I've had a computer failure and had to replace my computer with a new one. I have a Time Machine backup that I want to use to restore a large number of files from, but I don't want to do a full system restore. My old setup was a little crufty, and the OS version is old, so I want a new, clean OS/Application install. I don't want to use the Assistant, because I want more fine grain control over the files I'm copying over. I know how to use the "Browse other disks" function buried in the Time Machine setup, but this is a pain.
My question is about what you see when you browse the disk in the Finder or the Terminal. It lists the backups by date and time stamp, along with a shortcut to "Latest". I know Time Machine making a complete copy each time it backs up. My understanding is that it's not copying the diff each time it runs, it's just recording a new copy of any files which have changed since the last backup (like a directory diff).
What then does the user actually see when the browse to a particular folder with a given timestamp? Is OSX representing the filesystem in such a way that these folders look like a point-in-time representation? Can I just treat them as such without having to use the stupid animated, kill-everything-else on screen, Time Machine program?