your files safe. Because they’re stored safely on your Time Capsule hard drive.  (Aren’t you glad you have a backup on there!).

For more information on getting a fresh OS install check out this Apple article.

The next step is to restore your Mac’s files from your Time Machine backup on your Time Capsule. Let’s go…

Restore Your Files From Your Time Capsule Backup

On MacOS Big Sur with a working Mac operating system.

1. You Start Up Your Mac And Log In.

You’ll be using Migration Assistant. It’s software that’s included with your Mac. And that software brings back your files from your Time Capsule.

2. Connect Up Your Airport Time Capsule.


So, your Airport Time Capsule holds your files. And you’re likely thinking you’ll restore everything over WIFI. But.

Yes, you could restore over the WIFI.

But your full restore would soak up your WIFI bandwidth. Plus it would take a very long time to do. because WIFI is just not fast enough.

You’re best using an Ethernet cable to connect your MacBook up to your Time Capsule.


Because restoring over your Gigabit Ethernet Lan port. Is way faster than restoring over WIFI.

Get yourself a USB C hub that supports Ethernet connections. And us it to plug into one of the Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports on the back of your Time Capsule.

The Satachi Aluminum Multiport Adaptor is a good one. Take a look at it in the article here on the site. Click the link text.

Or get a cable from Apple that has a USB C connection on one end and an Ethernet Lan port on the other.

And connect up.

3. Open Up Migration Assistant On Your Mac.

Migration Assistant lives inside your Mac’s Applications Folder. But you can quickly find it by doing a spotlight search.

Spotlight Search Symbol
Spotlight Search Symbol

And type in ‘Migration Assistant’

Migration Assistant In Spotlight Search

Migration Assistant starts up and will ask you to close any Applications that are open. And save any files that are open.

Then you’ll need to enter your administration password. As Migration Assistant will make changes to your Mac.

Then click Continue.

Migration Assistant 1st Screen

4. Pick To Transfer From A Mac.

The following Migration Assistant screen gives you three options. You pick the radio button ‘From a Mac, Time Machine backup Or Startup disk’.

This is because you’ll be transferring your data from a Time Machine backup on your Time capsule.

Migration Assistant 2nd Screen

Then click Continue.

5. Click On Your Time Capsule.

Migration Assistant Time Capsule

The next screen is where you click on your Time Capsule with your backup on it. Then click Continue.

On the screen that follows is where you choose the backup on the Time Capsule you’d like to restore. Click on it. Then click Continue.

Migration Assistant Time Capsule Pick Backup

6. Choose What You’d Like To Restore.

You next get to pick what you’re restoring. If you’re restoring everything from your Time Capsule you check all the boxes.

Migration Assistent 5th Screen

You check the Applications, User, Other Files and Folders and System & Network boxes.

Or you can just check the boxes you want. But then it wouldn’t be a full restore of your user data and apps.

It’s up to you to choose what you need.

Then click Continue.

When the user and data you’re restoring is an admin user that already exists on your Mac. The next screen will prompt you to enter an admin password for that user.

You can put back in your old password if you want.

The next screen is where you choose to overwrite the user info on your Mac. By deleting what’s on there already, overwriting with the information in your backup.

Or create a new user with the restored files.

Decide then click Continue.

After that Migration Assistant starts your restore from your Time Capsule.

Expect it to take some time. And plug your Mac into a power outlet.

A directly connected Time Capsule. Using its Gigabit Ethernet Lan connection to your Mac is the most efficient way to restore.

Restore From Airport Time Capsule On Older MacOS Releases

On an older Mac. From around MacOS 10.13 High Sierra you use MacOS Recovery. And MacOS Utilities.

The beauty of this release is you can restore your operating system. And applications, system set up, your users and all your files at the same time.

To do on your Mac running an older OS release.

You Hold Down Command + R When You Reboot Your Mac.

Till you see the Apple logo.

After the Apple logo, you’ll see the MacOS Utilities screen.

MacOS Recovery Screen
MacOS Recovery Screen

Just like on a newer Mac you directly plug in your Time Capsule via Ethernet.

And depending on your Mac, you may have an Ethernet Lan port directly on your Mac.

Or if your Mac has a USB C port you can use a USB hub with a Ethernet Lan port on it.

Or a cable that has USB C at one end and an Ethernet plug at the other.

Either way direct connect is the way to go for a full restore of your Mac.

Plug in your Time Capsule now on Ethernet.

Click Restore From Time Machine Backup.

It’s the first thing on the menu. Click Continue.

Your Mac will see your Time Capsule plugged in. And will use the Time Machine backup on there to do a full restore of your Mac.

You then wait until it’s done.

Restore Single Files From Time Capsule

Individual file or folders you can restore from your Time Capsule over WIFI.

First check that your Mac can see and is using your Time Capsule’s WIFI.

You do that by clicking on the wifi symbol at the top of your desktop.

Wifi Symbol On Your Desktop

Check your Mac’s connection to your Time Capsule’s WIFI. Is it connected?

Or click on Other networks. And pick your Time Capsule from there and log into its WIFI.

1. Now Start Up Your Time Machine App.

Time Machine is in your Applications folder.

Applications Folder In Dock
Applications Folder In Dock

Click on Time Machine inside that folder.

Time Machine In Apps Folder
Time Machine In Apps Folder

2. Time Machine Opens A Finder Window.

That Window is a visual window into your Time Capsule backups.

You can step through the time line either by using the Up Down arrows to the right of your Finder Window.

Or on the far right you can move through the time line there. Bottom most right is your last Time Capsule backup. Top right is the oldest backup on your Time Capsule.

Time Machine Now
Time Machine Now

If you know the date of the version of the file you want. Or the date before you deleted the file or folder. Then go to that date.

Then click through in the finder window to the file or folder you need. Click on it to highlight it and click Restore.

Time Machine Restore Button
Time Machine Restore Button

3. You Can Do A Search For The File

Time Machine Search
Time Machine Search

In your finder window you can simply search for what you want. Type in your file, or folder name. Click to highlight it when it comes up. Then click Restore to restore.

4. If The Restored File Exists.

If there’s already a copy of the file you want to restore on your Mac. Your Mac will prompt you to ask if you want to overwrite it. You can pick to replace the version on your Mac with the version on your Time Capsule backup.

If not. It’ll create a copy of the restored file.

Your Mac will ask for your admin password as your making a change to the file system. Type in the password and restore your file from your Time Capsule.

In Closing

The restore from Time Capsule process is actually really easy.

If you are just trying to get back some old photos that were deleted by accident. Or restoring individual files after a deletion.

Or something more complicated like recovering from an accidental reformat.

This article should cover all the bases. For getting those precious files back to your Mac computer.

While you’re here. Take a look at some of our other articles on the site for more information about taking care of your digital life.

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