How To Backup Your Mac To An External Hard Drive

  1. How To Backup Your Macbook To External Hard Drive
  2. Hard Drive To Backup Mac
  3. How To Backup Photos From A Mac To An External Hard Drive

The importance of regularly backing up your computer cannot be overstated. If you are like the majority of Mac users, there are a lot of very important documents and files that live on your machine’s storage devices. A catastrophic data loss could result in serious repercussions that can impact you in a variety of ways. It’s one of the dangers we need to accept if we want to reap the fruits of the digital world.

Connect your Mac to an external hard drive. Open the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Click Time Machine. Click Select Backup Disk. Select the external hard drive. Click Options to set your preferences. Reason 1, your Mac can use a Seagate external hard drive formatted as HFS+ for a Time Machine backup. So if anything happens to your Mac you can restore your entire Mac from a Time Machine backup. Reason 2, when you accidentally delete a file you want, then you can bring that file back as well. If you don't see this message, click Apple menu System Preferences and select Time Machine, click 'Select Backup Disk' and select the external hard drive for Mac backup on the list, and click Use Disk. You external hard drive should be formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Option-click (and continue holding down option) when launching the Photos app on your Mac. When it asks you to choose a library, click on Create New. Name your library. Press the Down arrow to expand the File picker and choose your external drive as the new location. Press OK to save it to your external drive.

Imagine what would happen to all of your digital photos and videos if your hard drive malfunctioned. Over time, it happens to the best equipment. Or if all of the documentation for your home business was suddenly destroyed by a big glass of soda that was inadvertently spilled on your computer.

The backup methods are not mutually exclusive, and to really protect your data you might want to consider creating multiple types of backups. Let’s find out how to backup your Mac to ensure that your precious data is safe in the event of an unforeseen event that leads to a data loss.

Reasons You Should Back Up Your Mac

It is considered a best practice throughout the computing community to regularly create backups. There are multiple reasons why you should adopt this activity to protect the valuable data stored on your Mac. Among the most important are:

  • 🛡️ Backups offer protection that can help you recover from unexpected data loss situations. They can be the only way to recover data from a lost Mac or one with a damaged hard drive.
  • 🍏 Backups can be used to recover user data after reinstalling macOS or when setting up a new Mac.
  • 💽 Backups protect you in the event of a catastrophic disk failure or data loss on solid-state drives.
  • 🗄️ Backups provide a method for recovering historical copies of documents and files.
The bottom line is if you value your data, you should be backing it up. Using more than one method is preferable, as it gives you options when it’s time to use the backups for recovery.

Storing Your Backups

When using Time Machine to create a backup or cloning your hard drive, you need to provide sufficient storage space on which to save your backup. You might be tempted to designate a partition of your main hard drive for this purpose but that would not be a good idea. The goal is to protect your data, and having a backup on the same physical disk as the original data does not fulfill that objective.

To adequately protect your data you will need to invest in a peripheral storage device such as a USB attached hard drive. You might choose to only attach this drive when performing backups or you can leave it connected to your computer at all times. If you want to run automatic backups, a device that is always attached will let your backups run with no manual intervention.

Method 1: Backup your Mac with Time Machine

There are many reasons that may have influenced your decision to purchase a Mac for your computing needs. One is the ease in which the advanced functionality of the machine can be harnessed by just about anyone. Your computer is full of features designed to make your computing life easier and more productive.

The engineers at Apple are well aware that it is important for them to provide users with a way to easily take quality backups of their system and data. To that end, they have included an excellent backup utility with your Mac operating system. It is called Time Machine and we are going to show you how to use it to protect your data.

Steps to Backup Your Mac With Time Machine:

  1. Connect your storage device to your Mac. Starting with macOS 11.0 Big Sur, the APFS file system is preferred for Time Machine backups. You can also use Mac OS Extended format (Journaled), Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled), and Xsan formatted disks.
  2. After the storage device is connected you will be asked if you want to use this drive to back up with Time Machine. You can choose to encrypt your backup, and it is recommended that you do so. Then click on Use as Backup Disk. If your drive is not recognized automatically, open up Time Machine preferences and manually add the disk as a backup target.
  3. Once the disk is selected Time Machine will immediately begin creating a backup. If it’s the , this will take some time to complete. The time required for subsequent backups will vary based on the number of new files or changes made to your system since the previous backup.

It really is that simple. Time Machine makes it easy for you to back up your Mac. It’s up to you to either leave the external drive attached or connect it periodically to allow the utility to protect your data.

How Time Machine Works

According to Apple, Time Machine will automatically make hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. As your storage device becomes full, the oldest backups are deleted so newer backups can continue to use the device.

💡 The first time you create a backup using Time Machine it will probably take a long time as it is backing up all of the selected files from your Mac. You can exclude files and folders from the backups by selecting them for exclusion in Time Machine’s options. After the initial backup, only new or changed data is backed up, unless you force a full backup.
How to backup your macbook to external hard drive

Time machine on mac is a life saver

— Seenz 🇯🇲 (@Seenzz_) March 10, 2021

This method of backing up, known as incremental backup, saves time and storage space by not making unnecessary duplicate copies of files. It does, however, save multiple copies of files that change, so you can go back to get previous versions as long as there is room on your backup storage device. For this reason, it is recommended that you obtain the largest storage device that you can so you can retain your old backup versions for a long period of time.

Method 2: Use Backup Software to Clone Your Hard Drive

The second method of backing up your Mac also requires the use of an external storage device to hold a clone of your hard drive. The external drive needs to be at least as large as your primary disk in order to be sure that there will be enough room to store the cloned copy.

A clone of your disk indicates that the disk is copied bit-by-bit to create an exact copy of your primary drive. Clones can be used as your main backup method and can also be instrumental in data recovery efforts by minimizing disk usage on a damaged drive.

Here are some ways to clone your Mac’s drives:

1. Clone your Mac with Disk Drill (Free)

Disk Drill software for Mac offers an easy & totally free way to clone your Mac. The tool can use the clone to enact data recovery functions or you can simply use it as a backup that is an exact copy of your original disk.

5 Steps you Need to Backup your Mac with Disk Drill:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill on your Mac.
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  2. Launch Disk Drill and select “Byte-to-byte Backup” from the left panel.
  3. Select the drive to make a byte-to-byte disk image from.
  4. Connect the external drive that will hold the clone. Press “Create backup“. Disk Drill will warn you if there is not enough space for the clone. If there is no warning, the program begins to create the clone.
  5. Wait for the backup to be created.

It may take a while, but eventually the process will end and you will now have a large DMG file that contains the contents of your hard drive. This clone can be used for data recovery operations, or simply stored as a backup of your machine.

2. Clone a Mac with SuperDuper! (Paid)

Another tool that you can use to create disk image clones is SuperDuper!. It is an easy to use utility that can be downloaded for a free trial, with a paid version costing $27.95. It is a reliable application that can be used to protect your Mac’s valuable data.

3. Clone your Mac with Carbon Copy Cloner (Paid)

Here is another software utility that lets you create bootable disk images of your Mac’s hard drive. It works with all version of the macOS and will cost you $39.99 for a fully licensed version.

Method 3: Back up Your Mac to an Online Backup Service

Recently a new method of backing up your computer has become available to individual users. Remotely backing up to the cloud offers the user some advantages over more traditional backup methods. Rather than use an external storage device that you furnish, when using an online backup service you use their storage.

There are many options available for performing online backups. We will take a look at a few of them and describe what they offer and their costs.

iCloud Drive

Free options:
Your Apple ID and password give you access to iCloud and a 5GB storage capacity. You can easily create a folder structure on your iCloud Drive and manually copy your files to the cloud location.

Paid options:
Based on how much data you will store in the cloud, you can upgrade your storage plan. With iCloud, you can obtain 50GB a month for $0.99 all the way up to terabytes at $9.99 each.

Google Drive

Free options:
Similar to iCloud Drive is the online storage offered by Google. When you sign up for a Google account you are given 15GB of free storage which can be upgraded as you need it.

Paid options:
100 GB will cost you $1.99 a month and a terabyte of storage will set you back $9.99.


Free options:
Another online alternative that will allow you to backup your data is Dropbox. When you sign up for a Dropbox account, you can save any of your data to their online storage – you get 2GB for free.

Paid options:
An upgrade to 1 terabyte will cost you $9.99 / month; 2 terabytes – $19.99 / month.

You pay for the storage by the month and can use as much as you are willing to purchase. You are not constrained by the size of your storage device. Since you have backed up to an online location, your data is kept separately from your computer, ensuring that you can retrieve your data in the event of a catastrophe such as a fire or flood that may destroy the primary and backup copies of your data.

💡 You do need an Internet connection in order to perform online backups. You will also need to be connected in order to use this backup for a restore. This may be an issue for some users and is one of the main reasons to continue with locally created backups.


OneDrive is Microsoft’s consumer cloud storage platform and can be used to back up files on your Mac by using the following steps. You need a Microsoft account in order to use OneDrive. Once you have created your account, you can continue this procedure.

  1. Download the free OneDrive app from the Mac app store. It provides 5 GB of free storage for your Mac.
  2. Launch the OneDrive app and enter your Microsoft account credentials.
  3. Choose a location for your OneDrive folder.
  4. Copy or drag files and folders from your Mac to the OneDrive folder.

Files copied to the OneDrive folder are backed up to the cloud and accessible from any of your devices with Internet access.

How to Restore a Mac from a Time Machine Backup

Backups are only useful when used to restore or recover data. Following is the procedure to recover data from a Time Machine backup. We will look at how to selectively restore files from Time Machine in the event of lost or deleted data. The selected files must have been included in one of your Time Machine backups for this method to work.

  1. Connect the device that contains the Time Machine backups to your Mac to make its data available for recovery.
  2. Open a Finder window that displays the storage location where the lost data was last stored. For example, if the missing files were last in the Applications folder, open a Finder window that displays that folder. There is no need to open a Finder window if the missing item was on the Desktop.
  3. Open Time Machine by clicking the Time Machine icon on the menu bar. Time Machine can also be started from Launchpad.
  4. Use Time Machine’s arrows and timeline to browse the local snapshots and backups to find the items you want to recover. You can restore individual files or a complete disk from here.
  5. Select the items you wish to recover and click the Restore button. The restored items will be recovered to their original storage locations.


As you can see, there are a multitude of techniques you can employ to backup your Mac. Failure to backup your machine leaves you exposed to data loss and all the problems that can result from such an event. If you are not currently backing up your Mac, choose one of the options above and start doing it today. You never know when a backup may be required to recover your precious files.

How To Backup Your Macbook To External Hard Drive


Follow these steps to back up your Mac with Time Machine:

  1. Connect the storage device that will be used for the backup to your Mac.
  2. Open Time Machine by clicking on the clock icon on the Mac menu bar.
  3. If it’s the first time you are using the storage device, you may need to select it in Time Machine. Subsequent backups will automatically go to the device if it is connected when you start Time Machine.
  4. Select Back Up Now to perform a backup immediately.
  5. Open Time Machine Preferences to change the backup disk, choose folders to exclude from backups, or set Time Machine to backup automatically when the storage device is attached to your Mac.

Disk Drill enables you to create a byte-level backup of your Mac using the following procedure.

  1. Launch Disk Drill on your Mac.
  2. Select “Byte-to-byte Backup” from the left panel.
  3. Choose the drive or partition you want to back up.
  4. Click the “Create backup” button and select a target location where the data will be stored.
  5. Allow the process to complete.

Backing up a Mac takes a variable amount of time based on a few factors.

  • If it’s the first time you back up the machine, the elapsed time will be directly influenced by the amount of data. More data equals a longer backup.
  • Once the initial backup has been taken, the time necessary to back up a Mac will depend on the amount of data added to the machine as well as modifications made to existing files. The more changes you make, the longer a backup will take.
  • The third factor in backup time is the location of the target storage device. A local backup taken with Time Machine to a USB attached external drive will usually be faster than an online backup that needs to send data over the Internet.

The best backup tools for Mac are:

  1. Time Machine – included with macOS, creates full backups of your Mac
  2. iCloud – accessible with an Apple ID, saves user data to the cloud
  3. Disk Drill – data recovery software with extra tools, creates byte-level backups
  4. Carbonite – an offsite backup service
  5. Google Drive – Save files and folders to the cloud
  6. DropBox – Save files and folders to the cloud
  7. OneDrive – Save files and folders to the cloud

Use these steps to backup data on your computer to iCloud.

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Apple ID. If you’re using macOS Mojave or earlier, you don’t need to click Apple ID.
  2. Choose iCloud.
  3. Sign in with your Apple ID if prompted.
  4. Select iCloud Drive.
  5. Choose the items you want to be backed up to iCloud and select their checkboxes.

Most of us never think about losing our important data until it actually happens and we’re caught without a backup. At some point in our lives, all of us lose data. Sometimes, we accidentally drop the hard drive or spill water on it. Ransomware could also possibly hold your files hostage or a software bug could corrupt your files. In the worst scenario, your computer or laptop could be burnt, misplaced, damaged, or even stolen. In all these possible situations, users end up losing their precious data if they’re not regularly backing up their files. Since your computer’s hard drive could fail at any moment, it is advised to take regular backups. Whether you accidentally delete a file or your hard drive suffers a crash, an up-to-date backup can save you from unexpected data loss. However, even the tech-savvy people often neglect backing up their hard drives because creating and managing data backups is considered to be cumbersome.

What a Data Backup Is?
To protect data from potential loss, a backup is created which is simply a copy of the files and documents stored on your hard drive to another location. All your important documents, music, photos, or other files can be easily copied to another data storage device so that it can be recovered in the event of hard drive failure and resultant data loss. So, your computer’s backup means maintaining an exact copy of all files you create. However, this doesn’t mean creating multiple copies of original files on the same hard drive, at once. There is no point in making 3 copies of a document on your computer because if your internal hard drive crashes, you will still lose all three. Data backup is a repetitive process that involves copying files at another hard drive or any other media. Whether you’re using a manual or automated backup option, if the process is not repeated regularly then new or changed files will not be saved or archived.

How to Create Data Backup?
Backups are extremely easy to maintain and manage. Computer users have plenteous options to maintain backups. There are multiple applications, platforms, and storage media to create, maintain, and manage backups easily. You may choose a manual or automated backup option but the best backup solution will automatically perform backups once the system is set up.

The data from your computer’s hard drive can be preserved on other hard drives, other external storage devices like USB flash drives or external hard drives, or online cloud storage accounts.

Now as you know there are numerous options to backup files, you might wonder which one is right for you. Certainly, there are many good backup programs, but one of the best options is Windows built-in tools that automatically save copies of your data to an external hard drive or a shared network location. Both Windows and Mac OS have great built-in backup utilities that can protect your files from accidental loss by creating a backup on an external hard drive. So, let’s find out how to easily back up your hard drive on an external hard drive and then restore data from there.

Hard Drive To Backup Mac

How to Backup Hard Drive to External Hard Drive?
Backing up the hard drive to an external hard drive will keep your files safe if anything happens to your computer. For this, you need to first buy a good external hard drive that can easily accommodate all your data. You may get Western Digital, Seagate, or any other drive but make sure to invest in a product that best suits your storage needs. You may get an external hard drive that has the same capacity as your computer’s internal hard drive. This will allow you to mirror your internal hard drive to your external drive. However, if you intend to make regular backups, then look for an external drive with twice the capacity of your internal drive. Once you get the right drive, follow some simple steps to backup your computer’s hard drive to your external hard drive.

Turn on Your Computer
To make copies of your music, movies, films, and other data files, first you need to turn on your computer and connect the external hard drive. Make sure your USB external drive is compatible with the USB port on your computer. You may use your backup drive for cloning the entire drive or to create an archive of your changed/updated files. Unlike mirroring, the archive doesn’t clone the entire drive but only creates incremental backups as you work.

Backup According to Your Operating System
Your computer’s built-in backup features will allow you to back up your files. When you connect your external drive, the Mac or Windows operating systems will automatically recognize your USB external drive. Your system will ask you if you want to use the external drive as a backup device. You will get an option to either mirror the entire drive or choose particular files to back up. When backing up for the first, it’s easier to simply mirror the entire drive. Once you back up all the existing data, you may back up only new or updated files in the future. If you’re using Windows 7, then Windows Backup will allow you to copy files. Windows 10 and 8 users have access to the File History feature. Mac users, on the other hand, can use Time Machine. These features can be used by connecting the drive to the computer for backup.

Windows’ Built-in Backup Tools
You can backup your data manually by copying them directly to an external hard drive. Another option is using Windows’ backup tools that are similar to online backup services. Windows allow its users to set up backup once and get automatic and continuous backups of their files. The backup utility of Windows 7 is known as Backup and Restore. Windows 8 has divided this backup tool into two parts: File History and a system image tool.

How To Backup Photos From A Mac To An External Hard Drive

The default option of Windows 7 will back up and Restore data once a month, while File History on Windows 8 works every hour. Windows also allow users to adjust their backup settings. This means that you can choose how often you need backup. The “Advanced settings” of Windows 8 and the “Change schedule” option in Windows 7 can be used to adjust how often you want the backup to run.

Now, let’s check out how to backup data to an external drive using Windows backup.
1. Get a backup USB external hard drive and plug it in the computer. If you don’t get a backup prompt, you can just go to the Start Menu, Search for “backup” in Windows to find the backup tool, and click on “Backup and Restore.” To start the process, click on the “Set up backup” link in Backup and Restore. If you’re using Windows 8, you can simply search for “backup” on the start screen and then choose “Save backup copies of your files with File History.” Now select the “Turn on” button in File History.

2. The next step is to choose the location for your backups. Since you’ve already connected a USB drive, Windows will automatically recognize the connected drive. Now you need to select the backup external drive. Windows 7 users should click the “Save on a network…” button to choose a specific drive, while for Windows 8, click on the “Select drive” link in the menu at the left.

3. Finally, a user needs to select the folders and files to back up. Windows users have the option to either allowWindows to perform backup or select their own folders. Unless you want to select only specific folders, you may allow Windows to choose. Your system will automatically create a system image and save the files in your libraries, desktop, and default Windows folders. The File History feature of Windows 8 will also automatically save files in your Desktop, Libraries, Contacts, and OneDrive folders. Once the needed data is backed up, you need to click the save your settings button, run the backup, and you’re done. Whenever you need to restore a lost file, go to the Start Menu, type backup, and select “Backup and Restore”.

Mac Backup Utility
If you use a Mac, you can use Time Machine, which will run every hour and check for changes. The easy to use Time Machine is useful for backing up, as well as restoring files. This system automatically creates a backup of your entire hard drive when running.

To backup data from your hard drive to an external drive, plug in your drive. Your Mac system will ask you if you want to use that drive as a backup disk. Select the “Use as Backup Disk” option to start the backup process. In case your operating system does not prompt the backup option, then Mac users should go to System Preferences, open the Time Machine option, click on “Select Backup Disk” and choose the external drive. Keep your computer turned to take your first backup. To restore a file all you need to do is simply click on the Time Machine option and select “Enter Time Machine” to search through your old backups.

How to Create a Full-System Backup of Your Computer
The Windows backup tools are used to make copies of the most important data such as documents, photos, and videos. However, some users may also need a backup of other programs like system settings, applications, and all other files. In this case, users need to create a system image of their computer which is nothing but an exact copy of everything on your hard drive. This helps in restoring everything back to normal if the hard drive or entire computer crashes. However, unlike the Windows backup tools, system image backups can’t be scheduled for automatic backups. Also, it allows users to have only one system image on a drive at a time.

To create a complete backup of your hard drive, you need to first type “backup” in the search box and click on the “Create a system image” in Windows 7 and “System Image Backup” in Windows 8. Now select your backup external hard drive and click the “Start backup” button to create the system image.