Sorry if this is a dumb question, but I've just found out my iMac is eligible for a hard drive replacement. Which I guess is good news, seeing as its 2.5 years old now.
Obviously files can simply be restored from the back up painlessly, but how does it work with Applications? Is it literally as simple as hitting 'Restore' from TC, and that's it? I guess I'm just not sure how it works with regards the Apps needing to be reinstalled onto the new hard drive - does TC store all the necessary bits to reinstall everything?
TM cannot restore a fully working computer EXACTLY.. as the original in the time. It is not designed to do that.. it is designed to be smart.. too smart is a problem.
Plug a USB drive into the computer.. use superduper to create an exact bootable image on the usb drive.
Change the boot from the internal to the external drive..
When the computer comes back from Apple.. plug in the external drive.. set it to the boot drive.. use superduper to again copy the whole thing back to the internal drive.
But you can do it via the image you store on the TC disk.. You restore it via a boot disk with superduper. This can be a usb stick so it doesn't have to be large.
Do a quick read.
An alternative.. is using a boot cd .. clonezilla.. that is also great.. although it is very Linux.. the menus are pretty simple to navigate.
None of this stops you from using TM..
If you want to do it via TM.. great.. strongly advise a fresh clean TM backup though.. TM by its nature of incremental backups over time is many times larger than the existing drive data. It takes ages to sort through.
And it can mess up permissions and all kinds of issues.. if you just have a read through the discussions here. It is not easy.
For a direct.. restore.. seeing your computer boot from an external drive exactly as it does from the internal drive is very comforting.