How to back up a Mac to an external hard drive using Time Machine

The easiest way to backup Mac to an external hard drive is using the built-in Time Machine app or utility as available in macOS.

Back up Mac to an external hard drive using Time Machine

To backup Mac to an external hard drive, all you need to do is connect the storage drive to Mac and enable Time Machine backups on your device.

Once the initial backup is complete and the Back Up Automatically option is selected, Time Machine can keep the backup up-to-date by scanning your computer every hour for new, revised, and deleted files.

If enough space is available on the external drive, Time Machine saves hourly backups for the last 24 hours, daily backups for the last month, and weekly backups for all previous months.

When the external storage device runs out of space, Time Machine automatically deletes the older backups to free up space for daily backups.

External Hard Drive Capacity for Time Machine Backup?

Time Machine can back up to virtually any storage device connected to your Mac’s USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire port.

If the attached storage drive is not in the correct format, Time Machine will automatically prompt you to format the drive.

To get the most out of Time Machine backups, the storage capacity of the external drive should be at least equal to the storage capacity of the hard drive on your Mac.

This allows Time Machine to store multiple versions of data, which in turn allows you to go back in time and recover files before you made any changes.

Note: Time Machine can also be set up to wirelessly back up Mac to an external drive available on the same network.

What is not included in Time Machine backup?

Corresponding AppleTime Machine should automatically back up any files on your MacBook, Mac Mini, or iMac that are not part of the macOS installation.

That means Time Machine should back up all of your documents, photos, videos, music, books, and third-party apps.

pass user experiencesTime Machine tends to skip the index database in the photo library, which can cause problems when restoring photos from a Time Machine backup.

Therefore, it is better to create a manual backup of photos and videos to an external drive. You can do this by simply dragging photos to the external drive.

How to enable Time Machine backup to external hard drive on Mac

Connect External hard drive on Mac and follow the steps below to enable machine backups on your Mac.

1. Click on that Apple logo in the top menu bar and select system settings in the drop down menu.

Open System Preferences on Mac

2. On the System Settings screen, click time Machine Possibility.

Time Machine option on the System Preferences screen

3. On the Time Machine screen, click Select Backup Disk… Button.

Time Machine settings screen on Mac

Note: Make sure you select Show Time Machine in the menu bar Possibility.

4. On the next screen, select the External hard disk connected to your Mac and click Use disk Button.

On Mac, choose an external hard drive for Time Machine backups

Note: You can choose Backup automatically Option if you want Time Machine to automatically update the backup.

5. If the format of the connected external hard drive is not compatible with macOS, you will be prompted to do so Extinguish the disc.

Prompt to erase disk during Time Machine setup on Mac

6. Wait patiently for the backup process to complete. The time to complete the first backup can be long.

7. Eject external drive (Important!)

When the backup process is complete, make sure you resist the temptation to disconnect the external drive from the Mac.

Unplugging or unplugging an external drive after a Time Machine backup is known to lead to data corruption and hard drive issues.

To avoid such problems, open Finder on your Mac, right-click the External backup drive and select that Eject option in the context menu.

After that, you can safely disconnect the device from your Mac and keep it in a safe place.

How do I update the Time Machine backup?

If you selected the “Back Up Automatically” option during the initial backup, you can rest assured that Time Machine will automatically back up all new and revised files to an external drive when it is connected to your Mac.

Regular Time Machine backups continue in the background as long as the external hard drive is connected to your Mac.

Benefits of Time Machine backups

Most data backup solutions are based on a backup of the entire system. The benefit of Apple’s Time Machine backups is that it backs up all the data on your computer only the first time.

After the initial backup, Time Machine only copies new and revised files instead of re-copying everything on your Mac. This ensures that Time Machine backups are fast and don’t waste resources.

Time Machine also offers the option to restore all or selected files from a specific point in time.


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