How to Backup a Mac with Time Machine

With Time Machine, Apple offers an in-house backup function that lets you back up all of your Mac’s settings, files, and applications. This so-called full backup creates an image of your system that you can easily restore to another Mac. Once activated, Time Machine automatically backs up your data at regular intervals. In the following, we will show you what you need to pay attention to when creating a backup with Time Machine:

How to Backup Mac with Time Machine Automatically

To create backups with Time Machine, you first need an external storage medium. This can be an external hard drive or even a macOS server on your network. If you want to use an external hard drive as a backup volume, it must be formatted with the macOS file system "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)". We explain how to format storage media under macOS in this article. If such a medium is available, you can start with the activation of Time Machine. To do this, follow our step-by-step instructions or take a look at the quick start guide.

Step 1: When you connect an external hard drive to your Mac, you’ll usually be asked directly if you want to use it as a backup volume. Click "Use as backup volume" at the bottom right to configure the hard drive with Time Machine. Check the appropriate box if you want to encrypt the hard drive with a password.

Step 2: If no window opened when you connected the external hard drive, you must go to Time Machine settings via the system settings. Open it via the gear icon in the Dock or via the apple icon in the upper left. In the following window, select the Time Machine icon at the bottom.

Step 3: In Time Machine Preferences, click on "Select Volume" to select a location for your Time Machine. "to select a storage location for your backups.

Step 4: The list will now show you the available backup volumes. Select one of them and confirm your choice with "Use volume". You can repeat this step to select a second storage medium for even more security. Then backups will be created on these media alternately in the future.

Check "Encrypt backups" if you want to protect the backups with a password. If you have checked "Automatic backups" in the Time Machine preferences on the left, backups will now be created automatically from your Mac at regular intervals – hourly for stationary Macs, and whenever the power is connected and the backup drive is available for MacBooks.

Note: Creating the first backup can take several hours!

Step 5: In the Time Machine preferences, you can still exclude individual objects from the backup via the button "Options" button to exclude individual objects from the backup – for example, to save space on the backup volume. To do this, click on the + and select the corresponding objects. Then confirm your selection with "Save".

Note: Once the external hard drive is full, Time Machine will automatically overwrite older backups.

How to Backup Mac with Time Machine Manually

If you need a backup immediately, you can also start it manually and do not have to wait until Time Machine automatically backs up your data again.

To do this, click on the Time Machine icon (small clock) in the menu bar and select "Create backup now" from the menu. If the icon does not appear in the menu bar, you have to check the box "Show Time Machine in menu bar" in the Time Machine settings.

Quick guide: Setting up Automatic Time Machine Backup on Mac

Step 1: Connect an external hard disk to your Mac and select "Use as backup volume" in the window that appears. If no such window has opened, you can access the Time Machine settings via the System Preferences or via the icon in the menu bar.

Step 2: Click on "Select Volume" and select an available storage medium for your backups from the list. Confirm with "Use Volume". You can repeat this process to configure a second backup volume for even more security with Time Machine.

Step 3: Check "Automatic backup" and your data will be backed up automatically at regular intervals.

Step 4: To save space on your backup volume, you can exclude individual objects from the backup via "Options…".