I've read that "Time Machine" is the appropriate tool for restoring a Mac to an earlier state. Time Machine requires the use of some external storage device.

If I remember correctly from Windows, you could revert the state of your computer to a previously set "restore point" -- even without the use of an external storage device. Does this possibility exist in macOS?


Time Machine doesn't require an external drive but it does require a dedicated partition. Without more info about your system its hard to be more specific. If you have an internal drive with little or nothing on it you can partition that drive and use one of the partitions for Time Machine, given its big enough. Setting partitions will erase the drive.

Why are you avoiding an external drive? I use an external drive for my time machine and it works fine. If its due to the time involved there are workarounds for that.

  • This is a reasonable answer. It's a 256gb drive. I was hoping to avoid the cost of an external drive, but it seems like a worthwhile investment given the vulnerabilities of using a partition on the same internal drive. – rhz Oct 9 '18 at 14:18

Mac OS does have the ability to do this. However, some specific criteria are required before it can be used.

  1. The drive must be formatted as APFS. (This is the default if you have a recent version of Mac OS installed on a Mac which has an SSD.)
  2. Time Machine must be enabled.

Once those two things are true, then Mac OS will periodically create “snapshots” which are (as far as I can tell) very similar to Windows’ “restore point”.

They can be used to restore a Mac to a previous state. I know because I did this myself a few weeks ago when I woke up and my Mac wouldn’t boot.

These “snapshots” are stored on the local SSD, and can be seen by using the tmutil command in Terminal.app:

tmutil listlocalsnapshots /

You can even tell Mac OS to create a snapshot by issuing this command, again in Terminal.app:

tmutil localsnapshot

How many snapshots you can have on your Mac depends on the amount of diskspace used and how much has changed on your drive.

This is a fairly new feature, and I would not want to rely on it, but it can be a life-saver in the right situation.

Still, your best bets remain:

  1. A complete, bootable backup via SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner

  2. Time Machine

  3. A remote backup. (I use Backblaze.)

In addition, I store all my important and currently-in-use files on Dropbox. Dropbox isn’t a backup solution, but it does keep revisions of your files for the past 30 days (or 120 on the pro accounts) and updates every time you hit “save” (assuming you have a network connection), so it may be the best bet to recover that file you were working on when your computer died suddenly.


I would highly recommend using an external drive as it is easier and protects your data better in case your internal drive gets corrupted or breaks. If you can't, you can still partition your internal drive or use snapshots.

If you have an APFS drive, you could use APFS snapshots which are a lot easier to do. You can check if you have an APFS drive with this, otherwise you can use partitioning:

Partitioning shouldn't delete any data, but just in case, it's a good idea to temporarily backup your important data before proceeding.

  1. Open Disk Utility
  2. Select your hard drive in the Disk Utility window. It should be the first drive in the list and it'll probably be named "Macintosh HD."
  3. Click on the "Partition" tab and click the "+" button.
  4. Adjust the size of the new partition with the resize controls.
  5. Name the partition and click apply

The new partition should now show up when choosing a drive to backup to in Time Machine.


  • Other sites i've read states that partitioning a drive will earase all the data? If so, your link doesn't indicate that. – Natsfan Oct 8 '18 at 20:43
  • @jmh Partitioning shouldn't delete data, but it is a good idea to backup just in case. apple.stackexchange.com/a/139593 – airsquared Oct 8 '18 at 20:51
  • Thanks. I read somewhere that it would. Nice to know that it won't. I'm dding a new partition to my external drive now. Sorry for mt confusion. – Natsfan Oct 8 '18 at 20:58

Unfortunately the Windows "restore point" is something that Windows does when updating itself and not really a backup program and can't be used as such.

And to add insult to injury macOS does not have that ability or a built-in function to uninstall apps, drivers and other low level programs. One of the very few things from Windows that I wish Apple had copied.

Time machine uses external storage. usually an external (usually USB, also sometimes network connected) drive that you connect regularly, or leave connected, that automatically backs up your Mac. But you need that drive and you need to have been using it. After the fact is too late.

There are data recovery tools and companies that can recover lost data but they all depend on minimal to no use of the system so the missing data is not overwritten.

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