Unable to restore Mac from TM backup stored on Synology

Hi all,

I’m using Synology for Time Machine since I bought my old DS216play. I followed this article on Synology website to set it up correctly. Never had a problem with backing up over Wi-Fi.

Unfortunately, my first attempt to restore from backup didn’t work as expected. Here’s what I have done:

  1. shut down my MBP running macOS 12.3
  2. connect to Synology using Ethernet and USB-C adapter
  3. run “Restore from TM” in Recovery mode
  4. verify User, verify the backup

And then I get an error I can’t restore from this backup. With two options:

  1. reinstall macOS
  2. log in and use Migration Assistant

First, I tried Migration Assistant. I was able to verify, select the latest TM backup, and then hit the “Continue” button. Nothing happened except the “Continue” button was grayed out.

The funny part: I was still able to select different backup from the list and the “Continue” button came back to life.

Then I did a fresh macOS install using Internet Recovery. Unfortunately, it did not help. Same errors as above. Nothing changed.

This situation let me think. What’s the purpose of backups if you’re unable to restore them?

Now I’m thinking about different solutions. Software like Carbon Copy Cloner etc.

Did some of you guys experienced this kind of behavior using TM backups stored on Synology?

I was just using Migration Assistant from TM on Synology to setup a different Mac. To call it slow is an understatement. Still migrating after a day.

CCC is my primary backup method.

@roskozmos This article points out that most people think about the ease of backup, when what is really crucial is the ease and speed of restoring your data. My take away was that a direct connect external disk drive is the best for fast efficient restoring of data. But the author does discuss in detail various models of Synology and other network attached storage.

All that said, it is probably too late and not helpful for your situation. :face_with_diagonal_mouth:

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In episode 476 of Accidental Tech Podcast (https://atp.fm/476) John Siracusa points out the data complexity and multiple technical layers separating data between your computer hard drive and a NAS.

Completely setting aside the glacial pace of computer-to-NAS Time Machine backups and restores, listening to John’s explanation will convince you that TM backups to direct-attached drives are far more desirable and no doubt reliable than TM-to-NAS backups.

Go to time mark 1:39:14 or thereabouts.

You might also check Howard Oakley’s excellent blog at https://eclecticlight.co/category/macs/


Especially when it comes time to restore some or all of that data!

So here is a totally hypothetical situation that is not based on my real life, not at all, no sir: if you have two laptops in the house and want a convenient backup solution that doesn’t require plugging anything in (these are, may I repeat, laptops), what is the best Time Machine or Carbon Copy Cloner solution?

Is it a Synology with hard drives plugged in via USB?

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Arq Premium (up to five computers)

But that’s a cloud backup option, right? So you’re potentially struggling with the same problem about getting your data back in case of disaster? Or am I missing something?

No, you’re right. But you asked for a convenient backup solution. :upside_down_face:

It’s all in that Tidbits article I posted above. Synology or other NAS with an external drive would be near the top. I think he liked Time Machine to an M1 Mac mini with an external drive the best.

Ha, you got me! Fair point.

For me, reading through that, it’s hard to believe the “best option” is as compromised as the Synology. If price is comparable, I guess the best option is a Mac Mini or old Mac that you keep for this purpose?

Keeping an old iMac around for this would be hilarious, but it sounds like the remote Mac backup is the only real way to avoid OP’s situation in the future?

The Time Capsule product and concept was the best for wireless, automatic, and continuous backups. We didn’t know how good we had it. Turns out other wireless solutions are even more complicated and expensive and even less reliable.

I still wonder why Apple abandoned the Time Capsule and their other networking gear. The conspiracy theorist in me believes there was some “gotcha” waiting to bite Apple so they got out while the getting was good. :hushed:

I think they made the choice to get out at the same time they got out of the router market. It’s probably for the best. I don’t know if I want Apple to work on another product line. They already struggle to do it all now, you know?

Maybe I should start another thread at this point, but do you know if there are any downsides to running a Mac Mini for this purpose? Or just to running a remote Mac in general?

Sorry, no experience with that but will seriously consider it when my 2018 Time Capsule bites The Big One.

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Thanks, guys for all the suggestions and resources. Special thanks to @karlnyhus for sharing this awesome article about Network TM Backups.

I gave up on TM and set up my MBP from scratch. Not much fun. Now, I’m running Carbon Copy Cloner in trial mode. So far I like it but time will tell.

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I remember @ChrisUpchurch recommending Arq over Time Machine.

And then I ran across this older post by @tjluoma, and now I want to try Arq to my Time Capsule the next time it craps out and tells me I need to start over with my Time Machine backup.

Time Machine over a network is a mess, using Arq instead - Software - MPU Talk

So, yeah, Carbon Copy Cloner for backups to my direct-connect external drives and Arq for network backups.

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Are you running the restore over wifi or Ethernet? I recall having backup not restore issues with time machine over wifi and was able to do a full backup when connected over Ethernet. Although I haven’t checked restore lately.