Backing up Your Mac: The Complete Guide

Backing up Your Mac: The Complete Guide

If you’re here reading this, you already know how important it is to protect yourself against data loss. Losing crucial files and documents can be absolutely devastating not just on a personal front but also for your business. 

It is essential to maintain a backup of all your data that can be restored if your Mac gets hacked or you have to format it to remove malicious software. 

A place to store your backed up files

You need a ton of storage to create backups, and it is vital that you choose an external storage device to do so. Creating a backup on the primary hard drive will not be helpful if your hard drive becomes corrupt. 

You can either use a flash drive that you connected when you manually take backups or leave the drive connected to take automatic backups. 

Option 1: Use ‘Time Machine’

‘Time Machine’ is a built-in feature on your Mac that allows you to backup your files effectively. 

Here’s how to use it:

Step 1: Connect your flash drive to your Mac

Step 2: A pop-up will show asking if you want to use this with Time Machine. You should ‘encrypt your backup’ and then hit ‘Use as Backup Disk.’

Step 3: Time Machine will automatically start backing up your data. 

The first time you do, it will take a significant amount of time, depending on the amount of data you have. The second time onwards, this will take relatively lesser time because it will only store the new files.

If you don’t wish to wait that long or don’t need all the files and folders to be stowed away, you can exclude them from Time Machine’s settings. 

In fact, it is recommended that you clean up your Mac before you take a backup. Get rid of all temporary files, cache, and unused apps. Deleting temporary files and cache is pretty straightforward.

But, uninstalling apps can be a little tricky. To find unused apps, you can open Finder and filter by the ‘date last opened’ and then offload them. Some pre-installed apps can also be hard to delete, so you can find more hints on using a native uninstaller to delete them the right way.

How does Time Machine work?

Time Machine takes a backup every hour, every day, and every week. When your device reaches capacity, older versions are removed to make space for a new version. 

This type of process is known as ‘incremental backup’ and can save you time and space by not replicating files you already have saved.

Option 2: Try software

Backing up Your Mac: The Complete Guide

There are dedicated software programs that can take a backup of your drive that is great for data recovery.

You can use various software like Disk Drill, Carbon Copy Cloner, or Super Duper. Using these is easy. You have to follow the instructions on the screen, and they will back up your files in a timely fashion.

Note: You will still need a flash drive. 

Option 3: Leverage the cloud

Buying a storage device that can fit the contents of your Mac is expensive, and you still have to look after the drive to make sure you don’t lose it. 

A more convenient and slightly more affordable option is to use a cloud storage service like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or iCloud.

You can set up automatic cloud backups just like Time Machine.

Let’s explore some of the available options:


You can store up to 5GB of data for free on iCloud. It isn’t a lot of storage, so that you will run out of this quickly. If you don’t want to try a paid option, you can set up a regular cleaning schedule to eliminate unwanted files. 

For most people, a paid subscription is inevitable. The pricing depends on how much storage you want access to, but it may be worth it since iCloud syncs across all your Apple devices. 


Backing up Your Mac: The Complete Guide

Google Drive is a great option if you work on online documents. A free account will get you 15GB of storage, and you can choose to upgrade it for a paid subscription. 


Dropbox only gives you 2GB of free storage, which is the least out of the lot. Paid options include a monthly and yearly subscription that starts at $9.99 for 1TB.  


Microsoft’s OneDrive offers 5GB of free storage and has some paid personal and business use options. Like the other storage services, you need to be connected to the internet to back up your files. 

Final Verdict

The best option to take backups on a Mac is Time Machine since it is an in-built option that you do not have to pay for, but you should also think about investing in multiple backups. If you create documents online, it is good to have a cloud storage option instead of downloading files and then backing them up.