How to Back Up Your Mac

How to Back Up Your Mac

Your Mac is great, but no computer is immune to problems. That’s why it’s important to ensure your valuable data is backed up and saved regularly. If you’re not sure why you need to back up your apps, music, data, documents, and system files, here are three very good reasons:

  1. Save your time and money to restore lost data
  2. Switch to a new Mac easily along with all your data
  3. Get access to your data from any device

A note to remember

Backing up all your data can become a challenging task if your Mac is filled with unnecessary, useless apps and outdated files. To avoid the clogging of your external drive or cloud storage (whatever option you choose), it’s better to organize your files properly and remove any junk.


Cleaning your Mac is easy with MacKeeper—it’ll help to get rid of any useless apps and docs as well as remove any photo duplicates. 
Get your Mac ready for backing up right away!

Mac backup methods

There are lots of ways to make a backup of your files, most of them require you to save a copy of your files somewhere other than your Mac, namely on an external drive or in a cloud storage.


Apple offers two built-in options for Mac users, in order to back up data. Moreover, there are ways to do it with third-party software. Further, we'll explain how to back up files on a Mac with a tool that fits you best!

Time Machine backup

What is it?

Time Machine is Apple’s in-built backup application that helps you keep an up-to-date copy of all of the files on your Mac.


Time Machine was introduced in 2007 with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and is available in all modern versions of macOS, including the most recent one, macOS Catalina.

What you’ll need

  • An external storage device. It is best to choose the one that’s two or more times the size of your internal drive.
  • A one-time effort. You’ll be able to set up Time Machine in just a few minutes and all the following backups will be created automatically.

Here’s a detailed instruction: How to Back Up Your Mac with Time Machine.


Related reading: What to Do if Your External Hard Drive Is Not Recognized.


  • Simple to use and automated
  • Built-in and supported by Apple
  • Allows to restore different earlier versions of your files
  • Suitable for restoring your entire system (but not running it from an external device)


  • Requires buying an external device
  • The external device can be stolen or damaged along with your Mac
  • Copied files can’t be accessed remotely

Cloning your hard drive

What is it?

Cloning is a method that serves the same purpose of creating a reserve copy of your data. However, there’s a difference between backing up your Mac with Time Machine and cloning.


A Time Machine backup is file-based, so all your files are copied to an external drive one by one. Cloning is a step further; it means creating an exact, bit-by-bit, copy of your Mac’s drive.


That includes the data allowing you to boot (start running) your system directly from the clone. A Time Machine backup doesn’t provide this option. At the same time, cloning takes a bit more effort to perform.

What you’ll need

  • An external storage device.  Make sure it is larger in size then your internal drive.
  • Specialized software. Programs such as SuperDuper!, Carbon Copy Cloner, or  EaseUS Todo Backup will let you clone your hard drive easily.
  • A one-time effort or regular actions. This depends on the software you use and your willingness to make regular backups.

You can find more details exemplified by SuperDuper cloning tool in this guide: How to Clone a Mac Hard Drive.


  • Creates a bootable clone of your hard drive so that you can quickly switch to it in case something happens to your Mac
  • Most specialized software is simple to use


  • Requires installing additional software, some of which might be paid
  • Requires buying an external device; it can be stolen or damaged along with your Mac
  • Doesn’t allow to restore different versions of your files

iCloud backup

What is it?

iCloud is Apple’s online cloud-based service that allows you to store and access your apps, music, and any other valuable data without taking up space on your Mac.


While iCloud is not exactly a tool for backing up (unlike Time Machine or hard drive cloning), it provides a reliable way to make reserve copies of your selected files and access them from anywhere.


iCloud was released in 2011 and is available on Macs with OS X Lion 10.7 or later, as well as on devices with iOS 5, iPadOS 14, and Windows 7, or later.

What you’ll need

  • Apple ID. You’ve probably created one when you started using your Mac. But if for some reason you don’t have Apple ID yet, follow this guide to create one.
  • A paid storage plan if you need to store over 5GB of data. See the pricing here.
  • A one-time effort. You’ll just need to open iCloud on your Mac and decide what types of data you’d like to back up. Further, your files will be syncing quietly in the background.

Check out this detailed guide: How to Back Up A Mac to iCloud.


  • Simple to use and automated
  • Built-in and supported by Apple
  • Your files and apps are synced across devices and can be accessed remotely


  • Doesn’t allow to restore different earlier versions of your files
  • Requires regular payments for storing over 5GB of data
  • Not suitable for restoring your entire system

How to restore a Mac from a backup

The way you restore your files depends on which tool you used to make a backup.


If you created a Mac backup with Time Machine, you can restore all your files, restore both the Mac operating system and all your files, or restore specific files, including their older versions. Follow the links for details.


If you cloned your hard drive, check out this detailed guide for instructions.


If you backed up your files with iCloud, you can just access them anytime by opening iCloud on your Mac or going to




Congratulations! Now you know how to back up your Mac in three different ways. In fact, it makes sense to use all of them for the best protection of your files:

  • Use Time Machine to have a backup of your files with different earlier versions of them
  • Make daily clones of your hard drive to be able to restore it entirely
  • Sync your files with iCloud to protect from theft or local damage and access them remotely


Set up your backups, relax, and enjoy being protected! And if you also want to safeguard your privacy, as well as enhance your Mac’s security and performance, check out MacKeeper! It’s a great suite of tools for every Mac fan.  

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