How To Backup Your Mac Without An External Hard Drive

Format external hard drive for macOS. Backing up a Mac with Time Machine requires an external hard drive formatted for macOS. Formatting the drive will erase everything on it and configure it for macOS. After formatting the drive, if prompted to back up with Time Machine, select Use as Backup Disk. This will open the Time Machine preferences.

1 – Plug an external hard drive into your Mac’s USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt port (depending on the type of interface the drive supports). 2 – If a window pops up asking if you want to use the external drive to back up with Time Machine, click Use as Backup Disk. Note: You’ll have the option to encrypt the contents of the backup if you. Open Finder, choose Macintosh HD in the sidebar, go to Edit Select All and drag it to your external disk. If you don't see this volume, open Finder Preferences Sidebar and tick Hard disks. FYI, CCC will backup the recovery partition and SD will not, for now CCC has the edge.

Nov 04, 2021 Click Select Backup Disk. Select the name of your disk, then click Use Disk. Time Machine immediately begins making periodic backups—automatically and without further action by you. If you want to start a backup manually, without waiting for the next automatic backup, choose Back Up Now from the Time Machine menu in the menu bar. Connect your external hard drive to your computer via the USB port. Backup all the data from your external hard drive to ensure it is safe. (If something goes wrong – or you make a mistake – you could format the drive and lose all your data. For this reason, it is recommended that you back up all your data to a cloud backup service first. Part 1: How to Boot Mac from USB Drive/CD/DVD. Actually, it is possible to boot Mac from external drive or a hard drive, but there are a few specific requirements needed for your Mac to become eligible for that process. First, you have to have an Intel-Based Mac.

You can use Time Machine, the built-in backup feature of your Mac, to automatically back up all of your files, including apps, music, photos, email, documents, and system files. When you have a backup, you can restore files from your backup if the original files are ever deleted from your Mac, or the hard disk (or SSD) in your Mac is erased or replaced.

Create a Time Machine backup

To create backups with Time Machine, all you need is an external storage device. After you connect the device and select it as your backup disk, Time Machine automatically makes hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. The oldest backups are deleted when your backup disk is full.

Connect an external storage device

Connect one of the following external storage devices, sold separately. Learn more about backup disks that you can use with Time Machine.

  • External drive connected to your Mac, such as a USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire drive
  • External drive connected to an AirPort Extreme Base Station (802.11ac model) or AirPort Time Capsule
  • AirPort Time Capsule
  • Mac shared as a Time Machine backup destination
  • Network-attached storage (NAS) device that supports Time Machine over SMB

Select your storage device as the backup disk

When you connect an external drive directly to your Mac, you might be asked if you want to use the drive to back up with Time Machine. Select Encrypt Backup Disk (recommended), then click Use as Backup Disk.

An encrypted backup is accessible only to users with the password. Learn more about keeping your backup disk secure.

If Time Machine doesn't ask to use your drive, follow these steps to add it manually:

  1. Open Time Machine preferences from the Time Machine menu in the menu bar. Or choose Apple () menu > System Preferences, then click Time Machine.
  2. Click Select Backup Disk (or Select Disk, or Add or Remove Backup Disk):
  3. Select your external drive from the list of available disks. Then select ”Encrypt backups” (recommended) and click Use Disk:

If the disk you selected isn't formatted as required by Time Machine, you're prompted to erase the disk first. Click Erase to proceed. This erases all information on the backup disk.

Enjoy the convenience of automatic backups

After you select a backup disk, Time Machine immediately begins making periodic backups—automatically and without further action by you. The first backup may take a long time, depending on how many files you have, but you can continue using your Mac while a backup is underway. Time Machine backs up only the files that changed since the previous backup, so future backups will be faster.

To start a backup manually, choose Back Up Now from the Time Machine menu in the menu bar. Use the same menu to check the status of a backup or skip a backup in progress.

Learn more

  • If you back up to multiple disks, you can switch disks before entering Time Machine. Press and hold the Option key, then choose Browse Other Backup Disks from the Time Machine menu.
  • To exclude items from your backup, open Time Machine preferences, click Options, then click the Add (+) button to add an item to be excluded. To stop excluding an item, such as an external hard drive, select the item and click the Remove (–) button.
  • If using Time Machine to back up to a network disk, you can verify those backups to make sure they're in good condition. Press and hold Option, then choose Verify Backups from the Time Machine menu.
  • In OS X Lion v10.7.3 or later, you can start up from your Time Machine disk, if necessary. Press and hold Option as your Mac starts up. When you see the Startup Manager screen, choose “EFI Boot” as the startup disk.

BestExternal Hard Drives for MaciMore2020

We understand that your data is important to you. Whether its personal documents, important work files, or just making sure you have everything you need to be backed up, you can never be too safe. External hard drives are not only useful for storing data but are an excellent way to transport files from one location to another. When you take into account price, ease of use, and portability, the Seagate Backup Plus Slim is the most reliable hard drive you can carry around with you at all times.

Best Overall: Seagate Backup Plus Slim (2 TB)

If you want a reliable external hard drive that has a decent amount of storage, is super easy to carry around and has a very affordable price tag, the Seagate Backup Plus Slim is the best option for most people. Formatted for Windows and Mac right out of the box, it's easy to carry all your essential documents from desktop to laptop without missing a beat.

The Seagate Dashboard back up system is a fantastic simple tool that can let you schedule backups to ensure you never miss any critical files you need in case something terrible happens to your computer. You can set automatic backups daily, weekly, or monthly, and change the frequency whenever you want.

How To Backup Mac To External Drive

Seagate also throws in a one-year complimentary subscription to Mylio Create. This can help you wrangle your photo library if you don't already use some photo managing tool, and a two-month membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Great backup software
  • USB 3.0
  • Metal enclosure

Best Overall

Seagate Backup Plus Slim (2 TB)

Reliable, portable, and affordable.

No lengthy setups or formatting procedures, the Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB is formatted for Mac right out of the packaging.

Best USB-C hard drive: Samsung T5 Portable SSD (1 TB)

This small compact SSD drive from Samsung comes with both a USB-C to USB-C cable and a USB-C to USB-A, meaning it's perfect to use with your MacBook or Mac.

Its fast 540 MB/s read and write speeds are more than enough to transfer any file. And should be able to store all your photo and video files with ease thanks to its straightforward software. Plus, if you're worried about encryption, the Samsung T5 Portable SSD has you covered with an optional password to launch the drive and AES 256-bit hardware encryption on all your files.

Pros:

  • USB-C
  • SSD
  • Super compact
  • AES 256-bit hardware encryption

Best USB-C

Samsung T5 Portable SSD (1 TB)

Fast and encrypted

With 540 MB/s read and write speeds, the Samsung T5 Portable SSD is fast enough for photographers and videographers to transport all their work.

Source: Western Digital

Compatible with Time Machine right out of the box, the 8 TB storage capacity on the Western Digital My Book is perfect for people looking for a lot of stage at a reasonable price. It's USB 3.0, meaning it's easy to take advantage of its storage speed with fast transfer speeds.

While portability is not the Western Digital My Book's strong suit and it needs a separate power source, it does offer 256-AES encryption when you download its easy-to-use security software. It ensures all your important files and documents stay private.

Hard

If you're looking for a drive that has lots of space, os you don't have to have multiple as your storage needs grow, look no further.

Pros:

  • Lots of storage
  • 256-AES encryption
  • Time Machine compatible

Best Capacity

Western Digital My Book (8TB)

Lots of storage for those who need it

Western Digital offers 256-AES encryption when you download its security software, meaning you can rest easy knowing your private information and personal data is safe.

Best Thunderbolt 3 Drive: LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt

LaCie hard drives have always been good for people on the go because of the rugged design. The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt can withstand some dust, dirt, and even a tiny bit of water being splashed on it.

It's 7200 RPM Hard drive keeps things running smoothly. And the included USB-C cable — which supports Thunderbolt 3 — makes it perfect for MacBook and Mac users alike!

Cons:

  • Only 130MB/s

Best Thunderbolt 3 Drive

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt

Rugged design with Thunderbolt 3

The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt 3 is a favorite because it can withstand drops, dust, and even the occasional splash of water, making it easy to carry around!

Best for Legacy Hardware : G-Technology G-DRIVE USB 3.0 (4TB)

While Apple has been going the way of USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 for a while now, some of us still use older hardware and thus don't need hard drives that have USB-C connections. If you're still rocking USB-A or even a Thunderbolt 2 connection from your Mac, the G-Technology G-DRIVE USB 3.0 (4TB) is a perfect companion.

Its all-metal design is not only more durable than plastic hard drives, but it also looks stylish! Plus, it's 7200 RPM speed allows the G-Technology G-DRIVE USB 3.0 to achieve 195 MB/s read and write speeds. This makes it fast enough to transfer large video files quickly and efficiently.

Cons:

  • Needs to be reformatted for Windows

Best for legacy hardware

G-Technology G-DRIVE USB 3.0 (4TB)

Stylish and fast even on older computers

With 7200 RPM, this hard drive works hard and fast to get your files transferred quickly. Plus, it uses USB 3.0, and it even has a Thunderbolt 2 port.

Source: CalDigit

The CalDigit Tuff does the best it can to live up to its name, giving you a hard drive that isn't as delicate as most. Its official IP rating is IP57, meaning it can be submerged in 3-feet of water for 30 mins and come out the other side functional. That's not all; this Thunderbolt 3 compatible drive can also withstand falling from about 4-feet high. We still don't suggest that you purposely abuse the CalDigit Tuff. Still, it's always good to have peace of mind when you're carrying your hard drive around.

Cons:

  • Only come in 2TB

Best rugged drive

CalDigit Tuff

Can withstand drops and water

Backup Macbook Pro To External Hard Drive

Backup entire computer to external hard drive

Official rated IP57, the CalDigit Tuff can survive an accidental dip into the water and has a great price tag.

Source: Samsung

If you're used to dealing with giant file sizes and need a hard drive that can handle transfer data fast, the Samsung X5 is one of the fastest SSD's you'll find. Its read and write speeds are 2,800MB/s and 2,300MB/s, respectively, and the entire body is made of metal, making it much harder than plastic drives. Plus, The internal frame on the inside is shock resistant for drops from 2 meters.

This SSD comes with Thunderbolt 3 technology included. This you can take advantage of the fast speeds on your Mac or MacBook Pro, and it doesn't need any formatting, so it's plug and play!

Pros:

  • 2,800MB/s read speed
  • Shock resistant
  • Thunderbolt 3

Best fast drive

Samsung X5

Incredibly fast SSD

External Backup Drive For Mac

If you need blazing fast speeds for giant files, the Samsung X5 is a monster external SSD that can handle any workload.

Bottom line

The Seagate Backup Plus Slim is the most reliable hard drive you can carry around with you at all times. It is formatted for both Mac and Windows right out of the box, and its easy-to-use software can automatically do backups for you as often or as little as you want.

Seagate also throws in a one-year complimentary subscription to Mylio Create. This program can help you wrangle your photo library if you don't already use some photo managing tool. A two-month membership to Adobe's Creative Cloud Photography Plan means it's perfect for budding photographers as well.

External Hard Drive Backup Options

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

How To Backup Your Mac Without An External Hard Drive Won T Show Up

Luke Filipowicz is an iMore staff writer who has been carrying around his Seagate Backup Plus Slim since his college days.

Lory Gil is the Managing Editor of iMore and an avid believer in having as many backups of your important files and documents as possible.

Rene Ritchie is the foremost authority on all things Apple and has insider knowledge about the goings-on at the biggest tech company in the world. When it comes to accessories for Mac, Rene has used them all.

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