How to back up your Mac with Time Machine

Time Machine on macOS Big Sur
Time Machine on macOS Big Sur (Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore)

Time Machine is a great tool that automatically makes your Mac backups using one of the best external hard drives on the market. What's really great about it is that it's built into macOS itself, so every Mac comes with it automatically. It's fairly simple to set up, and after that, you don't even need to worry about it. But if you want to, you can customize your Time Machine experience to your particular needs. Here's how to back up your Mac with Time Machine.

What is Time Machine?

Time Machine is Apple's built-in solution for backing up macOS. You can connect an external hard drive over USB or Thunderbolt (or FireWire, for older Macs) for a wired connection or over a network for a wireless connection. Time Machine backs up every hour, deleting older backups as the backup drive starts running out of space.

It's a great first layer to any backup solution, and it's included right in the operating system. It's particularly ideal if you plan on resetting your Mac before selling it and switching to a new one.

Getting started with Time Machine

First, the basics of how to back up a Mac with Time Machine. Get Time Machine set up, then learn about how you can choose what's backed up, how to restore from Time Machine, how to encrypt backups and more.

Digging in to Time Machine

So now you know how to back up your Mac with Time Machine. But there are some advanced steps that you should know about.

Any other questions?

If you have any additional questions about how to back up your Mac with Time Machine, let us know in the comments.

Updated December 2020: Up-to-date for macOS Big Sur.

Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.