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Apple Time Machine Vs individual folder backup

Posted on 2014-12-04
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Last Modified: 2014-12-08
Hi, I'm trying to find the most efficient way of boosting the Mac performance that starts to lag after several years of use.  Backing up and blowing it out seems pretty easy method but will the performance boost be not as significant  if I do a local hard drive time machine backup, wipe, then re install the OS vs copying individual folders that contain data?   Basically, I don't understand what time machine decides to backup and what it opts out of it for the sake of efficiency.   I feel it may transfer over some of the crummy performance issues during the recovery process through time machine and I'm better off performing individual folder copying.  Anyway, any best practice from someone that does this a lot would be appreciated.
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Question by:snoopaloop
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by:strung
strung earned 167 total points
ID: 40482245
Wiping and re-installing is a PC thing. Generally speaking, Mac users don't do it and I don't think it is likely to result in any speed improvement.

The reason your computer may seem to be running slower may be simply that the newer operating systems and newer software puts more of a demand on it than the older software.

You might try running something like the freeware Onyx ( http://www.titanium.free.fr ) to clean out caches and run maintenance scripts, but that will make a small improvement at best.

If your computer really has slowed down noticeably, you need to find out the cause. One major cause may be that you are running out of room on your hard drive. Macs will slow down if there is less than 15% free space on the boot drive.

Also, you should run Verify Disk from Disk Utility to make sure that your hard drive directory has not become corrupted.

You can also run Activity Monitor ( found in /applications/utilities ) to see if any process is hogging RAM, and look at the log files with Console.app (also found in the utilities folder) to see if there are any persistent error messages.
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by:Eoin OSullivan
ID: 40482450
I'd second strung's advice .. rebuilding the Mac will probably not make a big change.

The first questions I always ask are...
What Mac do you have?
What version of OSX are you running?
How much RAM do you have?  
These are the biggest determinants of performance.

Older Macs will simply struggle more with latest OSX even after you re-install

Performance tuning such as disabling startup applications and services which you do not use may have some benefit too (use the Application Monitor and Console applications to see what programs are consuming resources).
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by:Justin Pierce
Justin Pierce earned 333 total points
ID: 40483122
Hi Snoopaloop,

    If your Mac is aging, the best way to boost performance is to upgrade your RAM, which the other Experts stated, but I would also recommend taking out the old hard drive (HDD) and replacing it with an Solid State Drive (SSD). This will give you the biggest performance boost and it is a relatively easy and inexpensive operation to perform nowadays.

   To give you an example I upgraded my 2008 MacBook by swapping out the old HDD with an SSD from Other World Computing and went even further by taking out my optical drive and replacing it with an SSD. (Yep, you can throw in 2 SSDs inside of your Mac.) The reason that I  decided to take out my optical drive is that I hardly ever used CDs to install an app, or play music. If that sounds like you too, then here is a link you might want to peruse: http://eshop.macsales.com/search/data+doubler  
My MacBook was like a brand new machine and has kept pace with all the apps that I want to run, including pretty intensive ones like Final Cut Pro, Aperture, and PS.

  In short, upgrade your RAM and your HDD to see significant speed improvements on an aging Mac.

Hope this helps.
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by:Eoin OSullivan
ID: 40483137
@justin pierce .. good suggestion on the SSD .. desktop and laptops will seriously benefit from HD to SSD upgrade.
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by:Justin Pierce
ID: 40483165
;) Thanks eoinosullivan. It's nice to hear this kind of feedback from such an accomplished "Ace" on EE. Hopefully, all of our input helps out Snoopaloop. Thanks again and take care.
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by:snoopaloop
ID: 40483446
Shoulder older machines refrain from OS upgrades to maintain performance or do the vulnerabilities of not upgrading to the latest OS make this a bad idea?
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by:strung
ID: 40483462
Depends on how much older. I am not sure it is a good idea to upgrade to the very latest version, though. I keep hearing of problems with Yosemite, for instance, which has convinced me to stick with Mavericks, for the time being.

The problem is, though, Apple makes it very difficult for you to purchase anything other than the current OS, as they quickly remove older OS's from their website.

Also, I concur with the suggestion that switching to an SSD drive will make a very noticeable difference. I have done that myself with several Macs.  However, it depends again on how old the Mac is and what its life expectancy is. SSD's are still relatively expensive and it may not make sense to put an SSD into a Mac if you foresee replacing it in a year or two anyway. At some point, it makes more sense to buy a new Mac.
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by:Justin Pierce
ID: 40483471
Hi Snoopaloop,

   It really is a preference issue. Usually, newer Operating Systems have a smaller footprint, are optimized to be faster, have more options for organizing, and built with better integrated communication choices.

   That said, no OS is perfect and it will take a bit to get a good portion of the hiccups or bugs out. Apple is generally speedy about pushing fixes and patches to its customers.

Personally, if you upgrade your HDD to an SSD, I would say grab the latest and greatest OS you can. However, if you have some applications that are older (Power PC ) and need Rosetta to run, I would recommend looking for alternatives, or just staying with what you have.
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by:Eoin OSullivan
ID: 40483508
@snoopaloop
Rather than discuss this "In Theory" - if you tell us the model of Mac , the RAM and the OSX version you're running we might be able to advise better
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by:snoopaloop
ID: 40483590
mac pro 13" mid 2009  4 gig.  It has Yosemite on it.  Should I downgrade?  I have 10.6 disks.  I heard that was the last of disk that they produced.  Does installing 10.6 preclude you from upgrading to anything but the latest OS?
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by:Eoin OSullivan
ID: 40483610
It is HARD to go back .. and going back to 10.6 would not be a good idea .. OSX 10.8 is probably the best performance-wise for your device as it is currently configured.

Apple are only selling OSX 10.9 & 10.10 anymore and even 10.9 is hard to get.  Upgrading from 10.6 to 10.7 and 10.8 will involve sourcing outdated OSX installer DVD or image files as Apple will not provide them anymore.

As the computer is 5+ years old you really are at the outer envelope of upgradability .. and your options are limited and will reduce with time.

Upping to 8Gb RAM and (if possible) installing a SSD instead of the HD and sticking with OSX 10.10 is probably best at this stage (unless you've a backup of your device in Time Machine for 10.9 and can revert).
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by:Justin Pierce
ID: 40483624
Nice system! Here is your Stats:

MEMORY

Built-in Memory      None
Maximum Memory      8.0 GB
Memory Slots      2 - 204-pin PC3-8500 (1066 MHz) DDR3 SO-DIMM
Interleaving Support      Yes

This means you can upgrade your RAM to a max of 8GB, which will help multi-task with several applications open.

Here is your software stats:

SOFTWARE

Original OS      Mac OS X 10.5.7 (9J3032)
Maximum OS      Latest release of OS X
AirDrop               Supported
Hardware Test      AHT 3A173
Bundled Software      iLife ’09 (includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb, GarageBand)
FIRMWARE

Firmware      Intel Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI)
Firmware Update      MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 1.7

     Again, it's a preference issue with what OS to go with. However, I still recommend OS X Yosemite. You might find a problem here and there, but you'll find that with all systems.
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by:strung
ID: 40483744
Nothwithstanding the system stats that Justin posted above, I believe your system is capable of handling up to 128 GB or RAM (not that you would want to do that). See:  http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/memory/Mac-Pro-Memory

Going to 8 or 16 GB would probably be most cost effective. You may or may not be able to reuse your existing RAM depending on whether, for instance, you have one 4GB memory card or 4 - 1 GB cards.

I agree with everything Eoin said.

Since you have a Mac Pro, which has more than one slot for hard drives, you can keep your existing hard drive and use it for files, and put in a relatively small and less expensive SSD for your system, caches and applications. That would be relatively costs effective.
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by:Justin Pierce
ID: 40483800
Snoopaloop, I should've asked the question if you meant Mac Pro or MacBook Pro. I guessed MB Pro because of the screen size (13") and that the Mac Pro never had a Mid 2009 model. No pushback here Strung, you're a legend in these halls, and I'm totally cool with being wrong. ;)
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by:strung
ID: 40483823
You are probably right, Justin. I should have read more carefully. If Snoopaloop has a MacBook Pro rather than a Mac Pro, that is a horse of an entirely different colour and my comments mostly don't apply. You are right that a 2009 MBP would be limited to 8 Gigs of Ram, and of course only one drive. I have my doubts about the cost effectiveness of spending very much money to upgrade a 5 - 6 year old laptop. They tend to have a shorter life span than Mac towers.
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by:snoopaloop
ID: 40488075
It's a Mac Book Pro.  I ultimately took it to the Genius Bar at the Mac store to get add their 2 cents.  Yosemite add a progress bar up boot up.  The initial 2/3 of the bar is for loading the OS. The last 1/3 was for the profile itself.  The profile itself struggled to load.  The wait was long.  We are not sure how it was resolved but the profile seems to loads a lot quicker now.  He was also able to Hold down “option” key when in “go” section.  This enabled him to go to the user library and rid some malware from the machine.  I need to read up more on how he did this.
He did answer my question in regards to Time Machine.  He said it may capture data that could be problematic to the Apple Operating System and to consider backing up individual folders that are important to me.  These folders will most likely include the Desktop, Documents, iTunes, Pictures, and Movies.  The iTunes library, Pictures library, and Movies Library are the critical folders that require backing up unless tiff or jpg files are hanging outside the Pictures folder.
Then I can proceed with writing all zero to the drive and start fresh with whatever OS.
I'm gonna close this question out unless you guys have something more to offer.  I advised the client to buy the RAM and SSD but I'm pretty sure they are happy with the optimization that was done to the Mac.
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Justin Pierce earned 333 total points
ID: 40488104
Hi Snoopaloop,

   I'm glad that it settled itself out. It sounds like the Genius held the Option key to select the HDD and then the OS. After backing up the files through Time Machine I would even go a step further to drag and drop the individual folders your client feels are important to an ext HDD. After that, you can do what is called a "clean install", holding CMD + R button upon booting up and then go into Disk Utility/ Select erase and then wipe the HDD. The process of wiping doesn't take long so you won't have time to multitask. After the wipe, you can jump back to the main menu of the Recovery partition and select to reinstall the OS. Caveat: If you have 10.6 you will need the installation disc and the process will be to hold the "Option" button upon starting up and then select the CD. All steps are relatively the same as with a newer operating system (10.7 +) . All of that said, I would still recommend installing an SSD and upping the RAM. This will satisfy your customers need for speed and give them the feel of a new Mac. After that I would install Yosemite and then manually bring over the folders they consider important. You could also just encase the old HDD, which turns it into an ext HDD, pull over the folders and then show them that their old HDD is still with them. In short, they will thank you for trying your hardest to backup their old HDD and keep it with them, since it has all of their old information. You may also want to suggest Dropbox, or if you updated them to Yosemite  iCloud Drive, which can be located in Finder. Show them how to drag and drop to either iCoud Drive or Dropbox, and then you will be their goto MacGuy. ;)
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by:snoopaloop
ID: 40488123
Awesome suggestions.  Thanks guys!

Option, Go, Library...
http://support.apple.com/kb/PH11395

Potential malware related item in Library...

http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-remove-the-flashback-malware-from-os-x/

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6263706?tstart=0
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