Protect the photos on your Mac with Time Machine Backup

Backing up may not be sexy, but it's essential to the well being of your memories. It's so easy to take computers and smartphones for granted. They're mysterious and magical creatures that make our lives so much easier (mostly). But consider the following scenarios;

  • You spill coffee on your laptop keyboard.

  • Your two year old throws your iPhone in the pool (and it can't swim!)

  • Some jerk decides to steal your computer with the hard drive you back it up to!

  • Your phone stops working for no apparent reason.

The unfortunate truth is, you will experience something like this in your lifetime. It's frighteningly inevitable. 

So what do you do?

If you have a Mac, it comes with this handy dandy app called Time Machine. Time Machine is a genius backup system that automatically makes a copy of all the files on your computer. Once you set up Time Machine, it will begin to make periodic backups—automatically!

While backing up may not be sexy, Time Machine makes it pretty awesome. Let's say you are looking for a file that has mysteriously disappeared. It was on your desktop yesterday, and now it's gone! You can use Time Machine to go back in time to 3 pm the day before, and voila, the file is there. Pretty cool, right?

So I know what you're thinking; time machine sounds fantastic, how do I turn it on?

First, you need one 2 TB external hard drive. When you first set up Time Machine, it needs to erase whatever hard drive you use, so make sure you are ok with that. If not, you may need to buy a new hard drive. I like the Seagate Backup Plus Slim for my backup. You should also grab your power cable because that first backup can take a few hours.

How to complete a Time Machine Backup

Once you plug in your hard drive, your computer will ask if you want to use it to back up with Time Machine. 

Be aware that you can only access this backup with the password you create if you select Encrypt Backup Disk. Yikes! I don't advise this if you struggle with forgotten passwords (and really, who doesn't?). While an encrypted backup disk increases your backup security, you don't want it to be that secure!

Sometime your computer won't automatically ask you if you want to set up Time Machine when you plug in a new hard drive. If this happens to you, follow these steps to add it manually. 

  1. Choose the Apple () menu at the top left of the screen > choose System Preferences, then click Time Machine.

  2. Click Select Backup Disk.

  3. Check off the box next to Show Time Machine in the menu bar.

This is where Time Machine will need to erase the selected hard drive. If this is your chosen hard drive, click Erase to continue.

Now, you wait, because, as I mentioned, that first backup could take a while. Fortunately, you can still use your computer while the backup runs in the background!

When the Time Machine Backup is finished, you will receive a message in the screen's top right corner. Hopefully, you aren't suffering from notification blindness like I am. If you did miss the notification or are just impatient to see your backup's progress, look for the little clock-face symbol at the top of your screen. Clicking on this will let you see your current backup status and when your last backup took place. It will also give you the option to backup manually.

Alternative backup options

Suppose you don't have an external hard drive available, and want to protect your photos and files ASAP. In that case, I recommend and personally use BackBlaze. BackBlaze is a service that offers cloud-based backups for $6 a month. Having a cloud backup is beneficial when theft or disaster could put an external hard drive at risk (such as that jerk who stole your backup hard drive). You can sign up for BackBlaze on their website at I have personally jerk-proofed my own computer by backing up with Time Machine and Backblaze. Hi-ya!

If you are having trouble backing up or would like a customized back up plan, send me an email at