How to back up your Mac: A step by step guide
In this article, we will show you how to back up your MacBook to iCloud or an external hard drive using Time Machine. We will also go over what to do before backing a Mac up and share the top three backup software options. Let's go.
Why you may need to back up your Mac
We all love our Macs — they are powerful, secure, easy to use, and incredibly reliable machines. But even Macs sometimes fail, leaving you in a desperate search for a way to recover your data. Backups may save you the trouble. By backing up your data, you can make sure no photo, file, or video will get lost if your hard drive refuses to operate or even when the unthinkable happens, and you lose your Mac.
Mac backup options
Here are some backup options described in this article:
- How to prepare your Mac for a backup
- How to back up Mac to an external hard drive with Time Machine
- How to back up Mac using iCloud
- How to back up Mac with third-party software
How to prepare your Mac for a backup
Hard drives have finite space, and that space can run out quickly if you’re continually backing up items that you don’t need.
To ensure that your hard drive has enough room for all of the important stuff, you should use CleanMyMac X routinely to detect and instantly remove system files and folders, hogging up space.
CleanMyMac X’s Smart Scan feature scans your Mac for outdated cache files, incomplete downloads, trashed items, and other unneeded junk files to find the things that are safe to get rid off. And using it couldn’t be easier.
- Download CleanMyMac X (for free).
- Launch the app and select Smart Cleanup.
- Hit Scan and wait while CleanMyMac performs scanning.
- Hit Clean and watch in awe as your hard drive suddenly gains free space that you never thought was possible.
How to back up your Mac to an external hard drive with Time Machine
A local backup is the fastest way to backup your data. It involves moving your files over to an external hard drive. HDDs and SSDs have dropped greatly in price in recent years, so you should be able to pick one up relatively cheaply with a decent capacity. Local backup is a safe and reliable way to safeguard all of your important files, and it's really easy to do.
Mac's built-in Time Machine feature is the easiest way to perform a backup to an external hard drive. If the hard drive you've chosen isn't formatted as Time Machine requires, you'll need to format it to be fully compatible with macOS. This will remove everything from your backup disk, so you might want to transfer any files to a different device.
Step 1. Format your external hard drive
To start formatting, connect your external hard drive to your Mac with a USB or Thunderbolt. Once it's connected, follow the steps:
- Open Disk Utility (Finder > Applications > Utilities).
- Select your hard drive under 'external' and click Erase.
- Choose Format — the latest macOS versions use APFS by default; select this format for fast performance.
- Click Erase.
Now your hard drive is ready for backup.
Step 2. Back up your data with Time Machine
Here's how to back up your Mac with Time Machine:
- Go to System Preferences > Time Machine.
- Click Select Disk and choose your external hard drive.
- Select your hard drive and click Use Disk.
If you want to encrypt your data, click the "Encrypt backups" checkbox at the last step. You'll be prompted to create a backup password. Then, click Encrypt Disk, and Time Machine will begin backing up your data.
How to back up your Mac to iCloud
Local backups are quick and easy, but, like your Mac, physical hard drives are susceptible to failure and catastrophes like flood, fire, or burglary. Storing data in the cloud removes these risks, and it too is very straightforward, particularly in the case of iCloud.
Once iCloud is up and running, you no longer have to worry about losing any of your photos, music, mail, contacts, calendars, reminders, notes, or Safari data. iCloud gives you 5GB of free storage to get you started, with options to upgrade to as much as 2TB of storage space.
Before setting up iCloud to automatically backup your data, make sure you’re running the latest macOS version. You can find this out by choosing About This Mac from the Apple menu and checking if an update is available.
Now, let's back up your data with iCloud:
- Go to System Preferences and click Apple ID.
- Select iCloud.
- Sign in with your Apple ID if you're prompted.
- Select iCloud Drive.
Now, all files in iCloud Drive will be automatically stored in iCloud.
If you want to back up your Desktop and Documents folders to iCloud Drive, click Options next to iCloud Drive. Select Desktop & Documents Folders. These two folders will now appear in the iCloud section of your sidebar in Finder.
Make sure to check the boxes next to anything else you want to be stored in iCloud.
How to back up Mac with third-party software
If you are looking for an alternative backup solution, here are the top three affordable and secure apps to back up your data.
Backblaze is a cloud backup tool that lets you back up an unlimited amount of files. It backs up your data automatically, but you can manually exclude files and folders you don't want to save. With Backblaze, you can set up scheduled backups and be sure your data is always safe.
iDrive is another great backup software that works with multiple platforms and devices. iDrive syncs your files in real-time, automatically recognizing the modified parts, so you don't need to back up the whole document once again. It also lets you recover your trashed files within 30 days, ensuring you won't lose any important data.
Get Backup Pro provides a four different backup options: simple copy, clone, incremental and versioned. This app syncs all your folders, schedule regular backups and recover your data to any Mac, even if Get Backup Pro is not installed on those machine.
Have you already backed up your Mac? Don’t put it off. System failure can happen at any time and for any number of reasons. We really don’t want it to happen to you. Use a combination of local and cloud backups so that you’re protected against every eventuality, and make the most of a tool like CleanMyMac X to ensure your hard drives never run out of space.