backup your Mac using Time Machine

Using Time Machine to backup your Mac couldn’t be simpler, and I’m here to show you how. If you’re new to Macs, don’t feel overwhelmed, because backing up doesn’t have to be a chore, and Time Machine is just one of your options for making sure that all of your files are safe and secure. Remember, when it comes to backing up, you can never have too many. Wouldn’t you rather take just a few minutes to set Time Machine up so you don’t have to worry? Me too.

Since the idea of Time Machine is to backup to a hard drive that’s not on your Mac (in case the unthinkable happens and your Mac crashes), you’re going to need to purchase a new external hard drive. When buying a new external hard drive I would look at purchasing nothing smaller than 500GB. That’s ample enough room for you to store your data and allow for regular backups.

Setting Up Time Machine

First of all, make sure your external hard drive is connected to your Mac. Then head on over to Time Machine in System Preferences. Click on the apple icon in the top left, then scroll down to System Preferences. It will look something like this:

accessing time machine's with system preferences

Once you get to the system preferences look for the Time Machine icon (it will have Time Machine underneath it). Once you click on it you will get taken to the Time Machine setup screen which look look like this. Note, it will only look like this if you are setting up Time Machine from the very beginning. If you’ve attempted to set up Time Machine before it will look a little different.

time machine preferences screen

If you have the screen as shown above, congratulations, you’re almost backing up your Mac with Time Machine! Click on the Select Disk button and you’ll get to choose your external hard drive to make backups with (my external hard drive is called ‘Clone Wars’ – you can name yours anything you like). Click on your external hard drive in the list and then click on Use Disk.

select your external hard drive in time machine


The result of clicking on Use Disk will be Time Machine starting to make backups. It will look like something very similar to this:

time machine backupsOnce the countdown has begun, time Machine will go through a process where it will prepare your backup, index your backup, and then begin to backup. When running Time Machine for the first time it may take a while depending on how much data you have to backup. If you’re doing this with a new Mac and don’t have much data to backup at all, it shouldn’t take that long. Since I transferred data from my old Mac using migration assistant, I have almost 200GB of data to backup.

time machine backing up data

Here’s something important. Time Machine will schedule automatic backups which you can turn off. I would strongly advise against turning off these scheduled backups. You never know when disaster will strike, and you would severely regret it if you were working on an important file and realized that you had turned off backups only to lose the data. Also, that big Off – On switch? Do not switch that to off. That will turn off your Time Machine backups entirely, and no backups will be made.

What Happens Next

During the backup process Time Machine will backup your Mac in the background. You won’t even notice it working aside from the little icon in the toolbar. It will keep hourly backups for the past 24 hours, so you’re able to resort to something you’ve been working on earlier in a project. Time Machine will also keep daily backups for the past month (useful for resorting to a backup you know works). Weekly backups for all previous months will all be available for you to access should you need to.

So, that’s it! It wasn’t that difficult, right? If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, please leave them in the comments.

Products Used Setting Up This Time Machine Backup: