How to Back Up Your Mac: Unleash the Power of Time Machine for Unbeatable Backups and Total Peace of Mind

How to Back Up Your Mac with Time Machine
How-to article

Why should Mac users utilize the built in Time Machine backup software on their devices? For that matter, why should you back up your Mac at all? From buying a new Mac, to replacing the hard drive, or your computer crashing, there will be a time where you will want to use your backup to restore files or restore your Mac. In these instances, you’ll need a backup of all your data. What backup solutions are there for you?

Mac computers have a built in back up software that allows its users to create a copy of their data (music, files, photos, etc…) on either an external storage device or on the iCloud. You can utilize this backup to recover your data if you’ve accidentally deleted your data, or your data has been corrupted or lost.

While utilizing cloud storage is a viable option, many users prefer to own a physical copy of their data, don’t trust the cloud, or have their data saved in 2 locations. Time machine backs up your data through hourly backups for the last 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for the previous months. Time Machine also conveniently deletes the oldest backups when your external storage device is full.

Select a Storage Device for your Back Up

The first step to successfully back up your Mac is to select an external storage device such as an external hard drive, SSD, or flash drive to utilize solely for your device’s backup. Each of these storage devices have their own pros and cons for you to consider before making your decision.

Hard Drive

  • Pro: Has ample amount of storage space options to choose from.
  • Con: You may need a special adapter to connect the hard drive to your computer (such as a SATA cable). Hard drives have a typical lifespan of 3-5 years.


  • Pro: Boasts the longest lifespan of any external storage device, coming in at 5-10 years. There is a variety of storage space options available for you to choose from.
  • Con: You may need a special adapter and housing to connect the SSD to your computer (such as a SATA cable).

Flash Drive

  • Pro: You will most likely not need a special adapter to connect to your computer.
  • Cons: Most flash drives have a smaller storage space available, so if you’re looking to back up your entire computer, you may not have enough space.

Set up Time Machine for the First Time

  1. Ensure that your computer is connected to the internet with either WiFi or Ethernet.
  2. Connect your external storage device to your Mac. Remember that this backup drive should only be utilized for this purpose.
  3. Open your Time Machine settings by selecting the Apple menu/Apple logo  (in the top left corner of your screen) → navigate to either System Preferences or System Settings (depending on your operating system) → select Time Machine.
    • If you’d like to access your Time Machine more easily in the future, check the box next to “Show Time Machine in menu bar” to have the time machine icon added to the menu bar across the top of your screen.
  4. Click “select backup disk” to designate your external storage device as your backup destination, select your external storage disk and hit “Use Disk”
    • If you’d like to encrypt your backup with a password, select the checkbox next to “Encrypt backups.”
  5. Your device will begin preparing your backup, and shortly after your backup will begin. Depending on volume, the first backup may take a significant amount of time to backup files, apps, and other data saved on your device.
  6. Once your backup has been completed, you’ll receive a notification in the top right corner of your screen (the location of the notification may change depending on what version of macOS your laptop is running).

Back up Options Moving Forward

Now that you have successfully backed up your Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, or iMac for the first time, the hard part is over! While it is still important to perform frequent back ups, you can decide whether you’d like to utilize the automatic backup feature or perform your own manual backups.

Automatic Backups

If you leave your external storage device plugged into your computer, Time Machine will perform hourly backups for you automatically. Each backup will be saved on your storage device until it’s memory is full. When this occurs, Time Machine will automatically erase the previous backups, starting with the oldest.

  • On newer MacOS (Ventura or later), Apple has developed a customization capability for the frequency of your automatic backups.

Manual Backups

If you need to start a backup before the next automatic backup is scheduled, you can perform a manual back up on your device. Simply open the Time Machine menu either from the menu bar or your system preferences, and select “Back Up Now.” Your device will begin the backup process immediately.

Need to Back up your iPhone or iPad?

Have an iPhone or iPad that you’d like to back up while you’re at it? Our iResQ Help Desk has a video tutorial, outlined with a step by step procedure here.



Here at iResQ, we are committed to educating our customers on the many frequently asked questions (FAQs) that they may have. We’d love to hear from you! What other questions or procedures can we help you with?

Have no product in the cart!