Walkthrough: Setting Up Time Machine On Your Mac

This tutorial will take you step by step through setting up and using Time Machine to backup your Mac.

Backups in macOS

Backups can (and usually do) save so much time and hassle. Your Mac comes with a fantastic backup solution right out of the box, so there’s no need to install any additional software. If you plug in an external hard drive and setup Time Machine you’ll have backups constantly and automatically created so all of your files are easily recoverable.

Setting Up Time Machine

  1. Start by clicking the Apple button in your Menu Bar and then selecting System Preferences… from the pull-down menu. From there, select the Time Machine icon.
  2. the macOS System Preferences with a red arrow pointing at Time Machine

  3. Since this is the first time it’s being opened, you’ll need to configure a few things. Click the Select Backup Disk… button.
  4. an arrow pointing at a Select Backup Disk button

  5. Select the drive you want to use to store your backups, then click the Use Disk button.
  6. selecting an external drive to create backups on in macOS

  7. Give it a few moments to prepare the drive
  8. a Preparing BackUps message window

  9. Now click make sure there’s a check in the box labelled Back Up Automatically and then click the Options… button.
  10. an arrow pointing at a Back Up Automatically check box and an arrow pointing at an Options button

  11. From here you can add files and/or folders not to back up. By default, the drive you selected to store backups on will be included – because you don’t need backups of your backups on the same disk. Other external drives will also be listed – but you can remove them from the “don’t back up” list by selecting them and then clicking the small “minus sign” ( – ) button.

    To add a file or folder to your “don’t back up” list, click the small “plus sign” ( + ) button.

  12. an arrow pointing at a plus sign button

  13. Navigate to that file or folder, select it, and click the Exclude button. In the example screenshot below I opted not to back up my Movies folder.
  14. excluding files and folders from a Time Machine backup

  15. And now the folder you selected will appear in the Exclude these items from backups: list. Repeat the above two steps to add additional files and folders you don’t want to back up. When you’re finished, click the Save button.
  16. an arrow pointing to a Save button

  17. Before you run your first backup, make sure there’s a check in the box labelled Show Time Machine in menu bar. You can always remove it from your menu bar later, but for now we want to have it there.
  18. an arrow pointing at a check box in the Time Machine settings

  19. Close down the System Preferences… panel. Click the Time Machine icon in your Menu Bar and select Back Up Now. Depending on how large your hard drive is, how many files you have on it etc, it can take a few minutes for the first backup to prepare.
  20. the Time Machine Menu Bar menu

  21. The first backup will take a lot longer than all the others – but one of the the great things about Time Machine is that you can keep using your Mac while it’s working, and you probably won’t even notice it’s running.
  22. From now on, your backups will happen automatically. You don’t need to do anything other than make sure your external backup drive is plugged in.

Using Time Machine

  1. You can view and access your backed up files by selecting Time Machine from the Menu Bar and then Enter Time Machine from the pull-down menu.

    the Time Machine menu with an arrow pointing at Enter Time Machine

  2. From here you can scroll through all of the backup sets that have been created.
  3. scrolling through a list of backed up files and folders in macOS
    click to enlarge

  4. If you ever need to restore/recover a file or files – just select them from within Time Machine and click the Restore button.
  5. restoring backed up files in macOS
    click to enlarge

  6. Congratulations – your data is that much safer now :)

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