Time Machine - Frequently Asked Questions

24. What do the Time Machine icons in my Menubar and Dock do?

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You can have a Time Machine icon in your Dock and/or a different one in your Menubar.

If there isn't one already in your Dock, drag the Time Machine application there from your Applications folder.  Control-click (right-click) it, select Open Time Machine Preferences, and check the box to Show Time Machine status in the menu bar.

Here's what they do:

The TIME MACHINE ICON in your MenuBar:

This tiny icon in your menubar is quite handy. Under normal circumstances, it will be just a stationary clock face, surrounded by a circle and arrow.

Effective with Mountain Lion, the icon won't change during the "preparing" change;  then the circle and clock face will rotate during copying.  It will stop during "cleaning up" and "finishing."

On Lion and earlier,  the circle and clock face will begin to rotate as soon as the backup starts.

If there's a problem, such as a failed or delayed backup, the icon will have an exclamation mark instead of the clock face.  Use the menu (below) to Open Time Machine Preferences and there will be a message in red, and a red exclamation point.  Click that and you should see a message and a link to an Apple Troubleshooting article. Or, see Time Machine Troubleshooting.

If you click the icon in the menubar, you'll see a small menu (it varies a bit for Lion vs. earlier):

  1. The first line(s) show the current status of your backups,
    similar to what's shown on the TM Preferences window.  On Snow Leopard (10.6.3 and later), that includes Scanning nnnn items while a "deep traversal" is in
  2. progress (see Troubleshooting item #A6);  Preparing

  3. nnnn items, etc.

  4. The next line is either Back Up Now or Stop Backing Up.

  5. If you hold down the Alt/Option key, that will change to Verify Backups (on 10.6.3 and later).  That will run a verification procedure (on network backups only).
  6. The next line is normally Enter Time Machine, to enter the "Star Wars" display where you can browse and restore from your backups. See question #15.  But if Time Machine is not configured, the Browse . . . option (below) will appear instead.
    If you hold down the Alt/Option key, the wording will change to Browse Other Backup Disks (Browse Other Time Machine Disks on Snow Leopard or Leopard). See question #17.

  7. The last line is Open Time Machine Preferences.

The TIME MACHINE ICON in your Dock:

If you simply click it, you'll Enter Time Machine as above.

If you control-click (right-click) it, you'll get a menu similar to the one in your Menubar (but without the status message).


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