Hardware is replaceable, data isn’t. It’s 2023 and it still surprises me how many people don’t give any consideration to backing up their important data until it’s too late.
And yet it’s super easy to do a data backup of your files in case disaster strikes — all you need is a USB drive and the software built into macOS.
Yes, I know, you could back up to the cloud. If you want to do this, I recommend Backblaze — nothing beats having a backup you can hold in your hand (and maybe keep safe in a fireproof safe or offsite).
The software we are going to use here is Time Machine.
Ideally, you want a USB drive that has double the capacity of your Mac’s drive, as this will allow for rolling backups, but in a pinch you can use a drive that’s the same size as your Mac’s storage drive, or even smaller, depending on how much data you have.
Don’t worry, if your backup drive is too small, the Time Machine software will tell you.
Tip: Here’s how to find out how big your Mac’s storage drive is, and how much data it has on it.
- On macOS Ventura or later: Click on the Apple menu > System Settings, then click General in the sidebar, then click Storage on the right hand side
- On earlier versions of macOS: Click on the Apple menu > About This Mac, then click Storage
How to back up your Mac onto a USB drive
Here’s the process. And don’t worry, it’s quick and easy to set up.
Here I’m going to use my awesome Apricorn Aegis Padlock 256-Bit USB 3.0 hardware encrypted ruggedized portable drive. Not only is it small and robust, but the encryption keeps my data safe, and it looks very, very James Bond.
Since the drive uses a USB-A connector, and my Mac has USB-C, I do need to use a hub with the right ports, but this is a fact of life of using Macs these days.
Connect the drive you want to use to your Mac.
The first backup is always the longest, so leave your Mac connected to power if it’s a MacBook, as this will give you the fastest possible backup.
You can use your Mac while the backup is ongoing.