How to Back Up Your Mac With/Without Time Machine

Peter Aaron
Mar 25, 20225 min read

Summary: From this guide, you will learn the whys and hows of backing up data on Mac.

Nothing is more frustrating than losing important data on your Mac. The best way to avoid this is to back up your Mac. If you've never backed up your Mac, read on this blog to learn why you should and how to do it.

How to Back Up Your Mac With/Without Time Machine

Reasons Why You Should Back up Your Mac

Creating a backup for your Mac is to avoid data loss. Possible reasons for data loss include:

  • Your Mac is infected with a virus.
  • Your Mac hardware is damaged.
  • Accidental deletion of important files.
  • macOS operating system issues.

Now that you know the importance of backing up your Mac, let's see how to do it.

Before Backing up Your Mac

Before creating a backup, you'd better delete the files you don't need on your Mac because the first backup is much time-consuming.

You can use Finder to delete the files you don't need manually. But it is recommended that you use BuhoCleaner to do this job for you. This tool is designed for Mac cleanup and optimization. It can clean your Mac in a few clicks.

Quickly Clean Up Mac with BuhoCleaner

Now that you have cleared your Mac of unnecessary files, let's back up your Mac.

How to Back up Your Mac Using Time Machine

When it comes to Mac backup, the first tool you may want to use is Time Machine, a backup tool built-in macOS. You can use it to back up files, movies, songs, photos, accounts, passwords, etc. However, it can't be used to back up your macOS.

Tools Needed:

  • Time Machine
  • An External Drive (2 times the size of your Mac hard drive)

Here's how to use Time Machine to back up your Mac.

1. Erase or Format Your External Drive

  1. Connect your external drive to your Mac.
  2. Launch Disk Utility via Spotlight, Launchpad, or Finder.
  3. Click the View arrow and select Show All Devices.
  4. Select your external drive in the sidebar and click the Erase button.
    Format Your External Drive
  5. If necessary, name your device and select the format you need.
    Erase Data on Your Drive with Disk Utility
  6. Click Erase > Done.

2. Back up your Mac with Time Machine

  1. Click Apple Menu > Preferences > Time Machine.
  2. In the Time Machine window, click the Select Disk button, choose the drive you formatted to store your backup, and then click the Use Disk button.
Back up Your Mac with Time Machine
Time Machine will back up your Mac automatically. You don't need to perform any further operations. It will back up your Mac on an hourly, daily, and weekly basis. If your disk is full, it will automatically delete the oldest backups.

How to Back Up Your Mac Without Using Time Machine

How to Back up Your Mac to iCloud

As you can see, you need an external drive to back up your Mac with Time Machine. But how do you back up your Mac if you don't have one?

In this case, you can use a cloud service provider like iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive to back up your data. It is worth noting that before you can back up and restore files via cloud services, your Mac needs to be connected to WiFi first.

For Mac users, iCloud is the best option. The best part of the tool is that you can access iCloud data on all macOS and iOS devices. Unfortunately, it only provides you with 5GB of free iCloud space. If your total file size is more than 5GB, you need to subscribe to its paid plan to get more space.

Tools Needed:

  • iCloud

Here's how:

  1. Click Apple Menu > Preferences > Apple ID.
  2. In the Apple ID window, select iCloud in the sidebar and iCloud Drive in the right column. (You will also notice the usage of your iCloud.)
  3. Check the checkboxes next to the files you want to back up or sync, and then click the OK button.
    Back Up Mac with iCloud
  4. To check the contents of iCloud Drive, open Finder and click iCloud in the sidebar. (You can drag any files you want to back up to iCloud Drive).
    Check iCloud Drive in Finder
It's a good idea to check the Optimize Mac Storage option in the Apple ID window. If you do this, everything in iCloud Drive will be stored on your Mac when there's enough storage space, and old files will only be stored in iCloud when space is needed.

How to Back up Your Mac Using Backup Software

Another way to back up your Mac is to use third-party Mac backup software. They allow you to have better control over the files you want to back up, which perfectly makes up for the shortcomings of Time Machine.

There are tons of backup tools available online. Here, we will take SuperDuper!, one of the best Mac backup software, as an example. This tool is simple and easy to use, and it can help you backup your Mac in a few clicks.

Tool Needed:

  • SuperDuper!
  • An External Drive (1.5 - 2 times the size of your Mac hard drive)

How to Back up Your Mac with SuperDuper!:

  1. Download, install and launch SuperDuper! on your Mac.
  2. Select the volume you want to copy and the hard drive you want to save the backup to.
  3. Choose Backup - all files or Backup - user files. (Backup - all files is more recommended. If the volume you are copying is a startup disk, the backup you make is a bootable clone.)
  4. Click the Options button to tell SuperDuper! how to perform your backup.
  5. Click the Copy Now button to start your backup.
Update Mac with SuperDuper!


Now you know how to backup your Mac with or without Time Machine. Which method do you prefer?

It's never too late to backup your Mac. Now go ahead and choose the way you like to make your first backup.

product introduction


Clean and Speed up Your Mac Like a Pro

Free Download