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5 Best Ways to Back Up a Mac



Best Ways to Back Up a Mac

We cannot put too much emphasis on backing up your files in today’s digital world. Even though Mac has a built-in tool called Trash to hold your deleted files, chances are that you find some important files lost from the emptied Trash.

This article will introduce five ways you can back up your Mac, even when the Mac has booting-up related issues.

How to back up a Mac that won’t boot

It is a terrific situation when your Mac is not starting up successfully. It could result from hardware failures or software conflicts, both of which will confront you with permanent data loss. Therefore, backing up the Mac files should be the first thing you have to do before you try to make the Mac boot again. On a non-booting Mac, the methods are very limited.

Disk Utility from Recovery Mode

We are using macOS 10.14 on our Mac mini. If you are using an earlier OS X version, the interface will be slightly different.

  1. Connect an external drive to the Mac and make sure it has enough spare capacity to back up your Mac.
  2. Restart the Mac and immediately press down Command + R keys simultaneously.
  3. Release the keys until you see the Apple logo.
  4. Wait the Mac to boot into Recovery Mode.
  5. Select Disk Utility and click on Continue button.
  6. Select the disk you want to back up (usually named as Macintosh HD).
  7. Select File in the top menu bar and then go to New Image and Image from Macintosh HD (or your disk name).
  8. Choose your external hard drive as the location and keep anything else as default.
  9. Click Save.
  10. Wait until you are notified that the backup process completes.

Target Disk Mode

Another way you can back up files from a Mac that won’t start up is to use Target Disk Mode. Target Disk Mode will require you have two compatible Mac and one of them will appear as an external hard disk on the other after they are connected through FireWire or Thunderbolt ports.

Target Disk Mode won’t work if your Mac startup disk is corrupted or the startup disk is encrypted by T2 security chip.

  1. Connect the two Mac computers with a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable.
  2. Restart the unbootable Mac and immediately press down the T key.
  3. Transfer files from the disk icon that appears on the other Mac’s desktop.
  4. Eject the disk by dragging it to the Trash (Trash icon will become Eject when you are dragging the disk).

Note: Target Disk Mode can also be used to back up a Mac that can start up. You need to go to System Preferences, find Startup Disk and then choose Target Disk Mode.

How to back up a Mac that can boot up

On a working Mac, you have quite a few options about how you want to back up your Mac files.

Time Machine

Time Machine is the built-in software with which you can back up and restore Mac files. Here we are introducing how to use it to back up a Mac.

  1. Connect an external drive to the Mac and make sure the external drive has enough capacity and is HFS+ formatted. If it is not HFS+ formatted, the macOS will format it into HFS+ once it is used as the backup drive.
  2. Open Time Machine through Apple logo and System Preferences.
  3. Click the lock to make changes and input correct administrator password.
  4. Click Select Backup Disk and select the attached external drive.
  5. Select Back Up Automatically.
  6. Click Options to exclude folders or files from backups if you want.

Cloud drive

In addition to local drives to back up files, purchasing a cloud storage service is a good idea. iCloud from Apple will automatically back up all files and apps from Apple devices logging into the same Apple ID. However, like other cloud storage services, you have to pay every month for extended capacity. If you purchase services from other providers, they provide desktop apps with which you can sync files to cloud.

  1. Find a cloud storage provider you would like to use.
  2. Go to its official website.
  3. Sign up with an email account and password.
  4. Decide if you need a paid plan.
  5. Download its desktop app and set up auto-sync.

Migration Assistant

Migration Assistant is a built-in software that help Mac users to transfer files to another Mac from a Mac, a PC or an external drive. It only moves files but also migrates settings and apps if needed.

On your Mac:

  1. Connect to your computer to another Mac.
  2. Open Migration Assistant from Finder, Utilities and Applications.
  3. Click Continue.
  4. Select the option to transfer files to another Mac.
  5. Click Continue.

On the other Mac:

  1. Open Migration Assistant too.
  2. Click Continue.
  3. Select the option to transfer from a Mac, Time Machine backup, or startup disk.
  4. Click Continue.

Then just follow the wizard on both Macs to finish the files transferring. Then you will have another set of files on another Mac.


Losing important data is unbearable. You have so many options today to help you back up them. Once you set up it correctly, cloud drive and Time Machine will automatically upload the files and update them. Target Disk Mode, Disk Utility system image and Migration Assistant are more complicated to use, but they still can be very useful in certain situations.  If you are going to use Target Disk Mode or Migration Assistant, don’t forget to back up on a regular basis.

Nisha Pandey, the visionary force behind SEOTechyworld, is a luminary in the realms of SEO, technology, and cloud infrastructure. With an unwavering passion for staying at the forefront of digital advancements, Nisha has been an influential figure in the blogging sphere since 2014. Her journey as a blogger reflects not just a timeline, but a narrative of expertise and dedication. Nisha's in-depth knowledge of SEO intricacies and her ability to decode the complexities of evolving technology have made her a trusted source in the digital marketing community. Through SEOTechyworld, she endeavors to bridge the gap between technological innovation and its practical applications, providing her audience with insights that are both cutting-edge and actionable. As a seasoned professional, Nisha continues to inspire and guide, leaving an indelible mark on the ever-evolving community of SEO and technology.

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