How to back up and restore a Mac

Updated: 08/03/2018 by Computer Hope
The macOS logo.

Backing up your Mac ensure that you don't lose your data. There are a few methods, but we recommend Time Machine as it is the most simple to use and doesn't cost anything (aside from additional hardware, which all of the options require). To learn how to backup and restore your Mac, follow the steps below.

How to back up your Mac

  1. Start by making sure that you have an alternative storage medium (i.e., an external hard drive).
  2. Once you connect your external hard drive, you should select Encrypt Backup Disk, and then Backup Disk. Doing so will make it so only users with a password can access your data.
  3. Time Machine will now automatically back up your hard drive every 24 hours.

What if I'm not prompted to choose a backup disk?

On some machines, users may not be asked to choose a backup disk upon connecting an external hard drive. If this is the case, follow the steps below.

  1. In the Apple menu, choose System Preferences, and then select Time Machine.
  2. Select Backup Disk, and then Add or Remove Backup Disk.
  3. Find the preferred disk to which you'd like to back up your data, then select Use Disk.

Back up tips

  • You may stop automatic backups by going to Time Machine preferences and unchecking the box next to backup Automatically.
  • To force a back up, open the Time Machine menu and select the backup Now option.

How to restore your Mac from a backup

When you would like to perform a restore using Time Machine, there are a few options. You can either restore everything or specific items.

How to restore your entire hard drive

  1. Upon powering up your Mac, press and hold the Command Key and press R.
  2. When the prompt appears, select Restore From Time Machine Backup.
  3. Follow the prompts and your machine will be restored to the previously backed up state.

How to restore individual items

  1. Open the appropriate program from which you deleted the file you'd like to restore.
  2. In the Dock, select Time Machine.
  3. Search for the item that you deleted or use the timeline on the right side of the screen.
  4. Once you've located the item you'd like to bring back, click Restore.