I can't figure out how to access my Time Machine backups since Apple replaced a defective hard drive.

Some Background:

My setup: iMac 24" (Early 2009), 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo, OS X 10.7.3. I have been running Time Machine to back up all files.

Source of original problem: 1 TB hard drive developed problems while the machine was still under AppleCare.

The fix to the original problem: I took the machine to my nearest Apple store, where the diagnosis was to replace the hard drive. I got the repaired iMac back three days later.

The current problem:

When I got home and powered the iMac up for the first time, I noticed that the Apple techs had already set up a new user account. Everything has been working fine, except that this new user account is not the same as the old one on the machine (i.e. the one I was using prior to the hard drive problem).

As a result, I can't seem to access any of the Time Machine backups I made prior to having the iMac repaired.


How do I access the Time Machine backups made before the repair? Is there a way to query the Time Machine backups for the user account for which they were created?

  • Your repair paperwork has a phone number to call if you want step by step help completing the repir. @mattlove has an excellent answer too.
    – bmike
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 1:12

1 Answer 1


Migration Assistant

This is the built in data transfer tool for Macs.

You can find it in /Applications/Utilities. You'll want to do the following:

  1. Plug in your Time Machine backup drive, open Migration Assistant and select the From another Mac, PC, Time Machine backup, or other disk option: enter image description here

  2. Select the From a Time Machine backup or other disk option: enter image description here

  3. Select your Time Machine backup and click Next.

  4. It should show you your old user account, which will have a drop down menu to select all the things you can restore.

  5. Follow the prompts to restore.

This method will create a new user account alongside the one the Apple Store folks created for you. You'll be able to log out of the account they set up and log into your own.

Another option would be to:

  1. Navigate to /var/db by pressing Shift + + G and typing in the path.

  2. Find the .AppleSetupDone file and delete it. It will likely ask you to authenticate as an administrator.

  3. Restart your Mac.

  4. Use the Setup Assistant to select a Time Machine backup to restore from.

This method does not delete the existing user account, but simply creates a new administrator account alongside it and allows you to use the Setup Assistant to restore from the backup.

You will need to delete the account the Apple Store folks set up for you if you don't want it anymore.

Good luck!

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