Time machine is not like McFly’s magical car, and it certainly won’t take you back to your glory days; but it will make an insane amount of copies of your files so you can revert back to them. It’s not the best backup system, but it is a mighty fine way to keep daily versions of your files, just in case you need to revert back to previous versions, or better yet, just in case you managed to trash that grandiose novel you’re working on.
Probably the best way to describe what Time Machine does is to highlight what it doesn’t do so well! It will not create a bootable drive for you if your built-in hard drive has decided to “shit the bed.” Since I know you so well, I can deduce that you’re probably staring at the screen wondering what the hell a bootable drive might be. In essence, it’s a perfect copy of your drive file by file, bit by bit, 0 and 1’s by 0 and 1’s. If your drive should crap out on you, you would theoretically have an exact copy of the drive that lets you plug it in via firewire and boot from it. This is not what time machine does. This is what superduper! does. Now that I think about it you should probably look into getting that too.
So what you really want to do, right at this moment is go out and buy a USB hub, and two external drives that are equal in size to your built in laptop drive. One, you can dedicate to Time Machine, and the other to a complete system image on a nightly basis, should this drive be big enough to do that.
Overkill right? WRONG! If you have a complete image of your drive you can be back up and running in no time at all should your laptop die just before you have to hand in that epic novel to your publishers.
Some people say I’m paranoid about my backup algorithm (I’ve always wanted to use that in a sentence), but at the end of the day I’m the one who gets the phone call when their files “go missing”. So heed the warning now before I get random and cryptic text messages at two in the morning, the night before you have to hand in that script.
I’m just saying.