Time Machine Backup – Simple How To

We are going to show you how to do a simple Apple Time Machine Backup.

You ignore it.  But it worries you, doesn’t it?  When you know you don’t do backups and are resting on the precarious chance that nothing will go wrong and you won’t lose all of your irreplaceable data.

I knew I was. And after my other hard drive crashed, I finally got myself a new external backup drive on Friday, 5 July 2014.

I bought the Lacie 1TB Porsche Design P’9223 USB 3.0 Mobile Hard Drive from Apple online store. Not the most expensive.  Certainly not as expensive as the Apple AirPort Time Capsule (ranging from around AU$350 TO AU$450). But the LaCie 1TB hard drive had one of the most reviews and almost all of them very good.


LaCie Porsche 1TB external hard drive

LaCie Porsche 1TB external hard drive

Note: If you want to know more about the LaCie, I shall be doing a mini-review on this shortly.

External Hard Drive and Time Machine Backup

If you already have an in-built Time Machine backup app on your Mac, why do you need an external hard drive for backups?

Conversely, if you have an external hard drive that you can use as a backup device, why do you need to use the Apple Time Machine?

To use the Time Machine, you need to have an external hard drive.
The external hard drive is for the storage space of your backups. The Time Machine automates the backup so that you don’t have to remember to do backups. It will do it for you.

What does the Time Machine Backup do?
You just need to connect your hard drive to your Mac. Turn on the Time Machine. In fact, as soon as you connect your hard drive to your Mac (e.g. via USB), Time Machine dialog will pop up to ask if you would like to turn the Time Machine on and to use your external drive as a backup device.

Let’s say you do.

Thereafter, whenever your external hard drive is connected to your Mac, the Time Machine Backup ensures:

  • your entire Mac is regularly and automatically backed up (system files, apps, accounts, preferences, emails, music, movies – everything)
  • not just one snapshot but what everything looked like on any given day in the past (so you can easily restore to any given day).
  • hourly backup for last 24 hours
  • daily backups for past month
  • weekly backups …

till your backup drive is full. When full, Time Machine will delete the oldest backsups to make room for new backups.

Tip: Therefore, when purchasing an external backup drive, choose one that is as large as or preferably, larger than the disk size of your Mac.

To learn more about the Time Machine backup and restore process, please refer to reference below on Mac Basics.

Simple How To Set Up Time Machine Backup

I will assume that you have an external hard drive but have not as yet set up your Mac Time Machine. I will use my LaCie as an example.

When you connect a new external disk to your Mac, the Time Machine will popup a message. It will ask you if you want to use that external disk as a backup drive.  The name of the detected disk will be the name of your disk drive.


Time Machine message

You have various options to choose from.  To find out more about these options, click on the ? which will bring up a Time Machine overview.


Time Machine overview help notes

You may note that in my example, I have 2 “drives” to select from: “LaCie” and “LACIE SHARE”. That is specific to my LaCie hard drive where “LaCie” is for backup file and “LACIE SHARE” has been formated to a FAT32 format so that I can save files there that are compatible to a Windows format.  That is purely an individual choice.

For now, let’s assume you have your drive chosen and you want to use it as a backup device to perform your Time Machine Backup.  To do this, just click “Use as Backup Disk” button.

apple-time-machine-iconThat is pretty much it. From hereon in, the Mac Time Machine will automatically do your backups behind the screen whenever the disk is connected to your Mac. You can easily checkup on progress and schedules of backups via the Time Machine icon on your menu bar.

That is a simple as it gets:
get external hard drive
connect to Mac
choose to use external hard drive as backup disk
Time Machine Backup is henceforth, automatically done

If you would like to know the specifics of setting up a Lacie Porcshe hard drive as a backup device, from start to finish, please read LaCie Drive and Mac Backup – Steps and Review.

Extra: Time Machine Backup and Restore video

This is a concise YouTube video (by LeftClick) on how to use the Apple Time Machine to backup and restore.


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  1. Lisa Bell says:

    I looked many places before I found your site. Thank You ao very much for making it easy for me to understand how to use my LaCie. I do have one question. Once the backup is complete will it be safe to delete allbof my pictures and documents and then empty my trash on my MacBook? My mac is full, but Im very nervouse about cleaning her up.

    • Helena Asmus Lim says:

      Hi Lisa, thank you for writing in and I am soooo happy that the article on Lacie setup was of use to you.
      First let me say I am no Lacie expert.

      But I understand your nervousness re. deleting your files. Personally I would say “No”.

      Unless you are using all (or part) of your Lacie as a STORAGE device only.

      If you are using the Lacie as an automated timemachine backup, then while everything is stored for now, it will eventually get deleted over time when Lacie runs out of backup space. Because eventually it will run out of space. Because it is taking backup (copies) of your computer files/system daily/monthly or whatever frequency you have set.
      For example, something that your Lacie might have backed up 5 years ago and since then you have deleted many of your files. Over time and many, many backups, the Lacie backup will be taking copies of your system AS IT CHANGES. So by the time you think of looking for something 5 years ago, Lacie might already have deleted it to better reflect the current state of your system. While it has a lot of storage space, it is not infinite. And it is taking copies of your system, AS IS, each time it does a backup.

      Anyway that is my understanding of it.

      If you really want to keep your files and documents over long long periods of time, the best is to store them onto DVDs or another hard disk drive or even Cloud backup. You could use Lacie to partly store your documents (i.e. Lacie would be partitioned to having Backup space AND Storage space) .. but then if anything happens to Lacie, you might still lose your data.

      I hope all that makes sense.

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