Back up your Mac with Time Machine

Learn 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, email, and documents. Having a backup allows you to recover files that you later delete or can't access.

Learn how to restore your Mac from a Time Machine backup


Connect a storage device to use for backups

Connect an external storage device to your Mac, such as a USB drive or Thunderbolt drive.

  • Use this storage device only as your Time Machine backup disk, not for storage of other files.
  • Ideally, your backup disk should have at least twice the storage capacity of every disk or volume you're backing up. If your backup disk doesn't have enough storage space to contain a complete backup, Time Machine will let you know.

 


Select your storage device as a backup destination

Your Mac might ask if you want to use the storage device for Time Machine backups. If it doesn't ask, follow these steps.

  1. Open Time Machine settings from the Time Machine menu  in the menu bar. Or open Time Machine settings as follows:
    • macOS Ventura or later: Choose Apple menu  > System Settings, click General in the sidebar, then click Time Machine on the right.
    • Earlier versions of macOS: Choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, then click Time Machine.
  2. In Time Machine settings, select your external storage device as your backup destination:
    • macOS Ventura or later: Click the add button (+), then follow the onscreen instructions.
    • Earlier versions of macOS: Click Select Backup Disk, then follow the onscreen instructions. 
  3. If the storage device contains Time Machine backups from another Mac, you might be asked to claim the existing backups so that they become part of the backups for this Mac. Or you can choose to start a new backup instead.

 


Make a backup

After you select your storage device in Time Machine settings, Time Machine automatically begins making periodic backups.

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.

Use the same menu to check the status of a backup or skip a backup in progress. For example, if a backup is underway, the menu shows how much of it is done. When a backup is not underway, the menu shows the date and time of the latest backup.

Time Machine menu showing a backup in progress
Backup is underway

Time Machine menu showing details about the latest backup
Backup is completed

 


Backup frequency and duration

Time Machine 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.

Beginning with macOS Ventura, you can change the backup frequency: Open Time Machine settings, click Options, then choose a setting from the “Back up frequency” menu.

The first backup might take a long time, 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. 

If a Time Machine backup takes longer than you expect

 


Learn more

  • To exclude items from backups, open Time Machine settings, click Options, then click the add (+) button to add an item to be excluded. To stop excluding an item, select the item and click the remove (–) button.
  • 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. 
  • Learn about other ways to back up and restore files.

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