How to Back Up Your Data on macOS Featured Image

How to Back Up Your Data on macOS: 3 Safe & Easy Ways

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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Imagine this scenario: you’ve spent countless hours working on an important project on your MacBook, and it’s finally finished. You take a deep breath and hit the “save” button, feeling relieved. But then, disaster strikes. Your Mac crashes, taking all your hard work down the drain. You frantically search for a backup but come up empty-handed.

Sounds dreadful, right? That’s why it’s crucial to back up your files regularly. In this guide, I’ll show you how to back up your data on macOS to protect your hard work and memories.

Before We Begin

Save yourself from the nightmare of data loss by regularly backing up your files. You can use different methods to back up your data on macOS, but backups can take a long time if your Mac has a lot of data. MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder feature can find and delete duplicate files and photos from your Mac. This will remove unnecessary files and clean up your Mac, so you can back up important files only and save time.

Why Back Up Your Data on macOS?

Before diving into all the backup methods, let’s get real about the importance of backing up your precious data. Trust me, you don’t want to learn the hard way. Here are some key reasons that prove you need a rock-solid backup solution:

  1. 🔐 Protection against data loss: The primary reason for backing up your data is to protect it against loss due to hardware failure, accidental deletion, or software corruption. Backups provide an additional layer of protection so you can recover your files in case of any such events.
  2. 🔙 Version control: Backing up your data regularly allows you to access previous versions of your files, which can be useful if you need to revert to an earlier state or recover an older version of a document. Sometimes, software updates can also cause problems or delete important files, but with a backup, you can easily restore your system to an older macOS version.
  3. 🛡️ Safeguard against malware and ransomware: Malware and ransomware attacks can corrupt or hold your data hostage, rendering it inaccessible. Having a backup ensures that you can recover your data without giving in to the attacker’s demands.
  4. 🔍 If your Mac is lost or stolen: In the unfortunate event that your Mac is lost or stolen, having a backup of your data ensures you can still access your important files, photos, documents, and settings without the original device. This can significantly reduce the impact of losing your Mac, allowing you to continue your work or personal activities with minimal disruption.
  5. 💻 Easy migration to a new device: If you decide to sell or give away your Mac and upgrade or replace it with a new one, having a backup of your data simplifies the migration process, making it easier to transfer your files, settings, and applications to the new device.

Now that you know why you need to back up your data on macOS, let’s learn how you can do it.

3 Easy Ways to Backup Your Data on macOS

Are you worried about losing all your precious data on your macOS? There’s no need to worry, because Apple has got your back! macOS offers not one, not two, but three different options for backing up your data, so you can rest easy knowing your files are safe and sound. Let’s take a closer look at each of these backup options and find out which one suits you the best.

1. Back Up Your Data on macOS Using Time Machine

how to backup your mac using time machine

Time Machine is a built-in backup solution on macOS. It is like having a magical time-traveling device that can transport you to any point in your computer’s history. It automatically creates backups of your entire system, including your applications, settings, and files.

What’s more is that it not only backs up your Mac but generates a versioned backup that stores hourly backups for the last 24 hours, daily backups for the previous month, and weekly backups for each month, allowing you to restore a previous version of a document when necessary.

Setting up Time Machine is a breeze. Just follow these simple steps to set up Time Machine on your Mac, and be on your way to the safest digital life imaginable:

  1. Connect an external hard drive or SSD to your Mac.
external hard drive connected to mac
Photo: Sarah Kobos
  1. Click the Apple icon in the menu bar and select System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Time Machine.
click general and select time machine
  1. Tap the Add Backup Disk button and choose the external hard drive you connected.
click add backup disk in time machine
  1. Once selected, Time Machine will automatically start backing up your data.

2. Back Up Your Data on macOS Using iCloud

ios15 iphone13 pro ipad pro set up apps and data hero

iCloud keeps your data safe and sound in the digital heavens, accessible from any device, anywhere, anytime. Now, that’s what I call magic!

iCloud is another backup solution on macOS integrated with your Apple ID. It is a cloud-based solution that allows you to store your files, photos, and other data in the cloud.

To set up iCloud and back up your data on macOS, follow these steps:

Make sure you remember your Apple ID and password. If you forget your Apple ID password, you won’t be able to access your iCloud backup.

  1. Click the Apple icon and select System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click your Apple ID and select iCloud.
click your apple id and select icloud
  1. Next, select iCloud Drive.
click icloud drive in icloud
  1. On the window that appears, tap the Turn On button if your iCloud Drive is not turned on. If it is on, click the Options button to see which apps are syncing to the Drive.
click options in icloud drive window
  1. You’ll see a list of apps. Check the little box next to each app to enable syncing to iCloud Drive. Then, click Done.
check all options you want to store in icloud

3. Back Up Your Data on macOS Using an External Hard Drive

An external hard drive is a trusty sidekick for any Mac user as it allows creating a physical backup of all your important files and folders, acting as a safety net for your digital life. But not all external hard drives are created equal. They come in various sizes and storage capacities, so choose one that fits your needs.

Before starting to back up your Mac, prepare the external drive instead of just plugging it in and dumping files. Make sure your external drive has enough space to store all your data. You wouldn’t want any important files left behind! And while you’re at it, also make sure the drive is in the correct format.

If you’re not sure how to format your external hard drive to make it compatible with macOS, here’s how:

  1. Connect an external hard drive to your Mac.
connect external hard drive to mac
  1. Open the Disk Utility application, which can be found in the Applications > Utilities folder.
launch disk utility from utilities
  1. In the left sidebar of the Disk Utility window, select the external hard drive you want to format and click the Erase button at the top.
choose your external drive from the sidebar and click erase 1
  1. On the confirmation pop-up, type a name for your drive and select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) as its format. Then, click Erase.
type in a name for your drive and select the format 1
  1. This will format the external hard drive and make it compatible with macOS. Remember that formatting the drive will erase all stored data, so be sure to back up important files before proceeding.

Now that you have prepared your external drive, follow these steps to back up your data to this drive:

  1. Connect the external hard drive to your macOS device.
external hard drive connected to macbook
Image Credit: Shutterstock
  1. Open Time Machine or your third-party backup software and select the external hard drive as the destination for your backup.
  2. The software will automatically begin backing your data to the external hard drive.

Delete Duplicates With MacKeeper to Save Time While Backing Up Your Data

Backing up your files can be time-consuming. Fortunately, with MacKeeper, you can quickly reduce the time a backup takes by deleting duplicate files. MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder allows you to locate and eliminate redundant copies of files on your computer, freeing up disk space. By doing this, you can significantly reduce the size of your backup file without losing any data. Here’s how to use Duplicates Finder:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and select Duplicates Finder under the Cleaning section.
click duplicates finder in the left sidebar 2
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan in duplicates finder 2
  1. After the scan is complete, select an individual file or click Check All. Then, tap the Remove Selected button.
click check all and tap remove selected 2
  1. Tap the Remove button on the confirmation pop-up.
click remove on the pop up window in duplicates finder 1
  1. This will delete the selected files and display a Removal Completed message. Click Finish to end the process.
click finish to complete the process 2

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides getting rid of duplicate files, MacKeeper has plenty of other features to optimize your Mac. Read my detailed review to learn more about MacKeeper’s features.

Create Multiple Backups of Your Mac

Want to keep your precious data safe and sound? I’ve got a hot tip for you: make sure you have multiple backups of your Mac. Yep, that’s right. To really protect your data from any mishaps or accidents, you’ll want to follow the three-two-one method. That means having three separate copies of your Mac’s data – two on your local devices and one stored offsite.

To take it a step further, here are some tips that provide additional information about backing up and protecting your files:

  • Backing up your data is just one aspect of protecting your Mac. Learn how to safeguard your personal information and protect your privacy on your Mac.
  • Remove login items from your Mac to free up memory and improve its speed.
  • If you’re running out of space on your Mac, deleting old Time Machine backups or downloads may be a good idea.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I back up my data on macOS without an external hard drive?

    Yes, you can back up your data on macOS without an external hard drive. You can use iCloud as a backup solution instead of an external hard drive. However, you will need an external hard drive to create a physical backup of your data.

  2. How long will it take to back up my data on macOS?

    The time it takes to back up your data on macOS depends on the size of your data and the backup solution you are using. Time Machine and iCloud backups can take several hours, depending on the size of your data and the speed of your internet connection. Third-party backup software may provide more control over the backup process, allowing you to choose which files or folders to back up and when to run backups.

  3. What is the best backup solution for macOS?

    The best backup solution for macOS depends on your specific needs and preferences. Time Machine is a quick and easy backup solution for most users. However, third-party backup software may be a better option if you require more control over the backup process. Alternatively, iCloud is a great option for a cloud-based backup solution integrated with your Apple ID.

Hashir Ibrahim


I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.



Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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