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Backing up with a Mac: Time Machine

Hard drives and SSDs can break down. And all your data is on such a disk!
In order to prevent crying and swearing, MacMiep urgently recommends buying an external hard drive and using Time Machine. These discs are almost in the supermarket these days. Buy one that's bigger than your internal hard drive. Better too much space than too little.

Note: By the way, you can use one disk for multiple Macs.

What exactly is Time Machine?
Time Machine is an automatic backup program. Automatic means that after setting it up once, your files are regularly backed up without you having to worry about it.

How does Time Machine do this?
The Time Machine first makes a full copy of your hard drive. After that, it will note only the changed and new files for each backup (every hour). That way it saves space. The first time TM is running will therefore clearly take longer than subsequent times.

How do I set up Time Machine?
When you attach an external hard drive to your Mac for the first time, MacOS will automatically ask you if you want to use this drive as a backup drive:

In all other cases, plug in your drive and wait for it to appear on your Desktop or in your Sidebar. Then go to System Preferences => Time Machine. Click 'Backup automatically'.

Choose the drive you want to use for Time Machine:

A moment later, the saving of your files will begin. This may take a while.

I don't see a hard drive in System Preferences => Time Machine
However, if you don't see your hard drive there, but you can see it in the Finder, your hard drive is probably not properly organised. The file structure must be HSF+ or APFS .
A Windows formatted disk (NTFS) will not work.
This is easily solved by erasing and re-initialising (formatting) the drive, but there are consequences:

Erasing a hard disk will remove all data!

Erasing a hard disk
Go to Utilities and open Disk Utility. Select the correct drive and choose 'Erase'. Choose MacOS Extended (Journaled) or APFS for structure and click the Erase button.

Your drive is now ready to be used by Time Machine.

Configure an Airport Time Capsule
Apple sells wireless backup drives called Time Capsule. Choose the Time Capsule at Select Disk. If you don't see it in the network yet, open the Airport Configuration Utility to connect the drive to your Mac. It's in the Applications folder => Utilities.

Exclude files from backup
But I don't want all files to be backed up at all!
That is not necessary. In System Preferences => Time Machine you can specify exactly what does not need to be backed up under Options. MacMiep chooses to exclude the Downloads folder:

Security of the TM backup
To prevent the data from being read just like that, you have the option to encrypt the backup. No one can access it without the correct account name and password.

Recover files
You can search for files you have ever * created. Time Machine can show all the different versions of a document as it looked at different times. To do this, go to the Time Machine icon in the Menu bar. Choose 'Enter Time Machine'.

Note:Depending on the size of the disc and time passed, the files go further back in time.

Browse in the past
The Trekkies among us will be familiar with the wormhole effect. The bigger your drive, the further back you can "travel".
Scroll or scroll back and forth in time using the arrows. All you have to do is find the right document at the right date + time and then choose Put back (middle bottom).

Then choose whether you want to replace your original document or keep both.

Note: Time Machine will keep one document per hour for the last 24 hours, then one per day for the entire last month. He keeps one copy per week of all previous months. Disk full? Oldest to be removed. The Mac will notify you first.

Backup without Time Machine
You can choose to clone your entire hard drive. If something happens, you put all your possessions back with 1 action. Handy if you are busy or have to install a lot of Macs.
Programs for this are, for example, CarbonCopyCloner and Superduper.

Backup individual folders
For example, you can regularly drag your user folder to an external drive. Disadvantage: you will always have to reinstall programs in the program folder in case of major problems and that takes a lot of time.

External backup services
In principle, it is good to also have a backup of all your files at an external location. Apple offers iCloud for this. You have 5 Gigabytes for free.
Various companies offer backup servers or Cloud facilities, often the first GigaBytes are also free.

The next chapter is:
hardware trouble

Disclaimer: MacMiep is independent. This means she writes what she wants, based on 30 years of Mac-experience. She doesn't get paid for stories (positive or negative) on this website. MacMiep is not interested in your data. However, she does use Google's services. Google is indeed interested. Are you happy with MacMiep? Please support your local cat shelter.