The process of backing up your Mac can be easily overlooked, but a regular backup of your computer can save you from hours of headaches. Unfortunately, computers are known to always crash at the most inopportune time. But how can you easily back up your computer with a frequency that almost guarantees you won’t lose any files? That is where Time Machine comes into play.

What Is Time Machine?

It’s a nifty piece of software developed by Apple that makes backing up your computer a breeze. After the initial setup, where you schedule how often your computer backs up, you don’t have to worry about it again. Time Machine doesn’t just back up files, either. It will back up your computer, including the fussy Wi-Fi passwords you saved years ago.

If you have ever plugged in an external storage drive, you might have seen a Time Machine notification pop up. Well, now it’s time to stop ignoring that notification and do something about it, like that text from your mom you keep putting off.

Setting Up Time Machine

Before starting the guide, we highly recommend picking up an external drive for the Time Machine. Of course, you can use a drive that you already use, but the point of a backup is to protect yourself if your computer crashes.

So, even though they can get pricey, please pick up an external storage drive, with its one purpose being operating as your Time Machine drive. This will give you the best chance to recover all your files and settings rather than using an internal or external drive for other things.

When picking out a new external drive to use as a backup drive, the amount of storage you need can be confusing. To simplify things, we suggest you follow the rule that your external drive should be 150% of the internal drive.

So, for example, if your Mac has a 1TB drive, you will want to pick up an external drive that is at least 1.5 TB. We have also put together this table for the most common storage space options on Macs.

Internal StorageRecommended External Storage
256 GB500 GB
512 GB1 TB
1 TB1.5 TB

Now, let’s have a look at how to set up Time Machine on your Mac.

how to set up time machine
Selecting System Preferences under the Apple logo.

In the top left-hand corner of the screen, click on the Apple logo. Then, from the drop-down menu, select System Preferences. For macOS Ventura users, System Preferences will read as System Settings.

Step 2: Select Time Machine

If you are using macOS Ventura, first click General on the sidebar, then select Time Machine from that menu. Everybody else will see Time Machine on the main page of System Preferences.

Step 3: Back Up Automatically

how to set up time machine
Turning on automatic backups.

Now that you are in the Time Machine, check the box next to Back Up Automatically. You do not have to select this, but we recommend it so you don’t accidentally get behind on your backups.

Step 4: Select Your Backup Drive

how to set up time machine
Selecting the backup drive.

After checking that box, click Select Disk to choose the drive you want your Time Machine to be stored on. Before clicking Select Disk, make sure your external drive is connected to your computer. Otherwise, you will not see it show up in this list.

Step 5: Click Use Disk

Once you’ve selected your drive, click on Use Disk in the bottom right-hand corner.

Time Machine Will Take Care of the Rest

Now, Time Machine will begin its automatic backup routine. On the bottom half of the app, you will see what it will do for you. We have also listed it below:

  • It keeps local snapshots of your information whenever space permits.
  • You’ll get hourly backups for the past 24 hours.
  • It also keeps daily backups for the previous month.
  • You’ll receive weekly backups for every month.

At the very bottom of the window, you will see a check box option that says Show Time Machine in Menu Bar. We recommend checking this box because now you will be able to see when the Time Machine is processing a backup.

Congratulations, you have just set up Time Machine on your Mac! As long as you have that drive plugged in and regularly backing up, you don’t have to worry about losing files anytime soon.

How To Setup Time Machine on Mac, With Photos FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can you view Photos in Time Machine?

To view your photos, click the date of your last backup, navigate to the backup of your photo library, then click to select it. Click Restore. Depending on the size of your library, it may take some time for your library to be restored.

Does Time Machine backup everything on your Mac?

With Time Machine, you can back up files on your Mac that weren’t part of the macOS installation, such as apps, music, photos, and documents.

Is Time Machine the best way to backup a Mac?

Time Machine is the best and easiest way to back up your Mac computer. We wish Windows had such an easy solution for backing up your computer.

Will Time Machine erase other files on external drive?

As Time Machine fills up space on the external drive, it will start deleting the oldest backups to make room for new ones.

Can 2 Macs use the same Time Machine?

Technically, you can have 2 Macs with Time Machine on the same external drive, but you would have to create a partition in the drive to do so. So we recommend getting one drive for each computer that you want to use Time Machine on.

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