How to Backup Mac to External Hard Drive | 3 Methods

How to Backup Mac to External Hard Drive

Whether it’s the pictures of a family vacation or your class presentations or a semester’s worth of homework, we all have data on our computers, which is too valuable to lose. That is why in this article, we will discuss more about how to backup Mac to external hard drive.

One should know how to backup Mac to external hard drive as a part of their cyber hygiene. Anyone can lose his data due to a hardware defect or a ransomware attack. Thus, backing up your Mac becomes very important as it contains a lot of valuable information on yours. So, it becomes necessary to backup your data regularly. In case of a system crash or hard drive failure, it becomes difficult to retrieve all the lost data.

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How Time Machine Helps in Backing Up the Data

You can learn how to backup Mac to external hard drive with the help of Time Machine on Mac. Time Machine is Apple’s built-in backup solution for MacOS.

Time Machine
Time Machine

Once you plug in an external hard drive and set up a Time Machine, it’ll automatically save copies of all your files, applications, photos, videos, accounts, preferences, messages, etc. In case you run out of space, Time Machine will itself delete the oldest versions of the files to make space for the new ones and notify you about it.

One can find Time Machine by clicking on the Apple logo on the top left corner of the screen and then clicking on System Preferences. Once you have an appropriate backup, it becomes easy to store any data.

Things to Remember While Backing Up Mac to External Hard Drive 

  • Note that the following steps will only help you to learn how to backup Mac to external hard drive locally. You must also have an online backup to safeguard your data.
  • Local backups are of no use if you lose your hard drive or it gets stolen.
  • Thus it becomes essential to have a backup of your backups, either online or by having a copy of your external hard drive.
  • You can also use cloud storage services like iDrive, which is quite easy to use, or you can use applications like Carbonite or Backblaze.

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How to Backup Mac to External Hard Drive in Simple Methods 

Following are the steps you need to follow to backup your data using an external drive.

Connect Your External Hard Drive to Mac

Connect the hard drive with the help of a USB cable (or USB-C or FireWire or ThunderBolt, depending upon your hard drive) that comes with your external device to connect it to your Mac.

Hard Drive
Hard Drive

Turn on Time Machine and Select Your Backup Disk

After you plug in your hard drive, go to System Preferences. Firstly, click on the Apple logo on the top left corner of your screen. Then, click on Time Machine and toggle the switch from “off” to “on.” Tap on “Select Disk” to select the drive you wish to use for Time Machine. Further, Time Machine will ask you if you want to use the drive as your backup destination.

  • Exclude the unimportant or insignificant files from backup. (This is optional.)

You can also exclude certain items for backup, which are not necessary. You will get a notification whenever an old file will delete to create more space. If learning how to backup Mac to external hard drive, it is not necessary as mentioned above.

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  • Confirm the backup. (This is optional.)

In case you have ever used another hard drive for knowing how to backup Mac to external hard drive, this option might pop up. The Time Machine will ask you whether you want to stop backing up your data to your previous hard drive or you want to replace the last hard drive and use the new one, or you can use both the hard drives for backing up your data.

  • Wait for the Time Machine to complete the process of backing up your data.

Now, the Time Machine will start backing up all your data. Once done, a progress bar will show you the time left for backing up the data. It could be a bit inaccurate. The time may vary depending upon the speed of your hard drive. Time Machine will keep hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for the previous months.

Select Time Machine
Select Time Machine

Eject Your External Device

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After the completion of the backup project, eject your external device by right-clicking on your icon of the hard drive from the desktop and then selecting “Eject.” Directly removing the hard disk might cause specific disk problems. So, you should avoid removing the hard drive directly to avoid any risks. Then, you can safely unplug your external hard drive preventing any kind of disk problems.

Eject properly
Eject properly

Following the above steps, you can learn how to backup Mac to external hard drive locally.


It is better to have multiple places for your backup data like a physical backup and backing up a cloud. Backing up both will be the safest. Your documents are one of the most important things to keep a backup of, so keep them in an organized manner. Backing up data in an external hard drive has some advantages. It is portable and easy to use. Also, it can store all your large files, and they can be moved from computer to computer, Mac to Mac, making it easy to transport all of your data.

On the other hand, cloud backup allows you to access your data anywhere and on any device via the internet. Cloud-storage makes it easy to manage the data and is also a secure option. Multiple backups are always a good option. Learning how to backup Mac to external hard drive is one of those better-safe-than-sorry precautions. It doesn’t take much of our time and is also not at all expensive. The cost of losing data could be a lot more.

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