Mac Backup Options


Having a good Mac backup solution is vital to not only saving your data, but your sanity when – not if – something goes wrong. Maybe your Mac gets stolen, or you drop it or the hard drive just decides to give up for no good reason. In any of these scenarios, once you have either fixed or replaced your Mac then you have to get all your data back. Without a backup solution, that’s going to be pretty much impossible. With an easy to use backup system, loading your data onto your new (or newly repaired) Mac should be a piece of cake!

Mac Backup Options

Backup options for Macs fall into 4 main categories; Online Backup, Local Backup Drives, Remote Sync Backup, and writing backups to DVD. Sure, there’s probably a couple more options but these are the main, tried-and-true solutions that work best for most people.

To find out more about each backup option, just read below:

  • Mac Online Backup (Best option!) free account here
  • Mac Backup Drives (Good alternative)
  • Mac Time Machine
  • Mac DVD Backup (only as reliable as you are)
  • rsync on Mac (warning: very technical)

Recommended Backup Solution for Mac

I personally recommend the Online Backup option and have been very, very happy with Mozy. Online backup lets you back your data up over the internet in a safe, encrypted manner. You don’t have to worry about keeping a copy at home – one which could also get lost, damaged or stolen. Plus, if you have a Macbook you can also backup while traveling anywhere you have an internet connection. I have used Mozy for 3 years now on multiple computers and have been happy with them for every minute of those 3 years. They’ve saved my hide a few times, and also made it much easier to move data from one computer to another when upgrading.

Mozy is only $4.95/mo for unlimited storage space (many charge per GB) and they also have a FREE 2GB account you can sign up for to test with, or just use indefinitely if you only need 2GB or less backup space.

Having an external Mac hard drive is one of the best solutions to backup Mac data. You can buy external hard drives readily take back up by plugging them into your Mac devices. There are two types of external hard drives available in the market which is an empty case drive and a pre installed drive. An empty case drive needs the external drive to be installed by ourselves into the case. Pre installed drive is the popular one available in the market and it comes with a hard drive, external power supply and an interface. External drive is usually connected to Mac through FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB 2.0 or External SATA.

Popular Mac Backup Drives

Here are some of the more popular external backup drives made specifically for Macs.

Apple Time Capsule


  • Price: Usually ranges from $200 to $500
  • 500GB to 2TB Capacity
  • Pros: Wireless and can also function as a router. Super sexy looking, just like your Mac.
  • Cons: Expensive. Less so if you consider the cost of a wireless router built in. Large footprint takes up desk space although it is thin and can fit under stuff.

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LaCe d2 Quadra USB/FireWire/eSATA


  • Price: Usually ranges from $125 to $400
  • 500GB to 2TB Capacity
  • Pros: Sleek aluminum look, fits right in with Mac designs. Vertical stand minimizes footprint
  • Cons: More expensive than others. Aluminum can retain heat more than composite cases.

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Western Digital Passport USB Portable External


  • Price: Usually ranges from $65 to $93
  • 500GB Capacity
  • Pros: Portable so it can run with only a USB cable, great for people who travel
  • Cons: Unpowered so the drive is slower. Lies flat and no stand so maybe not the best option for sitting on a desk and taking up more space than necessary.

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Western Digital My Book for Mac


  • Price: Usually ranges from $90 to $100
  • 1TB Capacity
  • Pros: Stands vertically and has small footprint. Large capacity, great for backing up normal Mac users.
  • Cons: Not the best looking.

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Western DigitalElements


  • Price: Usually ranges from $62 to $150
  • 500GB to 2TB
  • Pros: Cheap! Large capacity sizes available. Can be turned on side easily for smaller desktop footprint.
  • Cons: Kind of clunky looking. Requires formatting before being Mac compatible and some users struggle with doing that.

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It is very important to store important files and folders in a backup drive since the files on Mac will exist only on Mac. A backup method is very important and hence you can copy important files to the backup medium through iDisk or to any appropriate backup drive. This is called offsite backup process as you can store the external backup drive in a different location until free space exists. You can also preserve important details of the files such as ACLS, UUIDs etc.

Disk utility, Time Machine, Carbon Copy Cloner, SuperDuper are some of the Mac backup software available in the market for easy backup process. Choose a backup process according to your storage needs and budget. Some of the features offered by these backup devices are automatic backup process, excellent guide to help you to perform proper backup, additional backup capabilities etc. Though each backup device has its own pros and cons, it is very easy to use in general.

Mac Online Backup

An online backup drive helps to store your important files online. The online backup service restores the problem of offsite backup drives as it may not have the latest version of updates. With a great speed internet connection, it is now possible to back up files and folders online and hence it is a perfect solution to backup process. There is a lot of Mac online backup services offered and hence it is now possible to retrieve the latest version files even with minor changes.

The cost of this service depends upon the type of storage which is flat rate storage or per gigabyte storage. Flat rate storage plan charges per computer while gigabyte storage plan allows a number of computers to have pooled data. The rates are flexible and you can pay in monthly basis or pay in advance for a year or more periods. Generally flat rate plan charges around $5 on monthly basis and gigabyte storage plan charges $100 per year for unlimited computers to store unlimited amount of data.

Home, Dropbox, Black blaze, Central, Carbonite, Spider Oak, iDrive, Jungle Disk are some of the Mac online backup services and each service comes with its own pros and cons. Select a service which best suits your price and read reviews from, etc about these backup services before opting for the one. The backup devices are user friendly and secure and it comes with many features like automatic backup of critical files such as documents and downloads or you can schedule the backup according to your convenient time.

Using Time Machine for Mac Backup

Time Machine is a simple to use and easy backup solution for those using Mac OS X v10.5 or later. Yes, that includes OS 10.6 “Snow Leopard” too. Basically Time Machine can automatically back up versions of your files to an external hard drive, a Time Capsule or even a shared network drive on another computer or server, if that share and drive is properly configured. Time Machine can be configured to backup everything on your Mac, or you can exclude folders on your computer that you don’t want to backup for some reason.

Important: Consider Other Options Besides Time Machine

Time Machine is easy and simple. I use it myself for basic backup and recommend that you do too if you have a drive that you can use. However, there are some limitations on the flexibility that may necessitate using an additional or alternative backup solution.

Time Machine Disk Space Problem

If you don’t have a disk that is big enough, you will soon run into challenges becauseTime Machine allows you to go “back in time” to pick the right file version for what you want to restore. However, since it stores versions of backups it can easily take a lot more space than you might think it does. This data usage problem can quickly lead to disk space problems, so I highly suggest you either use a really big hard drive or consider additional backup options in addition to, or instead of Time Machine.

Time Machine Fixed Location Problem

Especially for Macbook owners, using Time Machine as your single backup solution may not be viable. My Macbook has a 640GB drive in it, and my Time Machine backup drive is a portable 500GB drive so I can take it with me. I usually don’t use it for Time Machine backups, but as a way to store more data than will fit on my hard drive since all these photos and videos I take eat up space very, very quickly. So I haul my external drive around with me to use for manual backups when I’m going on long trips, but otherwise I choose to leave it at home so I don’t have yet one more thing to lug around in my bag to take up space and add weight.

Configuring Time Machine

If the disk space or location related problems don’t seem like a big issue, then you should give Time Machine a try. It never hurts to use it in addition to other backup options, like a Mac online backup solution so you have a drive you can put your hands on when you need a quick restore.

When you plug in an external drive and have not yet used Time Machine, it will automatically ask whether you want to use that drive as a backup destination with Time Machine – it should look kind of like the image below.


I could go through the steps one by one, but Apple has a very good tutorial that walks you through it here, so there’s no need to rewrite it on my site too.

Just read and follow the instructions and it should “just work” pretty much like everything else does on the Mac.

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