backing up to an external hard drive with time machine

TimeMachine comes standard with OS X, and is the easiest and most convenient way to back up your Mac; provided that is, you have an external hard drive. Having the backups on an external hard drive is to make sure that any data you backup won’t be affected if it is stored locally.

For example, let’s say you have a file on your hard drive, and you make a duplicate of it in case something happens to the original. Smart thinking, right? Files can often become corrupted and in some cases the best thing to do is make a duplicate. While this is one solution, what would happen if your hard drive crashed, and both instances of those files were lost? All the time and effort you spent to create the document would have to be spent all over again.

That’s the beauty of Time Machine. If your backup is on an external hard drive, anything that happens to your local hard drive is irrelevant. To make sure that large files, projects, or folders you work on are backed up, make sure you have Time Machine turned on so that it performs backups on a regular basis. Time Machine will keep hourly backups, but if you don’t have the system set up to make those backups, you’re risking losing day-by-day files, or any updates you make.

Here are two simple steps to make sure your Time Machine backups are turned on and active:

Step 1: Right-click the Time Machine icon in the toolbar (it’s the one that looks like a clock with an anti-clockwise arrow.

opening time machine preferences

Step 2: Verify that your Time Machine switch is set to on, and that there is a scheduled time for Next Backup.

checking for regular backups on time machine

You see how in the screen shot above the latest backup and next backup are only an hour or so apart? If I’m working on a project this afternoon, and something happens to my Mac, or the specific document I’m working on, I can grab whatever I need from Time Machine and restore either the lone file, or the whole system.

Time Machine is just one way of backing up your Mac. Checkout how I backup my Mac, and some other Mac backup options.