How to Backup Mac to External Hard Drive (Actionable Guide)

Our computer does carry a lot of vital information that when one loss them is not only a big loss but a very unfortunate experience and literally brings one to their knees trying to locate these same documents. That is why they need to be protected by all means and one and a very ideal way to do so is by having best and proper backup system in place as this will not only go a long way is saving some of these crucial documents from family photos and presentation, also make one feel at ease knowing that they have always a backup to their documents in case of references.

The whole process of backing up your computer to external hard drive might sound so complicated but that is not so as you will learn that it is one very simple technique to learn and do it yourself.

The whole experience of backing up to external hard drive can only be done once and thereafter it will be a child’s play as it will take care of itself and in that process, enable one have a peace of mind knowing that all their documents are always safe.

The best way to backup your data and personal file is automatically back up to external hard drive as well as creating copy of entire system. This will go a long way in ensuring that in an event that your computer crashes. Getting access to your date and going about your business can be done in a very short time.

The following steps will only back up your data locally but to be extremely safe it is important to learn how to backup data online. Backing up to external hard drive is very crucial but you will realize that it will not be of any help if a thief steals your computer or it gets destroyed in some unforeseen disaster.

How to backup your Mac to external hard drive

What has made Mac operating system stand out from is not only its excellent backup tool also known as “time Machine” but also ability to automatically back up your document as soon as you plug in an external hard drive. As if that is not enough, Time Machine will also automatically delete some of documents that you have been using in an event that you have run out of memory space which is quite extraordinary features. There are several steps to follow when you want to backup your computer to time machine

Step 1: Powering your Mac and Connecting External Hard Drive

  • Here it is important to note that before you begin, you will be required to have an external hard drive that is almost same size as your Mac’s internal drive or better still get one that is slightly bigger, which am sure will not be a problem because they are very much available in local market and at a very friendly price.
  • Next is to plug in your external hard drive to your computer which is done using different available options depending on hard drive. This can be either via USB, FireWire or even Thunderbolt. There is also an option of using time Machine with an external hard drive that is connected to an Airport Extreme router.

Step 2: Time Machine Preparing Backup: Selecting Destination

  • As soon as your external drive is plugged into to the computer, ensure that it is powered on this will be followed by turning on the time machine which is done by going to system preference then select on Time Machine this will be followed by toggling switch from on off to on.
  • Click on select disk button this will enable you to decide on where you will want to use time machine. One thing that you will also realize is that this too will give you option of whether you will want to use your disk as your backup destination to and on top of that, provide you with options to encrypt back up with your desired password.
  • Key thing to note at this stage is that your drive will have to be formatted as Mac OS X, which is very key as without this Time Machine will force you to reformat your drive which will in the event delete the documents that might be in it.

Step 3: How to Delete Time Machine Backups

  • This is optional to function as the tool will allow you to exclude some volumes from your back up if you need to do so as well as get notified when some of old files have been deleted.

 Step 4: Working

  • After all options have been properly selected, backup will happen after each and every one hour and time machine will keep hourly backups for past 24 hours and which will also be done on daily backups for past one month and also weekly backups.

How to Restore From Time Machine

Backing up file and having them safe is one step but your job is not done if you have no idea of how to retrieve and use this information again. That is why it is important to get to learn how to view and restore them and some of necessary folders hat have been backed up in this tool.

This can be done by doing a spotlight search and typing “time machine’ which will automatically switch and then checking on view.

Once view is visible, you will be in a position to scroll through timeline and go to exact Time or even search for files that you will be looking for. Once your file is highlighted, you can click restore this will enable you to copy your file from backup or choose one of the option of just viewing file by pressing space bar instead of choosing option one which was doming the search.

In some instance, you will realize that there is a case of file name conflict and in this case, this tool will will give you an option of choosing which file to keep or even keeping both files if you are not very sure.

Another amazing feature of this tool is that it can as well as restore entire system at once using current copies of your files. This can be done when restarting Mac, press down command and R keys and only release them as soon as you see apple logo appears. This is followed by selecting restore from time machine backup.

Creating a Bootable Backup

Once in a while, your computer may not be functioning very well especially when your startup disk has been damaged and that is why it is important to have a complete image (clone) of your machine. It an exact duplicate of entire system, which will not only enable you backup your system in no Time but also save you a lot of Time and resources by ensuring that you get back to working in a very short time.

Operating system X’s has ability to create a cloned image of your drive. There is availability of so many other cloning applications in market and it is wise to choose one that functions very well with you.

Step 1: Choosing your destination Volume

  • As earlier mentioned application that you will end up using will totally depend on user’s preferences. Having said that, once you have identified an application to use and installing it, you will be required to choose where you would prefer to store that backup. This is available on drop-down menu, choose on Mac volume and destination of file.
  • Please be advised that you can decide to back up to either an external hard drive or a network computer whichever you find convenient for you. Kindly note that your file should be formatted as Mac OS just as or risk erasing and reformatting your entire hard drive all over again.
  • You will also realize that one can have either option of storing your Time Machine as well as cloned image on same drive, However, be advised that this is only safe for document when you have partitioned Your drive into different volumes. This will enable you to have each of user’s backups in different and separate volumes and both can manage they’re allocated back up space with so much ease and safety. It is also very important and advisable to have back up in separate drives just in case you end up losing one or damaging it.

Step 2: Mac Backup script

  • In order for one to get a complete and bootable backup of entire system, it is important to choose back up of all documents so as to avoid just backing up home directories of accounts in the same computer.

Step 3: Choosing your Options

This step is optional to different users, Since they have options of allowing your Mac to repair some of your files or not, this can be done by checking or not The default. You can also decide whether you want to erase backup as well.

Step 4: Scheduling your Backup

  • Cloning your device is very important when you want to backup your data, and this can be easily done at this stage by clicking The copy now button. This will not be so helpful to users in future if they do not set up an automated backup.
  • This is done by hitting on The Schedule button, this is different from when you do not want to keep schedule back up.

Step 4: Cloning

  • You can click ok after reviewing this choice that you have made. This will enable this program to make bootable copies of your Mac on schedule of your choosing.
  • The program will not only do backup but also be able to delete some of old files when you run out of space.


As earlier mentioned it is such a big headache when you lose some of your most important document that you have stored in your Mac and that is why it is very important to learn how to have back up just in case this happens. Above article should be more than helpful in guiding you on how to ensure that this does not happen to you are anyone close to you. You will realize that they are a very simple step and once you get a hang of it and will go a long way in saving your life work and resources.

1 thought on “How to Backup Mac to External Hard Drive (Actionable Guide)”

  1. Thanks, mate, I am using external hard drive and mac time machine to backup all of my data on my MacBook. This article helped me a lot.

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