How to back up your Mac with Time Machine


Apple computers have a built-in backup app called 'Time Machine'. We'll show you how to set up Time Machine to back up your stuff, and how to get it back if necessary.

About Time Machine


After you've set it up, Time Machine monitors your files, keeping track of any changes so your backups are always up-to-date. It runs silently in the background, so you don't have to remember to back up your data, it'll just happen.

Time Machine keeps hourly backups for the last 24 hours, daily backups for the last week, and weekly backups going further back. Old backups are deleted when your backup disk gets full.

Use one of the following types of storage with Time Machine, to keep a copy of your files secure, away from your Mac:

  • An external hard drive plugged into the Mac's USB, Thunderbolt or FireWire port.
  • An Apple AirPort Time Capsule
  • A drive on another computer on your network.


Setting up Time Machine


Follow these steps to set up Time Machine on your Mac:

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Connect the backup drive to your Mac. The first time you do this you'll be asked about using it for Time Machine - click Use as Backup Disk.


Time Machine should open automatically. If it doesn't, click Apple > System Preferences > Time Machine.

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Click Select Backup Disk / Select Disk / Add or Remove Backup Disk in the main window.


Choose the backup disk from the list, then click Use Disk.

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You might be asked to erase the disk to use it for backing up. If you are, click Erase.


Tap the switch to turn Time Machine on, or tick the Back Up Automatically box (depending on which version of the operating system you're running. Time Machine works in the background, backing up all your changes as long as the backup drive is connected.

Time Machine's now set up to back up all your files regularly. Click Options to change which folders are backed up, whether Time Machine will work on battery power (MacBooks only), and if you'd like to be told when old backups are deleted.


Restoring your files


You can use Time Machine to restore any amount of files, from a single picture to a complete system backup. 

If you only need to recover a few files or a folder or two, then the following steps will guide you through it.

If you need to restore everything, you can use 'Recovery Console' (if you're resetting your Mac completely) or 'Migration Assistant' (if you're swapping machines) to help you recover your files.

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Open a window for the item you want to restore

  • If it's a file or folder, open Finder and navigate to where it should be
  • If it's an email you need to recover, open the Mail app

Click the Time Machine icon on the Menu bar, or click Apple > System Preferences > Time Machine.


Find what you want to restore:

  • If you know when you need to go back to, the timeline at the right-hand edge shows the dates and times of all backups. Click a bar to see how your files looked when the backup was made
  • Use the arrows to browse through the backups to find when a certain folder changed
  • Pick an item and press the Space Bar for a preview, to make sure it's the one you want.
  • Click Restore to put it back where it was deleted from.

Hopefully you've got all the information you need to help you back up your Mac, but if you'd like to speak to a Team Knowhow Expert you can contact us here.

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