How to Back Up a Mac Hard Drive

By Contributing Writer

It is always a good idea to back up your data on a computer. Backing up a Mac hard drive is actually quite simple and only requires five basic steps to complete. The overall backup time, though, may take several hours. You will need to wait for Time Machine to make a complete backup copy of your hard drive.

Things You'll Need

  • External hard drive
  • Mac OS X Leopard or higher
  • USB cable
  • FireWire cable

Backing Up Data With a Mac

Step 1

Connect the external hard drive to the Mac. All external hard drives are somewhat different and vary by model and manufacturer. If both your Mac computer and external hard drive support FireWire, you may use FireWire as a connection type to connect the external hard drive to the Mac. If they do not, you need to use USB as a connection type.

Step 2

Make sure that one end of the cable is connected to the external hard drive. Plug in the other end of the cable to the proper port on the Mac computer, which will be either a FireWire 400 port, FireWire 800 port, or USB 2.0 port.

Step 3

Format the external hard drive. Mac OS X Leopard and Snow Leopard should recognize the external hard drive upon connection. If not, try unplugging the USB or FireWire cable and reconnecting. Open up the Disk Utility by navigating the path: Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility. Select the external hard drive from the list of drives on the left.

Step 4

Click the "Erase" tab. Under the format listing, choose Mac OS X Extended (Journaled). Type in a name for your external hard drive in the name box. Click the erase button. Your external hard drive is now formatted to work with your Mac properly.

Step 5

Click the Time Machine icon located in the top right portion of the screen, next to the clock and battery settings. From the drop down menu, select "Open Time Machine Preferences." If you do not see this icon, navigate to the Time Machine Preferences through the Finder. Use the path: Finder > Applications > System Preferences. Click the Time Machine icon located within System Preferences. Slide the Time Machine control from off to on. You may need to click the lock and enter your password to make changes.

Step 6

Click the "Select Disk" button. Choose your freshly formatted external hard drive from the drop down menu. Click the "Use For Backup" button. Click the "Backup Now" option.

Step 7

Wait for backup to fully complete before disconnecting the external hard drive. The first backup of your Mac's hard drive can take anywhere from an hour to 10 hours depending on how much data is being backed up. When disconnecting the external hard drive, be sure to right-click it from the desktop and select the "Eject" option before disconnecting any cords.

References & Resources