Backup your Mac with Time Machine

Backup your Mac with Time Machine

When you have unboxed your new Mac and went through the setup procedure you have a beautiful computer that is reasonably secure out of the box. But it can be much more secure. I recently got myself a new MacBook Pro with the M1 PRO chip. So this time I decided to document the process. Securing your Mac takes multiple steps and it is possible to make mistakes that lead to data loss. Therefore the first step should be to implement automated backups because few things in life are as sad as tanking your Mac while working hard to protect it.

Time Machine

It is very easy to back up your data on macOS thanks to Time Machine. Time Machine is great it has many advantages.

  • It is free.
  • Build into MacOs.
  • It is a mature and very reliable application.
  • After the initial set up it will run automatically every hour.
  • Controls the versions of your documents.

Setup Time Machine

To use Time Machine you need an external drive to store the backup. This drive should be reserved for Time Machine backups. The drive should be at least twice as large as the drive you back up. I have a MacBook Pro with a 500Gb drive and as a backup drive, I use a USB drive with a capacity of 2 Tb.

  • Attach the external drive.
  • Open  > System Preferences...
  • Click Time Machine.
  • Select “Show Time Machine in menu bar”
  • Click on the “Select Disk…” button.
  • Select your external disk.
  • Select Encrypt backups.
  • Click Use Disk.
  • A prompt will appear asking you if you want to erase the content of this disk. Select “Erase”.
  • Select “Back Up automatically”

Now your backup drive will be prepared and the first backup will start a short time later. The first time can take a long time depending on how many files you have. But you can still use your Mac while the backup takes place. Later backups will be very fast as only changes will be backed up. At some point, the backup drive will fill up. Time Machine will then automatically delete the oldest backups. Naturally, the larger your backup drive the more backups can be saved and the farther Time Machine can go back. That is why the backup drive should be at least twice the size of your hard drive.

The Time Machine menu

When you click on the time machine icon in the menu bar you will see the time of the last backup. You also have the options

  • Back Up Now
  • Enter Time Machine
  • Open Time Machine Preferences…

Back Up Now Allows you to start a backup at any time. The option “Enter Time Machine” allows you to restore from backups(explained below). Open Time Machine Preferences… allows you to edit the settings we set before.

Restoring files

If you accidentally deleted or changed one or more files you can restore them using Time Machine.

  • Click on the Time Machine icon in the menu bar.
  • Select Enter time Machine.

In the middle Time Machine will show you a stack of Finder windows. You see the text "Today (now)" and the up and down buttons slightly to the right.

  • Use the up and down buttons to go through time.
  • When you are at the right time use the finder window to navigate to the lost or changed files.
  • Select the files you want to restore.
  • Click the restore button.

Complete restoration

The situation is grave and your only option is to go back to a time when life was still kind to you.

  • Shutdown the system.
  • Attach the backup disk if it is not already attached.
  • Start the computer and keep the Command and r buttons pressed until you see the Apple logo. Wait for the macOS utility menu to appear.
  • Select “Restore From Time Machine Backup”.
  • Select the backup you want.