Back up your Mac with Time Machine

Find out how to create a backup of the files on your Mac.

Use Time Machine, the built-in backup feature of your Mac, to automatically back up your personal data, including apps, music, photos, emails and documents. Having a backup allows you to recover files that have been deleted or were lost because the hard disk (or SSD) in your Mac needed to be erased or replaced. Find out how to restore your Mac from a backup.

Create a Time Machine backup

To create backups with Time Machine, all you need is an external storage device. After you've connected the storage device and selected it as your backup disk, Time Machine will automatically make hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month and weekly backups for all previous months. The oldest backups will be deleted when your backup disk is full.

Connect an external storage device

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

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

Select your storage device as the backup disk

  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.
    macOS System Preferences Time Machine window
  3. Select your backup disk from the list of available disks. To make your backup only accessible to users who have the backup password, you can select “Encrypt backups”. Then click Use Disk:
    macOS System Preferences Time Machine window Select Backup Disk chooser

If the disk you've selected hasn't been formatted as required by Time Machine, you'll be prompted to erase the disk first. Click Erase to proceed. This will erase all of the information on the backup disk. 

Enjoy the convenience of automatic backups

After you've selected a backup disk, Time Machine will immediately start making periodic backups – automatically and without any further action needed by you. The first backup may take a long time, but you can continue using your Mac while a backup is underway. Time Machine only backs up the files that have 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

  • Find out about other ways to back up and restore files
  • If you back up to multiple disks, you can 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 you're 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. 

Information about products not manufactured by Apple, or independent websites not controlled or tested by Apple, is provided without recommendation or endorsement. Apple assumes no responsibility with regard to the selection, performance or use of third-party websites or products. Apple makes no representations regarding third-party website accuracy or reliability. Contact the vendor for additional information.

Published Date: