How to Back Up Your Mac: Our Complete Guide

How to Back Up Your Mac: Our Complete Guide

Do you remember the first time you lost your data and realize that you have no backup? How does it feel? I have one word to describe that feeling: heart wrenching.

It is one of the most horrible and stomach-turning moments to know that you’ve just lost a bunch of digital stuffs that are irreplaceable. Family moments. Photos. Videos. Documents. They’re just… gone. And worst part of all? You could have avoided that. You know that so darn well, but you didn’t do anything. That’s one of the worst feelings ever.

The incident can happen to anyone. Not just PC users, but also Mac fans and Linux superusers. The problem can be twofold: both hardware and software. Heck, it can even be user error. Regardless of the root cause of the problem, your data is gone. And you can do something to protect it. That’s all it matters.

Macs are solid computers. I know, I am a Mac fan myself. But they are as prone to data corruption as any other PCs in the world. Sure, they don’t get PC viruses or Windows problems. But hard drive failures or user errors can also wipe out your precious data. And there is one thing you can do to sit back and relax even in times of hard drive failures: backup.

But backup sounds really dull and boring. You probably are thinking about long and boring waits. It’s definitely an arduous task. But it doesn’t always have to be.

We are going to take you through the options you have as a Mac user, on how to setup a disaster-proof backup using both online and offline without all the boring stuffs.

1. Time Machine

If you are already using OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and later, you already have Time Machine on your computer. You just have to set it up once, and set an external hard drive as destination. Then Time Machine will do its magic and backup everything new once an hour. With Time Machine, you can easily recover an individual file or even entire computer.

When you buy a hard drive for Time Machine, just make sure that you buy from a reputable brand like Western Digital, and also have enough space to backup your entire computer twice. If your Mac has 500GB of storage, then get at least 1TB external hard drive. If your Mac has 1TB storage, then get 2TB external drive. One reason of this is due to file versioning. You will want to keep several versions of your files to certain extent of time in case you want to retrieve older versions.

2. Not A Fan of Time Machine? Try Carbon Copy Cloner

Time Machine is efficient, simple and straightforward backup solution for Mac but it isn’t without limitations. For starters, you cannot create a fully bootable backup. And there is no encryption for your backups.

For those of you looking for an alternative, Carbon Copy Cloner just might be the solution for you. It creates a clone copy of your entire hard drive, in bootable state, so that you get an external hard drive that you can just swap with your Mac hard drive in case of hardware failure. You can also set it to backup to any hard drives attached to other Macs on your network too, except a hard drive that’s already used for Time Machine backups.

Although Carbon Copy Cloner creates full copy of entire drive, it is not going to be a slow, painful and boring process. Only for initial backup it will take some extra time, but later later backups, will use incremental backups to make things much faster. Once initial “cloning” is completed, only new changes are backed up.

3. Online Backups

Sure, Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner are awesome and fast solutions. But what if you get a much worse disaster situation? Say… your house/office is caught in fire or storm or flood. Or your Mac and external hard drives are stolen. What will you do?

Not only that, even external hard drives can fail due to numerous reasons. Maybe you accidentally put a magnet near the drives. Or you spill coffee on it. Whatever the reason is, they are prone to fail too. In a Google’s study, around 3% of drives failed in less than three months. If your external hard drive is part of that 3%, then you’re doomed. So what do we do? Online backups.

There are several options if you are using Mac. Two of my favourites are CrashPlan and Carbonite. However, Carbonite’s software for Mac doesn’t have as much features as its PC counterpart so my choice will be CrashPlan.

CrashPlan gives you unlimited backup storage $5 per month for one computer, and you can run its software on Mac, Windows and Linux. If you want to backup more than one computers, you can pay $10 per month to get CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited plan which lets you backup up to 10 computers for unlimited storage. Pretty good deal!

CrashPlan’s software also lets you backup to an external hard drive or even another computer so it’s another additional option for you apart from Time Machine.

Pro tip: Create a backup of your backups

The most failsafe backup setup will be like this: A local external backup, online backup, and backups of your local external backup.

As stated before, one backup isn’t safe. Having only online backup also not very ideal if you want to retrieve your data quick (imagine restoring 200GB worth of data over Internet connection). So to make your data disaster-proof, you need not just an external backup (like Time Machine) and online backup, but also backups of your local external backup.

It is best to create two backups of your local external backup: one copy on another local external drive, and one copy on the cloud.

If you are using Time Machine backups, then try Dolly Drive, which is a cloud backup provider of your Time Machine drive backups. 500GB will cost $13 per month and 1TB will cost $22 per month. Not only that, Dolly Drive software will also let you create a bootable clone of your hard drive too.

So if you don’t want to be bothered by using Time Machine, Carbon Copy Cloner and Dolly Drive, you can just ditch Carbon Copy Cloner and use only Time Machine + Dolly Drive. This setup will backup your Time Machine backups onto Dolly Drive’s servers as well as create a bootable copy too. For continual online backups, just use CrashPlan.

Now, online cloud backups are perfect additions to our local external backup options. Whether you are running a business or just a personal user, it’s always better to take precautions and protect your data than to wail and whine when you lose all important stuffs. If you’re interested in more online backup solutions and learn more about all things backup, then head on to¬† and find out more.

This is a guest post by Peter Zaborszky who has reviewed over 40 online backup providers at

  1. Santi says:

    Time Machine HAS encrypted back up…

  2. Benzaminwatson says:

    Yes, CCC is very good tool for creating
    backup of your Mac. I have read
    so many positive reviews about it. I have also read that it
    requires technical expertise to operate this software so, I didn’t
    buy this software. I tried some other tool for backing up my data
    which is easy to use or having interactive interface then I find
    Stellar Drive Clone. It is quite clear and distinguished tabs make
    things simpler. Its fast performance also made me to purchase this
    tool in 39 $ which is appropriate as far it performs.

  3. Petri Ottewell says:

    I am actually also using more than one methods to backup data from
    mac and not just using time machine or icloud. This way, I feel more
    secure to get my backup more ready in case I need to restore them.

    alternative without software:
    Open Finder, choose Macintosh HD in the sidebar, go to Edit > Select
    All and drag it to your external disk. If you don’t see this volume,
    open Finder > Preferences > Sidebar and tick Hard disks

    or with free software Cloudbacko
    It could backup files to free cloud storage. This helps you to get your files back anytime anywhere

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