Backup disks you can use with Time Machine

You can use Time Machine with a drive connected to your Mac, a drive built into or connected to a Time Capsule, or a supported network volume.

Time Machine can back up the data on your Mac to these backup disks:

  • An external USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire drive connected to your Mac
  • An AirPort Time Capsule's built-in drive (any model)
  • An external USB drive connected to an AirPort Time Capsule (any model) or AirPort Extreme (802.11ac model only)
  • Network volumes connected using Apple File Protocol (AFP)

Formatting a backup disk for use with Time Machine

The most common format for a Time Machine backup disk is Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format. 

Time Machine also supports Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled), Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled, Encrypted), and Xsan formats. If your disk uses the Master Boot Record (MBR) partition type, some partitions might not be available for use with Time Machine.

Format a disk connected to your Mac

When you connect a blank external drive to your Mac, you're asked if you want to use the disk with Time Machine. If the connected drive isn't the right format, you're automatically prompted if you want to reformat it.

erase disk prompt

Format a disk connected to an AirPort Extreme 802.11ac or Time Capsule

If you're using an AirPort Extreme 802.11ac or Time Capsule, you can connect an external drive to the USB port on these devices to use it with Time Machine. Use these steps to reformat the drive first, so it's ready to use.

  1. Connect the drive to a USB port on your Mac.
  2. Open Disk Utility.
  3. Select your external drive (or one of its partitions) on the left side of the Disk Utility window.
  4. Click the Erase tab or Erase button in the toolbar.
  5. From the Format pop-up menu, select Mac OS Extended (Journaled). 
  6. Type a name for your disk, then click Erase.
  7. After the drive is erased, close the Disk Utility window.

After you format the disk, use these steps to make it available for Time Machine backups from your AirPort Extreme 802.11ac or Time Capsule.

  1. Connect the drive to a USB port on your device, then make sure it's powered on.
  2. From AirPort Utility, select the device. Click Edit, then click the Disks tab.
  3. Select the disk from the Partitions list and select Enable File Sharing. 
  4. Click Update.

If more than one person is using this backup disk with Time Machine, you can choose Secured Shared Disks > With Accounts to prevent others from viewing your backups. Create or select a user, then click Update to secure your backup.

Use a network-based disk

If your backup disk is on a network, the network server must use Apple File Protocol (AFP) file sharing. Both your Mac and the networked backup disk should have OS X v10.5.6 or later. The AFP disk must also be "mounted" (available to your Mac) when you set it as your backup disk in Time Machine preferences.

  1. From the Finder, choose Go > Connect to Server.
  2. Enter the server address, or your AirPort Extreme Base Station's LAN IP address (by default
  3. Enter the username and password required to access the network disk(s).
  4. Select the desired disk(s) from the available volumes.
  5. Select the volume from Time Machine. 

After you select the network disk in Time Machine preferences as a backup disk, Time Machine automatically connects to it when it’s time to backup or restore your data. 

Learn more

Time Machine can’t back up to an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, or a disk formatted for Windows. If you connect a disk formatted for Windows, it can be reformatted (permanently removing all data) to a Mac filesystem format and used as a backup disk.

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