How to set up and start using Time Machine

MacBook Pro Time Machine 2020
MacBook Pro Time Machine 2020 (Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore)

Apple's built-in Time Machine app in macOS Monterey makes it simple to back up Mac data. To create backups with Time Machine, you'll need an external storage device.

After you connect the storage device and select it as your backup disk, Time Machine automatically 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.

How to set up Time Machine

As explained (opens in new tab) by Apple support, you can use any of the following backup methods:

  • 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)

Follow these instructions to begin using Time Machine for backup purposes on your Mac.

How to enable Time Machine backups on your Mac

  1. Select System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Choose the Time Machine icon.

To enable Time Machine backups on your Mac, select System Preferences from the Apple menu, then choose the Time Machine icon. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Select Backup Disk.
  2. Select which disk you'd like to use as a Time Machine backup.

To enable Time Machine backups on your Mac, click Select Backup Disk, choose the disk you want. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Check the Back Up Automatically box in order to automatically back up your Mac to your chosen disks.

To enable Time Machine backups on your Mac, check the Back Up Automatically box. (Image credit: iMore)

Your hard drive is now ready to accept backups through Time Machine.

How to restore files from a Time Machine backup

  1. Select System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Choose the Time Machine icon.

To enable Time Machine backups on your Mac, select System Preferences from the Apple menu, then choose the Time Machine icon. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Check the box next to Show Time Machine in menu bar.
  2. Click Enter Time Machine after clicking the Time Machine icon in the Menu bar.

To restore files from a Time Machine backup, check the box next to Show Time Machine in menu bar. Click Enter Time Machine. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Find the file or folder in question and click Restore.

To restore files from a Time Machine backup, find the file or folder in question and click Restore. (Image credit: iMore)

You're set! Time Machine will copy that file back to its original location on your hard drive.

Go further

Looking for a fresh, new backup drive? Be sure to look at our favorite external hard drives for Mac and the ones that use USB-C. You'll be happy you did!

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.