Help Desk: How to Backup Your Mac

Having a backup solution in place is one of the most important things one can do to make sure one’s important data remains safe in the event of loss, theft, or hardware failure.  What many people don’t realize is that a hard drive or SSD can fail at any time, regardless of age, previous use, brand, etc.  It is the nature of technology that things can fail and for this reason, we can’t stress enough the importance of a solid backup solution.

If you own a Mac, the simplest way to make sure you are backing up your data is to use macOS’s built in “Time Machine” software which offers a seamless and worry-free solution to make automatic backups of all of your data including your applications, documents, photos, music, and any other files you store on your computer.  It can be easily configured to exclude non-essential files and/or folders, and can be easily restored from should you ever need to replace the hard drive/SSD in your Mac®.

Let’s take a look at how to get everything setup:

What you will need

1)  A Mac® computer running macOS 10.5 or newer

2)  1 x External HDD or SSD – the capacity should be equal to or greater than the sum of the drives you wish to backup (i.e. – if you have a 256GB internal SSD, you can use any external with at least 256GB capacity – if you have a 256GB SSD and another external  500GB HDD where you store all of your photos, you will want an external backup drive that it at least 500GB + 256GB = 756GB)

Step 1- Turn on your Mac®

Step 2- Plug in your external hard drive

Step 3- If the drive had never been previously formatted for the Mac® or Time Machine had never been setup on your Mac®, you will be prompted automatically to initialize/format the drive to a Mac® compatible format for use with  Time Machine – if this is the case you can simply click “Use as Backup Disk”.  You will then be prompted to erase the disk – click “Erase” and proceed to step 6.

If you are NOT prompted to initialize/format the drive right away, you can open system preferences (Apple Logo on the top left of your desktop -> System Preferences), click on Time Machine, and proceed to step 4.

Step 4- Click “Select Backup Disk”

Step 5- Select your external hard drive from the list and click “Use Disk”.  You can check the optional “Encrypt backups” checkbox for an added level of security, just make sure to remember the password you set because you will not be able to restore from an encrypted backup with out the original password!

Step 6- Make sure the box to “Back Up Automatically” is checked – this will make hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months.* We also recommend that you check the box that says “Show Time Machine in menu bar” – this gives you quick access to Time Machine and the ability to quickly see when your last backup was performed.

*Oldest backups are deleted when the disk become full.

Step 7- Make your first backup!  Once you’ve selected your drive, the system will count down from 120 seconds and start your first backup automatically.  Should you decide to manually make a backup at anytime moving forward, you can do so by navigating to the top right of your screen and selecting the Time Machine icon in the menu bar.  Select “Backup Now” to make a manual backup.

If you’ve found this information helpful please leave us a comment!  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 805-745-8587 or email us at and any member of our knowledgeable team of Apple professionals and enthusiasts will be happy to assist you!


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