Even though everyone knows they should back up their data, it is inevitable that you will forget to do it. You may go years without ever losing a file, but the first time you lose important files or irreplaceable photos, the importance of creating backups will hit home. You can be careful to avoid viruses and malware, but one bad software update may force you to reinstall your operating system.
Apple’s Time Machine will backup both your personal data and your operating system configuration, so you can avoid data loss and hours of reinstalling and reconfiguring your operating system. Take five minutes to set up Time Machine now to save your data and precious time later.
Getting Started with Time Machine for Mac
Time Machine minimum system requirements:
- An external drive, which can be a USB or Firewire drive, a (large) thumb drive, a Time Capsule, or a Time Machine compatible Network Attached Storage (NAS) device
- Enough space on the target drive to accommodate your backup
Before You Begin
- Find out how much data you currently have saved on your Mac’s internal hard drive. You can do this by single-clicking on the hard drive icon and hitting Command + I. You can see how much data is currently Used on the Info screen, as well as how much space you have remaining on the drive.
- Check the available space on your backup device. If the device is connected to your Mac and the Mac recognizes it, click on the device icon, and click Command + I to see the device information. To be safe, your backup device should have more free space available than the amount of space in use on your Mac’s hard drive.
- If space is an issue, you can exclude large items from your backup so that you can get all of your crucial data into your backup. It is highly recommended that you have plenty of space, so that Time Machine can store more of your backup history.
- If OS X does not recognize your target device as a Mac formatted drive, use Disk Utility to erase and reformat the drive to prepare it.
- If you are using a NAS device, consult with the manufacturer to determine if you can use it as a Time Machine backup location.
Setting up Time Machine for the First Time
Once you confirm that you have enough space on the backup drive to accommodate your Time Machine backup data, follow these steps to set up Time Machine.
- Open System Preferences and click on the Time Machine icon.
- If the Time Machine preference pane is locked, click on the padlock to make changes. When you are prompted to, enter your account password.
- Click the checkmark next to Show Time Machine Status in the menu bar, so that you will be able to monitor and access Time Machine without navigating through System Preferences.
- Click on the Select Disk button.
- Select your destination drive from the list of available drives, and then click the Use Backup Disk button.
- If the Next Backup countdown starts, click the small X icon to stop the countdown.
- Click the Options button.
- If you want to exclude anything from your backup, click on the + sign, and add the folders and files you want to exclude. This is handy if you do not have a very large backup device, or if there are items that you know you do not need to backup. Reducing the overall size of the backup will save space and cut the amount of time it takes to complete each backup.
- If you want to be notified when old backups are deleted, click the checkbox next to Notify after old backups are deleted.
- In Lion you can set the length of time to wait before the documents you created and edited are locked, which defaults to 2 weeks. Once a document on your system is locked, if you attempt to edit it, you will be given an option to unlock it. Choose a time frame from the drop down menu.
- Once you have configured your settings, click the Save button.
- When you are returned to the main Time Machine preferences pane, you can see when Time Machine has scheduled the Next Backup for. If you want to start the backup immediately, click on the Time Machine icon in the menu bar and choose Back Up Now from the drop-down menu.
- Time Machine will start the backup process and show you the progress.
- Once the backup process is complete, you can view your backups by clicking on the Time Machine menu bar icon and choosing Enter Time Machine.
- When your Time Machine opens, you will see your backup history, and access items from the past by choosing a backup date from the timeline bar on the right side of the screen. This example is from a Time Machine with several available backups.
- From this point forward, Time Machine will backup your system at regular intervals.
In less than 10 minutes, you can set up Time Machine, and secure your data to give you peace of mind. You can access and restore individual files and folders from, but you can also do a full system restore with just a few clicks.
Time Machine is both a time and cost effective method of backing up your system, and once you set it up, you can forget it and not worry about your data. Follow our simple guide to setup Time Machine on your Mac and backup and secure your Digital life.