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How to back up your Mac

How to back up your Mac. From family photos to the presentation you're working on, your data needs to be protected. Without a proper backup system in place, you could lose all your digital files in a blink of an eye. But don't worry! Backing up your Mac is so simple and easy task.

Keep reading as I’m gonna explain how to back up your Mac: using Time Machine how to back up to iCloud or create a bootable clone of your Mac on an external drive. As a bonus, you’ll find out how to make your backup much smaller by removing all the junk from your computer. Let’s get started!

What is Time Machine?

Did you know that Apple has its own built-in backup tool? Time Machine is pretty much a set-and-forget solution for local backups. It automatically makes an up-to-date copy of your files hourly, daily, and weekly and stores them on an external storage device. When your storage drive runs out of space, the app deletes the oldest backups to make way for the new ones. But that’s not the only benefit. Time Machine can also restore individual files.

How to back up your Mac

So if you accidentally remove a file you need, you can launch Time Machine and roll back to the point just before you deleted it. Now, you’re probably wondering how to set up Time Machine and start a new backup. First, you need to give your Mac a thorough cleanup.

Step 1: Clean up your Mac

This step is crucial if you want to protect your Mac from potential software conflicts and make your backup much smaller and faster. Getting rid of old baggage like log files, old caches, and other system junk seems like a lot of work. Actually, it’s as simple as pie. Mac cleaners like CleanMyMac X can help you do the job easily. All you need to do is to download CleanMyMac X. It has a free trial, so you risk nothing.

  • When the app first launches, there's a friendly window with a Scan button. Press it and the program will run through a cleanup, protection, and speed scan.
  • When the analysis is over, click Review Details to see a full list of items found by CleanMyMac X.

How to back up your Mac

  • Just how much space you can reclaim might surprise you.
  • Switch between categories and uncheck any items you don’t want to delete.
  • When you're ready, click Run to remove the rest of the files and optimize your Mac's performance.

How to back up your Mac

Now, your machine is in great shape. Let’s set up your first Time Machine backup!

Step 2: Connect an external storage device

Backups require a lot of space. So pick a device that will be used solely for them. It might be an external hard drive connected either by USB or Thunderbolt. You can also use Apple’s Time Capsule or other compatible network-attached storage. When you connect it directly to your Mac, you might be asked to use the drive as backup storage.

  • If so, select Encrypt Backup Disk, and click Use as Backup Disk. 
  • If Time Machine doesn't ask to use your drive, start the backup manually. Here’s how.

Step 3: Start Time Machine backup

  • Go to System Preferences in the Apple menu and click Time Machine.

How to back up your Mac

  • From here, click Select Disk and choose your disk or network drive.

How to back up your Mac

  • If you want to encrypt your backups with a password, pick that option.

How to back up your Mac

To access Time Machine more quickly in the future, check the box next to ‘Show Time Machine in the menu bar.’ Depending on the number of files you have, your first backup may take a while. After it's done, you’ll get a notification. Now, Time Machine is set up and ready for regular backups. It’ll run automatically, but only if your Mac is connected to your storage device.

  • To check the backup status, open the Time Machine menu at the top-left corner of your screen.
  • Use the same menu to skip a backup in progress or start a new one.

How to back up your Mac to iCloud

iCloud is built into every Apple device to store files, photos, notes, and more. It automatically uploads and saves your data as long as your Mac is connected to WiFi. It's a useful solution, especially if you have several devices using the same Apple ID. Another benefit is that you don't need to have an external drive.

  • To initiate the backup to iCloud, go to the Apple menu in the Finder and open System Preferences.
  • From there, click Apple ID and select iCloud.
  • If you’re using macOS Mojave or earlier, you don’t need to click Apple ID — choose iCloud right on the System Preferences window.
  • Sign in with your Apple ID, if you need to.
  • Make sure you have a checkbox next to iCloud Drive.
  • Now, click on Options just to the right of that. 

How to back up your Mac

  • Check the box next to anything you want to be stored in iCloud.
  • It could be your Desktop and Documents folders, Pages documents, or even the System Preferences settings.
  • Hit Done when you’re ready.

How to back up your Mac

  • Now, open the Finder.
  • Do you see the iCloud Drive folder on the left-side?
  • From here, you can move any folder on your Mac that isn't already in iCloud into your iCloud Drive and access it on any of your Apple devices.

How to back up your Mac

Note that iCloud isn't free. When you set it up, you instantly get 5GB of storage. But if you need more iCloud space, you can buy it starting at 50GB for $0.99 a month. To learn more about prices in your region, visit Apple's website. Of course, there are alternatives to Time Machine and iCloud that you might prefer.

How to clone your Mac with backup software

The good options are Acronis, ChronoSync, Carbon Copy Cloner, and SuperDuper. A clone is an exact duplicate of your entire system. As with Time Machine, you can use the backup drive — or clone — to recover your Mac in case of failure. And you need to plug in your external drive for the backup as well. Still, a clone differs from a Time Machine backup. With a bootable clone, you can plug in the drive to the other Mac, boot from your backup in minutes, and keep working.

You can't use a Time Machine backup this way. So, let the cloning begin. Steps to creating your Mac clone will depend on the software you use. Here’s how to do that with SuperDuper.

  • First, plug in your external storage. Open your cloning app.
  • Select your Mac volume to back up in the left-side menu.
  • Then choose the destination volume on the right-side.
  • Now select the backup script. Opt for the ‘Backup-all files’ option for complete and bootable backup of your system.

How to back up your Mac

  • Finally, pick the preferred optional settings and hit OK.

How to back up your Mac

Now, you’ve set up your automatic backups! As you can see, there are lots of ways to back up your Mac. Which one do you like most? Share in the comments below!

Which backup solution is the best?

Well, the simplest and cheapest solution is probably to back up using Time Machine. But is it the best backup option? A better solution might be one that could withstand any kind of disaster. If there was a fire or flood, both Mac and backup could be destroyed. Here’s when iCloud comes in handy. Yet, it might break the bank.

A perfect solution is a combination of several methods. Saving backups, both offline and online, will surely protect your most important data. Let me know in the comments if any of my today’s tips were helpful for you.

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