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how to back up my mac book to external hard drive

184 Views 2 Replies Latest reply: Feb 13, 2014 7:16 PM by hands4 RSS
nicolexoxo001 Calculating status...
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Feb 12, 2014 7:40 PM



Just wondering if anyone can walk me though how to back up my mac book to an external hard drive?




  • kostby Level 4 Level 4 (2,300 points)

    Welcome to Apple Support Communities. We're users here, and do not speak for "Apple Inc."


    Ancient Computing Proverb: "You can never be too rich, or have too many backups."

    Confession #1: I'm paranoid about data loss.

    Confession #2: I'm paranoid for good reason. I worked in computer support for a few decades now, and I've seen and suffered-through firsthand the consequences of not having enough backups of the right kinds at the right times.


    Several ways to back up your data, depending upon your objective:


    1. Time - this free program included with OS X 10.5 and more recent, creates and maintains a current backup of the files currently on your Mac. This is important: If you delete a file that was 'Time Machined' from your Mac today, eventually (when the external backup drive is getting full and the oldest backups are erased) all copies of that file will disappear from Time Machine backups. Time Machine will not 'keep everything forever'. Once started, it creates hourly backups for the last 24 hours, then keeps daily, weekly, and monthly backups until the external drive is nearly full.

    Advantage: Simplicity. Once you turn Time Machine on and select (and perhaps format) the external drive, it just does it, without your attention.

    Disadvantage: If you don't understand how Time Machine is designed to work, you could eventually lose something you thought you had 'saved forever'. It is not 100% foolproof, nor is it an ABSOLUTE guarantee that you will be able to 'restore everything'.

    Time Machine Rule of thumb: For Time Machine, your external drive should be at least 3x the amount of programs and data currently on your internal hard drive. Example. If you have 333GB of programs data on your internal Macintosh HD drive, your Time Machine external backup drive should be at least 1TB = 1000GB. If the external drive is smaller than 2x the internal drive capacity, then Time Machine is probably not the best solution.


    2. - a lesser-known free Apple program that includes a scheduler, so you can create and run full backups of specific files or directories, and the entire drive.

    Advantage: Free and included with OS X. Does not EVER automatically delete files. But you CAN run out of space when the backup drive gets full.

    Disadvantage: Requires more user knowledge and intervention than Time Machine to understand, create, and schedule backups.


    3. - a $$$ paid program available from (the developer)  This program can create an exact 'bootable' backup of your internal Mac drive. (Yes, there are other ways to do this.) In the event of drive failure, you can just boot to the external backup drive. Advantage: If your internal hard drive fails, you can quickly get back to work by rebooting with the external 'clone' without an hours-long restoring of files from Time Machine. Disadvantage: Unless you backup ("Clone") your drive at least daily, you'll lose whatever projects you've been working on most recently (but if you have TWO backup drives, one for Time Machine, and one CCC 'Bootable Clone') you can still restore the most recent work from Time Machine.


    Discussion:  I use all three programs for specific purposes and with different external storage devices.


    I use Time to keep a current backup of everything I'm working on now, and save additional backup copies of the files I'm currently working on onto flash drives.


    I use to make additional copies of specific irreplacable data and files (my iPhoto Library file and my iTunes Music Library that contains lots of personal recordings not purchased online) to specific external drives. At one time they were smaller internal drives in my MacBook. When I upgraded internal storage to higher capacity drives, I kept the old ones, put them in external enclosures, and now I use the smallest one for iTunes, and the larger one for iPhoto.


    And, I use Carbon Copy occasionally to make a 'bootable clone' of my internal hard drive to another external drive.


    Message was edited by: kostby

  • hands4 Level 4 Level 4 (2,215 points)

    Time Machine Basics:

    Most commonly used backup methods:


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