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How to Back Up a Mac: Top 5 Tips

How to Back Up a Mac: Top 5 Tips

Mac users typically have a basic backup structure using a good, native tool called “Time Machine.” But there are a few thoughts on how to back up Mac that we want you to consider in order to make your backups more efficient and available anytime, anywhere for both personal or business needs.

#1 Learn How to Back Up Mac Individual Folders

While trying to find out how to back up a Mac, avoid using the “entire system” option too often. Using the built-in Mac backup feature (Time Machine backup), you only select drives to backup and have the ability to exclude certain paths. It is an easy to use approach, but it lacks flexibility.

Time Machine is able to determine whether a particular file should be backed up or not, but some applications can change their configuration in their .app package, meaning the entire program file will be marked as ‘changed’. You will just spend an additional volume on a backup repository that is not actually necessary.

Thus, choosing particular folders with real user files is a better option, but you may need third-party software permission to do so.

#2 Choose Mac Incremental Backup

When dealing with regular data backups, it is important to implement Mac incremental backup to shorten copying time and minimize consumed storage space. Since every small change in a file renders it as “backup required,” it is possible to copy only modified files. This approach can save a lot of time when you suffer from a poor network/Mac performance, due to a backup running. Moreover, it can save storage space in a backup repository, so you could store more backup points.

While deciding on how to backup files on Mac please check that the backup software of your choice allows you to create incremental and full backups separately. For example, MSP360 Backup allows you to create incremental data copies as often as you want, whilst preserving full backup jobs weekly/monthly, etc. You can read more about incremental backup in our separate article.

Please also note that certain backup tools, including Time Machine, do not allow you to choose between using a Mac incremental backup or Mac full backup. If you back up frequently, you will experience long restoration times due to a lot of backup copies.

#3 Choose Cloud as a Backup Option for Mac

Whilst there are many physical backup options for Mac, consider using cloud storage as a backup target. Storage clouds are inexpensive nowadays and prevent you from dealing with costly hardware which often lacks reliability. Plus, you will get a geo-redundant and highly available storage service that can last in case of any disaster.

It is also convenient to have a backup repository while traveling around the world – you can restore any corrupted or missing file with a couple of clicks. In addition, it is impossible to lose such a storage type at an airport or for it to get it corrupted, in any case. Local storage may have the same level of convenience, yet this only possible when using an expensive two-drive NAS system with an Internet access option, which is far more difficult to maintain.

#4 Select a Proper Cloud Service for Commercial or Personal Use

When searching for a proper backup cloud product, remember that there are two types of cloud storage:

  1. Business-ready storage with multi-tenancy, advanced encryption, better availability, and other enterprise-level features. The most popular players are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. Avoid using their smaller alternatives (Amazon Drive, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive) for corporate scenarios. These are consumer platforms, set up primarily for small file transfers and sharing.
  2. Storage services for home users. Basically, they look the same, but have a lower guaranteed availability level and do not support as many access protocols and features. BackBlaze and Wasabi cloud storage are typically the best and most affordable choice for end-users.

Fortunately, almost every cloud service provides a free trial period so you can check their strengths and weaknesses for yourself.

#5 Check If You Have a Separate Mac Local Backup

Remember that the “3-2-1” backup strategy is a gold standard on a market, so it is better to implement Mac local backup, even for personal needs.

Rule “3-2-1” stands for:

  • Have at least three separate backup copies with no direct influence on one another.
  • These copies are stored on two physically independent devices, e.g. one copy placed on an external hard drive, and the second stored in a cloud.
  • At least one data copy should be placed outside of your primary location. Using an additional data site can help in cases of large-scale disaster e.g. fire, flooding or other force majeure circumstances. For end users, choosing a cloud will be a balanced solution.

Choosing Time Machine as a Mac local backup tool can be a good option as it is the native system restoration tool for OS X. It is, however, unnecessary to buy the expensive Time Capsule storage system since you can use any external hard drive or cheap NAS system.


Now you know more tips on how to backup Mac efficiently, possible backup options and “3-2-1” backup strategy. Whilst Time Machine is a built-in Mac tool, you can check out MSP360 Backup for Mac as a cloud backup tool for FREE. Share your thoughts regarding backup prospects to the cloud for Mac users in the comments section below.

MSP360 Backup for macOS
  • Full and incremental backup
  • Cloud and local storage options
  • Encryption and compression
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