Will Restoring a Mac Delete Existing Files?

By Sophie Southern

Apple’s line of Mac computers come standard with the Mac OS X operating system. Even though Macs don't have a reputation for crashing, Apple provides a Mac OS X Install DVD with each Mac computer. Use the Mac OS X Install DVD to restore your computer to its factory settings if you are experiencing recurring fatal errors. Unless you restore from a backup, reinstalling Mac OS X will replace your existing files.

Why Restore?

Reinstalling your system and restoring your Mac to its factory settings may be necessary if you are experiencing frequent or fatal errors that cannot be fixed using basic troubleshooting. Fatal errors include: your computer shutting itself off suddenly without warning, your network assigning itself an IP address and Apple applications causing your machine to crash even after you reinstall the operating system. Because restoring your Mac replaces the contents of your computer with a default version of OS X, your existing files, preferences, settings and third-party software will be deleted.

Restore DVD

Macs come with all default software already installed on the computer, so you can take it out of the box, press the "Power" button and start playing around. However, a Mac OS X Install DVD is included with each computer should you need to restore your computer for any number of reasons. The Mac OS X Install DVD provides several options, including reinstallation of particular applications, total OS X reinstallation and restoring from a backup.

Backing Up Files

Creating a back up of your files to an external hard drive or an offsite location, such as a server or iDisk, is the most efficient way to prevent losing your most important documents. Create a backup by manually copying files, folders and applications to a hard drive, or burning a DVD or CD with your files. Apple also provides backup solutions with the Disk Utility feature -- but not the one in your “Applications” folder. Start your Mac from the Mac OS X Install DVD that came with your computer in the optical drive but do not begin the installation. Click the “Utilities” menu, then choose “Disk Utility.” Follow the steps to create a new disk image and back up the contents of your computer to an external hard drive.

Time Machine

Apple’s Time Machine software, which comes default with Mac OS X, provides a full carbon copy backup of your computer, all the way down to your wallpaper and custom icons. Time Machine will copy your current Dock, Finder windows, folders, documents, music, third-party applications, network settings and more. You can use the Mac OS X Install DVD to restore your computer from a Time Machine backup. You can also exclude certain items to make tailored backups of your computer. You must have an external hard drive with enough space to hold at least one copy of your Macintosh hard drive to use Time Machine.